2005 European Championships - Overall Impressions

4-May-2005

The 2005 European was the chance for EBBA to show the banding world that the European is safe in thier hands - but did Groningen really give us the blueprint for the future without Besson?


Groningen 2005 brandingIf ever EBBA had a chance to show that the future of the European Brass Band Championships were safe in their hands, then the 2005 event held in Groningen was it.

However, never has a chance been so spurned. 

The memories of this event will not be the overall playing of Black Dyke winning their first European title since 1995, the brilliance of  Brass Band Oberosterreich in Section B and their amazing Principal Cornet player, or the excellence of the set work by Johan de Meij which was a real test for the very best bands here. It won't be of the joy of the young players taking part in the European Youth Band or of the welcome given by the dignitaries and officials of the town of Groningen itself either.

No. The memories will be of an event that was poorly organised, of a venue for the bands to play in that was nothing short of appalling, of presentation skills that were at times an embarrassment and the rather shoddy treatment at times handed out to sponsors and important participants.

Let's be clear about this.

In the last few years the European Championships have been a triumph expertly run, tremendous facilities, well organised and structured and with a sense of direction and purpose. This was none of those, and too many people left the fine city with a feeling of acute disappointment.   

The Martiniplaza and its main Midden Hall is a huge multi purpose sports and conference venue, and is perhaps ideal for those events. It has superb facilities for housing international tennis or basketball tournaments or trade fairs.  As a concert venue, it would perhaps be ideal for a rock band or a visual spectacular such as the Gala Concert.  The Midden Hall was however, a complete and utter disaster as a venue to hold the most important brass band contest in Europe. 

The acoustic was awful a large box, with no pretence to be anything else meant that detail and balance, and crucially sound projection became non-existent.  If you were not seated in the first ten rows from the stage (which meant you sat with a permanent crick in your neck trying to see over the badly positioned flower displays at the front of the stage) then you may as well been outside, as what came to your ears was a mish mash of sound, the consistency of porridge. The adjudicators box was placed at the limit of what would have sounded acceptable (some seasoned listeners sat next to the box and reported that the acoustic was very poor), whilst those who sat in the middle and the huge raised back section didn't hear a thing of any clarity whatsoever. 

We understand the need to try and maximise the revenue from such an event, but surely not at the expense of the integrity of the playing of the music?  The Martiniplaza Theatre Zaal, held around 1600 people (there were about 2000 in the main hall at times), and although its acoustic was by no means perfect (it gave a strange reverb bounced off the back of the hall) it was a much better place to perform than the Midden Sports Hall.  

Some people would have been disappointed not to get tickets, but a full hall would have created a superb atmosphere for the bands to perform in (the Midden was never more than 70% full even for the top bands due to its enormous size).  The organisers put Euros before music, and as a result the audience and the bands paid the penalty.

Rike Dijksrtra [right] with Amsterdam Brass MD
Amsterdam Brass MD with Miss Rika Dijkstra

As for some of the presentation on offer through the weekend?  We are sure Miss Rika Dijkstra is a popular and engaging presenter in whatever field she is expert in but she was not an expert in brass bands for love nor money. To put it bluntly, she was an acute embarrassment, with her comments during the Conductors Competition on the Thursday night to the highly professional David Daws, nothing short of a disgrace.

For her then to turn up at the main contest, have no idea about the bands, the music or the ability to stay out of the way when the conductor and players are accepting their applause was just mind numbingly crass.

Trying to yank the arm of Andy Duncan as he presented his players to the audience after they had performed to stick a consolation participants trophy in his hand was bad enough, but to compound it a few bands later by then not even bothering and just handing it to a bemused Gavin Saynor as he was accepting his applause as the fine tuba soloist with BAYV was just plain offensive.

If anyone lost points for EBBA and the organisers this weekend in their battle to maintain the European as the premier event against Besson, then it was her.

The lack of coherent organisation though will come a close second.

There appeared to be a lack of communication between the National organisers and EBBA, which manifested itself in poor organisation of many events and with their treatment of sponsors and important participants.

The trade stands for instance were shunted away out of sight, whilst the main sponsors were left at times to find out for themselves what arrangements had been made for them in respect to tickets, transport, hospitality and on stage presentations.  There was no real acknowledgement of their financial support either by the announcers in any events or at the official presentations of the prizes, and the presentations themselves were done for all events in a haphazard and rather undignified rush.

Further annoying examples were to be found in the lack of good signage, David Daws having to set out his own chairs and drum up support for his masterclass, as no representative turned up to help him or made an appearance throughout his presentation, and the lack of proper press packs, facilities and accreditation for the likes of the many journalists present.  The Gala Concert was also far, far too long and contained acts that reminded you more of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Having the bicycle Showband riding around the hall was an inspired idea, and allied to Black Dyke, De Bazuin and the percussion ensemble it would have been great but the elongate it even further with some pretty pointless dancing and alike and a presentation ceremony which fell flat, rounded the main part of the weekend in disappointing style. 

When the European Championships are as well run as they have been both in Bergen in 2003 and Glasgow in 2004, they were a joy to be present at.

The blueprint for the event has nothing wrong with it whatsoever: EBBA has created an attractive package of events, which when organised professionally and with thought make this something to be cherished, enhanced and supported by everyone with a love for the movement.  When it is presented as poorly as this though, then EBBA need to accept that there were some serious flaws that need to be looked at sharply to ensure they do not happen again.

Thankfully, the Irish representatives were on hand all weekend and will surely report back with their findings as they prepare for next year. If they get it together as well as they confidently say they can, then Belfast 2006 will be a brilliant occasion for sure if not, then EBBA could be in serious trouble.

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