Report on their visit to Britain
written by Jeremy on August 24th,
after their departure.
POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE VISIT
The first of our intentions as expressed in the A4E Express application form was impressively fulfilled. The band performed at all the locations intended, plus one or two more, with increasingly large and enthusiastic audiences. They also played at Gypsy sites and in Gypsy venues.
In the second of our two objectives, that they should hold meetings with British Romany Gypsy musicians, introducing and sharing the Gypsy music traditions, we were less successful.
However, from 2.30 on the final day such interchanges were beginning to take place. They finally got going on the night the band were due to leave and gave an indication of how fruitful such interchanges could be in future.
The official reception at the Town Hall could be perceived as most valuable in breaking down some councillors prejudices against Gypsies.
The visits to Gypsy sites were extremely fulfilling to both British and Hungarian Gypsies in giving an awareness of the international nature of ‘Gypsiness’ and of their culture and predicament.
For the ordinary people of Herefordshire, and especially for those working with the Gypsies, the Hungarian Gypsies brought a warmth and a joie de vivre that were as important a lesson to all of us, as were the fire and vivacity of their music and dancing.
The visit was so great a success that it may seem churlish to chronicle the ways in which it fell short of the ideals of at least Jeremy, and probably all of us, in some areas. It is however important to put them on record since recognising our faults can be as important a learning experience as celebrating our successes.
It is important to appreciate that the project received more than its fair share of bad luck. Such administrative faults and momentary panics as there were were perhaps, many of them, understandable in the context of elements of bad luck, such as;
The Arts 4 Everyone £4,700 decision was given to us late - about a fortnight later than the date we had given as essential. That left only one day for decision making.
Some of Jeremy’s letters to the band appear to have got lost en route to Szegalom, to which they travelled via the town halls of Worcester and Bekescaba, which led to communication problems.
Jeremy fell off a horse in July and was unable to work during much of that month.
The grave illness of a close friend of Joy’s meant she was, during much of the run up period, not able to put in the hard work she doubtless intended.
Previous musical commitments for much of August meant that Jeremy was unable to put in as much work as he would have wished in the run up period.
Previous commitments meant that Peter was not able to put in as much work as he had no doubt intended during much of the run up period.
A graver problem than all of these was presented by the council decision to embargo the band’s stay at Hatfield Court. This decision not only presented problems in itself, but in that the ultimatum was delivered so late (actually after Jeremy had left for the music and dance camp), that it caused extremely grave hiccups to our existing plans.
Such faults as I (Jeremy) perceive were in a more private area than the undeniable public success of the band’s visit.
1. Interchange with British Gypsy Musicians, introducing and sharing the Gypsy music traditions of both countries.
This did not take place till the final afternoon and, as I perceive it, for two reasons:
(a) The decision to move the accommodation of the band to Kinnersley was made only two weeks before the arrival of the band. This would not have been a problem if the various musicians engaged by Jeremy for the interchange had been able to stay at Kinnersley too. However, they were not, since Kinnersley was charging £15 a night.
The British Gypsies were therefore at Hatfield and the Hungarians were at Kinnersley, 40 minutes drive apart. The Kinnersley Castle team did not invite the Hatfield team over till the final afternoon, so it is perhaps not surprising that the proposed interchanges were slow in starting.
Although British and Hungarian musicians had practised each other’s music in order to join in playing their music, this hardly occurred, except perhaps a little on the last day.
(b) A second important reason was that the money necessary to pay our British Gypsy musicians became non available as a result of the expense of putting up the Hungarian troupe at Kinnersley Castle and other previously unforeseen expenses. This although Jeremy had in fact been specifically promised such money. Jeremy was not part of this decision and it is not entirely clear who made it.
British and Irish Gypsy musicians that Jeremy had put on standby had to be told not to come. Four other first rate Gypsy musicians came and stayed for a day or so, leaving when the non availability of money they had believed they would be getting, and the lack of meetings with the Hungarians, made their continued presence seem non-viable.
Three musicians remained, and the interchange with them and the Hungarians on the last day was most encouraging.
Another casualty of this was the visit of Charlie Smith, President of the Gypsy Council, whose expenses had been promised and were then withdrawn, as also was our wonderful local Gypsy singer Wisdom ‘Wiggy’ Smith, whose visit also had to be cancelled.
2. Another of our aims, to arrange further swaps of bands and musicians between various countries could not be implemented out of the money raised so far since the expense of accommodating the band at Kinnersley, and other expenses, were so much greater than originally expected. In other words (as far as I can perceive) there is no more money in the kitty.
3. Shortness of their stay. The troupe’s stay was originally scheduled at approximately eight days, with an invitation to stay longer if they were at Hatfield.
This was reduced to five days and I feel this did not allow enough time for the band to relax, so that they were really tired at various times (though their performance never showed this).
