How To Throw A Get Out Of Your Armchair Party?

Last week, I hosted the 10th edition of the Get Out Of Your Armchair Party. A spontaneous idea developed into a recurring event in which many people participated. To celebrate this, this blog briefly summarises the idea behind the party, reflects on gatherings held so far and concludes with some tips on how to organise an ‘armchair party’ yourself.

What is a Get Out Of Your Armchair Party?

The idea is very simple. It is a party with room for presentations and reflection. One day, after attending a boring academic symposium, two things occurred to me. The first was that it should not be difficult to give intellectual meetings a more relaxed, open and fun character, with more interaction. The second was that it would be interesting to have gatherings in which status or academic expertise is not a prerequisite for taking the floor. The two things combined resulted in the ‘armchair party’.

The title of the party refers to ‘armchair philosophy’: a word to describe a tradition of philosophy in which conclusions are reached through individual reasoning only. It expresses a criticism of a genre of thinking, detached from everyday reality and social encounters. The party is called ‘get out of you armchair’, because it wants to facilitate the opposite. It offers a space in which ideas can be tested and contested by a wide audience.

Looking back on ten editions

Talks, music, people and food: those are the ingredients of a good armchair party. Even though each edition has been different, people, recipes and music kept coming back. Always popular were the tortillas, Deviled Eggs, quiches and – needless to day – the abundance of Spanish wine. Very often, the end of the party was marked by a spontaneous jam session that revealed the hidden singers in the room. Even though the armchair parties in Madrid (the first edition was held in Groningen) have formed a group of loyal participants, each time new people showed up and kept the concept from repeating itself.

The program of the evening always depends on the people who participate, as they are the ones who decide on what is being discussed. Usually, talks are prepared in advance. However, every now and then a spontaneous presentation was announced on the evening itself. Sometimes surprises were carefully planned. The actress Noemi, for instance, started her presentation almost in tears, after which she ran to the kitchen to grab a knife. Everyone was immediately immersed in the topic of unaccepted emotions.

The topics discussed so far have been as diverse as ‘animal rights’, ‘terrorism and foreign aid’, ‘performance measurement’, ‘poker’ or ‘indigenous music’. Very often, there were artistic contributions as well. Some examples are the artist Floortje Sebens who opened the first edition with an exhibition of her work; jazz guitarist Fran Molina and Álvaro who led many jams, Lauren Pascoe and Elena Cob who made everyone dance and singer songwriter Sas who released new songs at the party. Find the complete list of all contributions at the bottom of this page. Many thanks to all of you!

How to throw an ‘armchair party’ yourself?

As stressed above, the idea of the Get out of your Armchair Party is simple and not at all original. It is basically another variation of the intellectual salon. The Spanish word for salon, ‘tertulia’, is therefore often used to refer to the parties. Another reason for this is of course the long name I chose – Facebook already warned me.

However familiar the idea, the frequency of such encounters being held seems rather low. At least, that is what people often told me. Every now and then someone expressed the desire to organise such meetings him/herself. This is very easy as well. Find here some tips.

Basic ingredients

  • A living room
  • 3 or 4 presenters
  • Food and drinks
  • An artistic contribution (music, visual art, dance etc.)

Planning

  • Announce the event at least three weeks in advance. Most people only feel comfortable presenting something, if they have some time for preparation.
  • Collect the topics of the presentations a week in advance. Presenting an overview of the program is a nice way to remind people of the party and to trigger their interest.
  • At the day of the party, the program probably changes. Some presenters will not show up, and others suggest a talk spontaneously. Present the final program in the in a creative/flexible way in the living room.

Guidelines

  • Everyone brings food or drinks
  • Presentations are around 10 minutes
  • After every presentation, there is room for questions and debate
  • The host of the party chairs the debate
  • In between presentations, enough time is left for conversations
I
Sjoerd – Why I am not a caveman
Samira – On boredom and distraction
Tim – Animal rights
Floortje – Exhibition and artist talk  
II
Ainhoa – Baudelaire. El artista como niño
Carmen – Mirar y participar
Twan – The use of history
Fran – Meditación musical
Sas – Mini concert  
III
James – Spanish visual culture vs. English oral culture
Henry – Terrorism and foreign aid
Álvaro – Iconografía musical en la pintura
IV
Carmen – Educational functions of art
Rui – Sigur Rós and ecological activism
Lauren – Dance improvisation
Ainhoa – D.H. Lawrence ‘Una sana revolución’  
V Lula & Fran – Permaculture and gardening
Berend – Performance measurement and the crowding out effect
Anna – Meditation and creativity  
VI
James – El elemento lingüístico que trasciende los idiomas
Marina – Música indigena en Gabón
Music by Berend, Fran & Sara  
VII
Twan – La renta básica y el impuesto negativo sobre la renta 
Alicia – Zoom in sound
Elena – Folclore Segoviano
Lauren – Short film premiere ‘Plane Pretend’
Sas – New song release  
Simone – Musical Performance
VIII
Anna – Experiences in South Korea
James – Porque uno de cada 10 británicos es excéntrico
Carmen – La mirada reificada
Karen and Band playing ‘Garota de Ipanema’  
IX
Álvaro – Lenguaje de señas
Fran – Clase de Swing
Barny – Poker
Noemi – Emociones no aceptadas  
X
James – 18 días para salvar al Reino Unido de Brexit y Thatcher
Terry – Extinction Rebellion
Ainhoa – Las estatuas también mueren
Carmen – Thinking and talking  

*Is your contribution missing on the list? Please let me know (:

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