The 18th European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) Festival has just finished at Voorthuizen in the central Netherlands, where the event has been held annually since 1999. Musicians and fans from Ireland have taken part many times: the Knotty Pine String Band were at the very first EWOB in Lichtenvoorde in 1998, Carmel Sheerin & the Ravens won the No. 1 European Bluegrass Band award in 2005, and this year two rising young Irish bands, Cup O' Joe and JigJam, were on the programme.* It is therefore with concern that we read this announcement by the EWOB organising team, made a week ago on Facebook:
With EWOB 2015 just a few days away we are once again thrilled to be seeing all of you in Voorthuizen and hope that we can once again pull off a great musical experience for everyone!
At the same time we feel it is important to share our concerns for the future of EWOB in its current form / organisation so we can seize the moment to explore and discuss this during and following the festival.
Over the last two decennia the European World Of Bluegrass festival (EWOB - The Netherlands) has become a household name in the European bluegrass community. Each year over forty bands have been given the opportunity to present themselves, both on stage as in the area.
Unlike most festivals EWOB is not merely a concert venue. It is a unique multi-day gathering of a few hundred musicians and bluegrass lovers with the possibility to perform, camp, jam, and socialise. EWOB has without a doubt contributed to making European bluegrass a ‘smaller world’. It has triggered many friendships and new bluegrass initiatives and has given US exposure to a number of award-winning bands.
Over the last eighteen years EWOB, as an unsubsidised event, has followed a defined format. This format has been a success for a long time but may now require a new vision and direction to align with changes in expectations, economy, reduced availability of bands, funds, location, volunteers, other initiatives, etc..
These are interesting challenges which may also result in new possibilities and collaborations but they do require new people with fresh ideas and, more importantly, the drive and ambition to realise this either as part of / in cooperation with the EWOB foundation or in a completely different setup.
The organisation of EWOB has always rested on a limited (and declining) number of shoulders, with the invaluable support from the many volunteers during the festival days itself (also declining). What we do know is that EWOB 2015 will be the last festival in its current format
[bold type added by the BIB
In order to safeguard the legacy of EWOB for the future we are reaching out to you as members of the European bluegrass community. We foresee that future festivals will mainly depend on your initiatives, input and ideas. In order for this to succeed it is crucial to find people who are willing to:
• define and shape a new festival approach
• build a strong team for the future
• take on the organisational and financial responsibility
• operationalise feasible and constructive ideas
We hope that anyone or any organisation willing to play an active role to preserve this unique annual event comes forward and contacts us either during or after EWOB.
We hope that you’ll have a great festival and that there will be many more to come. See you in a few days!
We look forward to hearing of any further developments during or following the festival. The BIB editor also wishes to send condolences to Ronald Groot, head of the EWOB organising team, on the death of his mother last month.
*Update 19 May: Thanks to Colin Henry for his comment (see below): 'Of course Birddog played EWOB in 1999 and got a track included in that year's CD.' Absolutely correct; and other distinguished bluegrass people from this island have appeared on the EWOB stage or been present in other capacities.
Labels: Bands, EWOB, Festivals