I recently experienced a wonderful example of a way in which many people were able to participate in a process that provided opportunities for creative expression by contributing to the entertainment at a friends 70th birthday party.
It’s an interesting story as it revealed the role of the enabler, R the wife of B whose birthday we were celebrating. It was her idea to create an event which soon became known as ‘BRIFEST’. She organized and resourced the event, found the venue, organized the catering and acted as a facilitator to connect people and encourage collaboration.
My own involvement was through my band. For me it began in October (10 weeks before the event) when I was contacted by R by email. She told me she was planning a surprise birthday party for her husband and she wanted to form it around entertainment provided by friends and family. She knew I was in a band and her husband had seen me several times so my band was on the list of possible contributors to the event along with two other bands and a lot of individuals willing to share their talents.
So, the opportunity was a public event in which people were invited to share their talents, in the spirit that anyone who was willing to contribute was accepted. The gem in all this was the way in which the invitation was made through an email in which individuals were introduced to each other by the party organiser with the expectation that collaborations would form. And form they did - two of the bands including five musicians and a singer into their sets.
Above - my band with two guest musicians
The whole event brought home to me the value in enabling ordinary people to express themselves creatively through a performing at a public event.
It began with a need and desire in the mind of the organizer to create a significant and meaningful event in recognition of this important milestone in the life of her husband. They had a long tradition of surprise birthday parties so the idea of surprise became part of the project and everyone involved was sworn to secrecy.
The idea of an evening of entertainment formed over three months before the event and it was shared in an email with the key people who might contribute to check on their interest and availability.
Here is the email invitation I received proposing the idea.
I replied “WOW that sounds really really exciting R..a bit like Jools Holland... you certainly think imaginatively. I cannot see why my band would not want to be involved. Would we be able to use the equipment in the studios or would we have to bring and set up our own? How long were you imagining we would play for? What are B’s favourite bands/songs? Thanks for the opportunity it sounds like fantastic fun”
In the meantime the organizer’s ideas had developed further and she emailed everyone involved and encouraged collaborations amongst participants. The final sentence in the email was telling. “I look forward to seeing how all you creatives develop this skeleton!” Clearly, she trusted and expected people to be resourceful and inventive to shape the event and its content. Attached to he email was a rough plan for the structure of the evening.
The results were quite magical with everything coming together in both a spontaneous, but well organized way on the evening of the party. A good experience for all and a good example of how everyday creativity can be facilitated through a celebratory event when people are willing to contribute and are enabled to do so. The act of performing in public motivates people to practise as individuals, and to come together to practice. The process encouraged connections to form and new relationships to develop out of which new creations were made. The spirit of the evening was captured in the final song of our set when R & B and their family joined us on stage.