Make Music Day is an all-day music festival that happens on the 21st June every year, marking the summer solstice with a shared celebration of music. In this article I’m going to explain the origins of this festival and how it's evolved since being founded, as well as look at what kind of celebrations now take place across the world to mark the event and how you can get involved.
Thirty years before it arrived in the UK, Make Music Day was actually founded in France. In 1982, a survey by the French government of the cultural practices of people in France had shown that although five million people played a musical instrument, only a very small number of those people were actually represented in organised musical events. Jack Lang (Minister of Culture of France at the time) and Maurice Fleuret (Director of Music and Dance at the French Ministry of Culture at the time) wanted to find a way to bring people out into the streets to play or listen to music, so they founded ‘La Fête de la Musique’ and the first event took place in Paris in 1982. They made the slogan of the event: ‘Faites de la musique, fête de la musique’, which literally translates as ‘make music, music festival’ and is a homophone because ‘faites’ and ‘fête’ are pronounced the same - although it’s very difficult to maintain the play on words when translating this slogan into English!
The festival first took place outside of France in 1985, and since then has grown to be an international event, with celebrations taking place on the same day in more than 120 countries across the world. As well as spreading to more countries around the world, the scale of the festival within France has only increased, with 10 million French citizens participating in the festival in 2015. The goal of the festival was, and has remained, to make all genres of music accessible to the general public, with performances by both amateur and professional performers and with many of the concerts being free to attend. In fact, in Paris it is a requirement for all the concerts to be free of charge and for the performers to donate their time rather than being paid, and many other countries and cities have taken the same approach.
In the UK the festival is most commonly known as Make Music Day, although it's sometimes also known as Music Day or World Music Day. The first Make Music Day in the UK was in 2012 and, as in France, the event has continued to grow over the years. Since 2017, the event has been coordinated and receives support and funding from various organisations. Anyone in the UK can host an event for Make Music Day, whether they are an official orchestra or a school performing a concert, or just one person playing by themselves for their neighbourhood. The only conditions are that the event must take place on the 21st June, it must be free to watch and it must be in a public space. This means events can also be hosted online, which course happened a lot more during Covid-19 lockdowns, or you can share a pre-recorded video.
If you're interested in seeing this year's officially listed events and finding one near you, or listing your own event to bring music to your local community, go to the Make Music Day official website to find out more.
How will you be making music this year?