The Story of Make Music Day
In October 1981, Maurice Fleuret as Director of Music and Dance at the French Ministry of Culture, laid the foundations for a new concept:
“MUSIC WILL BE EVERYWHERE AND THE CONCERT WILL BE NOWHERE!”
His vision evoked a revolution in the field of music. A major survey by the government in 1982 of the cultural practices of the French revealed that five million people, including one young person out of two, played a musical instrument, however the actual musical events organised involved only a fraction of these people.
The Ministry of Culture deduced that the vast landscape of musical practice in France was largely undiscovered. They imagined a great popular event that would allow all musicians to express themselves and make themselves known. Thus, the first nationwide music festival, named the ‘Fête de la Musique’, was launched on 21 June 1982, on the symbolic day of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Festival was to be free, open to all music, without hierarchy of genres and practices
Preparation for the festival took place in a rush, key players in social, political and musical life in France were contacted to help spread the word, and a few posters are printed and placarded (this was all before the internet and social media!). At the Ministry of Culture, they had no idea what would happen, and whether their appeal for music on 21 June would be heard…
We needed an event that would allow us to measure what place music occupied in individual and collective life. A spectacular movement of awareness, a spontaneous impetus to alert public opinion and perhaps also … the political class. This is why the Ministry of Culture had the idea of organizing a Fête de la Musique in 1982. A non-directive celebration, which brings together all […] people for whom music matters – Maurice Fleuret
The result exceeded all expectations. Thousands of initiatives took place throughout France. Musicians settled down in streets, squares, kiosks, courtyards, gardens, train stations, squares, and thousands of people strolled the streets until late into the night, in a friendly atmosphere, listening to the music.
This union of professional musicians and amateurs alike gave rise to a new public awareness of music, whatever the genre. It became, through the immediate success of the Fête de la Musique as a largely spontaneous event, a cultural policy that intended to give prominence to the musical practice of amateurs.
By the early 90’s, less than ten years after it’s conception, the Fête de la Musique was celebrated in eighty-five countries across five continents. Sometimes called Music Day, World Music Day or Make Music Day (as here in the UK), it takes place on the same day worldwide, 21 June.
It became an international success and social phenomenon – there was even a postage stamp dedicated to it in 1998! Now 125 countries around the world participated in the Make Music Day festival.
IN THE UK
Make Music Day first came to the UK in 2012 and has been growing year on year. It has been a UK-wide coordinated initiative since 2017 with support and funding from a broad range of national organisations. In 2022, a total of 12,800 musicians of all abilities performed in front of 76,200 people in live and online performances across the UK. An amazing 2.8 million people were reached via #MakeMusicDayUK.
Make Music Day enters prisons, shares the lives of patients and hospital staff, brings schools closer to music, establishes links and exchanges between towns and cities, irrigates rural communities, values the work of an individual, a group, an association or an entire community.
By its nature Make Music Day promotes visibility and access to artistic and cultural practices and every year manifests its capacity to evolve, expanding into public space to showcase and celebrate all music.