Why is ‘amateur’ such a dirty word? Especially when associated with the arts?

The term ‘amateur theatre’ or ‘amdram’ often conjures up images of badly acted productions in poorly designed sets stuck together with gaffer tape* in chilly village halls, when in fact, it’s where most of us started out.

I owe my current career to amateur theatre. Acreative band of individuals called Wymondham Players who were willing to invest time and energy and give a teenager a chance. My first appearance was in a Willis Hall comedy, my second was as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. Promotion came quickly – especially for someone the right age who could learn lines and was willing to learn!

The people you meet there are varied – electricians, plumbers, accountants, teachers, farmers, retired. Some are ex-theatre professionals who want to continue to practise their art, but not for money, and therefore ideal mentors for young enthusiasts starting their theatre careers.

I’ve worked with some professional companies where the behaviour and attitudes of the cast and crew have made me yearn for the commitment, passion and determination of the amateur company.

So I think it’s time to celebrate the ‘amateur’, that person who makes time for their hobby despite working long hours in their dayjob, who takes pride in their work (be it acting, directing, lighting, sfx, set design and building or stewarding), who wants to learn and develop, who finds joy in the company of like-minded others.

*It’s true that I have sat in the audience – as director – and watched in horror as a mic pack dangled lower and lower over the stage, because the lights warmed the tape that was ‘securing’ it, until the stretch gave out and the unit dropped the last few feet to the ground. No-one was hurt as the process took at least 25 minutes and, towards the end, EVERYONE was aware. 

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