Wednesday, 11 February 2009

European Bluegrass Summit in Germany, 7-8 February

The Summit opens: at left Hans Striebel, mayor of Bühl, welcomes all present; in the foreground Fred Bartenstein (USA), facilitator (photo by Lilly Pavlak)

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 organise 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.

Bühl/Baden, in southern Germany, was chosen as the location. Bühl city council gives generous support every year to the Bühl International Bluegrass Festival, and through the invaluable help of Walter Fuchs, the festival organiser, 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 Bühl opened with an address of welcome. In two days of intense discussion (7–8 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 organisation of regions without effective local bluegrass associations; and
* The value of coordinating pan-European bluegrass efforts within a single organisation.

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 – aided by the excellent food, drink, and ambiance of Bühl. There was full agreement that the European Summit had been successful in laying foundations for further constructive cooperation.

An account of the Summit by Walter Fuchs (in German) can be read here, and reports in the local German press can be read here.