This report on the European Bluegrass Summit held recently in Germany 2/7-8), is a contribution from Richard Hawkins, IBMA International Committee chair and proprietor of The Bluegrass Ireland Blog.
As a direct result of the success of IBMA’s International Summit at World of Bluegrass 2008, a group of those who had attended decided to organize a similar event in Europe, with the following objectives:
- To provide an opportunity for a wide audience of up to forty participants to meet face to face, bond, and get to know each other;
- To highlight issues affecting the promotion of bluegrass music in Europe;
- To explore issues facing different countries and different cultures; and
- To encourage closer cooperation and more effective communication.
The organising group included British Bluegrass Music Association chair John Wirtz, Scottish Bluegrass Association secretary John Sheldon, IBMA International Board representative Rienk Janssen, and IBMA International Committee chair Richard Hawkins.
B?ºhl/Baden, in southern Germany, was chosen as the location. B?ºhl city council gives generous support every year to the B?ºhl International Bluegrass Festival, and through the invaluable help of Walter Fuchs, the festival organizer, the city placed first-rate facilities, free of charge, at the disposal of the Summit. Further support was received from IBMA, making it possible to bring in Fred Bartenstein as a professional facilitator.
Despite unexpected emergencies including severe weather across Europe, twenty-eight people from thirteen countries, ranging from Russia to Ireland, came at their own expense to take active part in the Summit, which the mayor of B?ºhl opened with an address of welcome. In two days of intense discussion (7‚Äì8 February 2009), participants identified issues of chief concern:
- The involvement of young people in bluegrass;
- The development of effective contacts through internet-based networking, a booking network, and an annual trade conference;
- Fund-raising, lobbying, and marketing on a continental scale;
- The use and significance of the term ‘European World of Bluegrass’;
- The organization of regions without effective local bluegrass associations; and
- The value of coordinating pan-European bluegrass efforts within a single organization.
Volunteer working groups were set up under conveners for further study of the first four of these issues. At 4.00 p.m. on Sunday 8 February, proceedings ended with the listing of consequential tasks, including the completion of comprehensive minutes.
As had happened at the Nashville Summit, contacts outside the formal proceedings were equally important in fostering a spirit of friendship and common purpose ‚Äì aided by the excellent food, drink, and ambiance of B?ºhl. There was full agreement that the European Summit had been successful in laying foundations for further constructive cooperation.