This reduction resulted from the decision that they should stay at Kinnersley, which meant that there was not enough money to enable them to stay longer.
The reduction in time also affected their availability to meet Gypsy musicians informally or visit the local beauty spots, or to go to the Rainbow 2000 camps to which they had invitations.
4. The expenses of Joseph Hervesi and Ilona. These people added immensely to the project and were most welcome, and I now feel that Joseph has become a close friend. However, they do not technically fall into the category for which we received money, at any rate from Arts 4 Everyone, since they are not musicians, dancers, drivers or interpreters.
The cost of entertaining them has been approximately (£3000 ¸ 17 =) £176 each. Technically it seems to me that we do not have a remit to pay for them from A4E money and it is possible we should ask the council to pay the £352 that they cost.
As I said above, I was most extremely glad to see them here.
5. The decision that the troupe should stay at Kinnersley rather than Hatfield. Although it is wonderful that the troupe were able to experience the luxury and beauty of Kinnersley, I have strong reservations about this decision.
(a) The expense of putting them up at Kinnersley meant that other areas of our programme (the time they spent here, the fees for British Romanies) had to be curtailed or cancelled.
(b) The intimate musical exchanges which could have taken place if they had stayed at Hatfield were not possible since the British musicians were at Hatfield and the Hungarians at Kinnersley.
(c) I personally had looked forward to the pleasure of welcoming them into my home, an invitation they had already accepted. It was a great disappointment to me that I was not able to host them on their visit, with the same generosity I had been shown by Roma in Hungary.
(d) The necessity of employing two teams, one at Hatfield and one at Kinnersley, and which made a paid administrator necessary, were wasteful of our resources and energy.
(e) The decision to go to Kinnersley rather than Hatfield was made undemocratically. Peter and Joy acquiesced in Alessandra’s request that the troupe should be accommodated at Kinnersley, despite the agreement at our previous meeting that the troupe should stay at Hatfield.
(f) The council veto of Hatfield was made very late on, when Jeremy was already away at a camp, and seriously mucked up large areas of our plans.
(g) The cost of continuing at Hatfield would have been loss of council support in terms of money and communication. However, this effectively only amounted to about £310. The cost of acquiescing in the council’s decision was £1300 (the price of £1550 at Kinnersley minus the £250 we planned to charge at Hatfield), plus £490 (the cost of employing an administrator, which would have been unnecessary had they stayed at Hatfield since administrative costs were included in the £250). So, the total cost of this decision was £1300 + £490 = £1790.
6. Postscript to my Report on Visit of Gyémánt Gyürü
Since I wrote the above report some new information has come to light. I had always thought it strange that of the five letters I wrote to the band, via the council, they only replied to one, and that in that they appeared to say that they did not want to stay at Hatfield.
I now realise that this one letter, appearing to come from the band, did not, but was signed by others. None of my letters were delivered to the band.
And Esther from the band writes; ‘About the accommodation: we really feel sorry that you had to pay so much money but we didn’t know anything about it. I think ............ .............. was a little bit impish and something had happened differently as it [i.e. to what it] should have ..... I would say that we would love to go there even if we have to sleep in your house. We don’t mind anything as long as we have somewhere to sleep in and a shower or bathroom and I must say that your invitation is very nice and honouring.’
7. An extreme lack of clarity in the administration of International Gypsy Band Swap. The prevailing experience for me of being one of the three core members of International Gypsy Band Swap has been one of confusion.
I am mindful, in any criticism or reservations of or about my fellow members in the core group of International Gypsy Band Swap, of their splendid record of impressive projects.
Nonetheless, I know that membership of it has been one of the strangest experiences of my life, and certainly the oddest in any situation where large sums of money were involved - and that includes the very large number of media contractual situations I have been involved in.
Perhaps I may be permitted a few examples;
In all its history, the core group of International Gypsy Band Swap has only met once to discuss among the three of us the viability of the project and how we were going to manage things. There were no other meetings before or since. That meeting was on July 26th. It was the meeting at which Peter resigned.
That, I submit, was an unsatisfactory number of meetings, and resulted in much confusion. My own confusion increased when, forming a sort of government in exile, Peter appears to me to have nonetheless continued to claim to represent the group, to have arranged venues for the band, etc.
In response to verbal enquiries and a letter asking for clarification as to whether or not he felt himself to be a member of the core group, I received no reply. As there were no meetings, decisions increasingly appear to have been made by individuals in the core group without reference to the group as a whole, and without consultation with each other.
Another problem was that the drafting of our constitution, which Peter offered to do, took two months. Jeremy’s small suggestions for alterations were lost. About a month later agreement finally was reached.
Jeremy said he wanted to hand over the money he’d received from Arts 4 Everyone to a responsible and properly constituted organisation. Still the constitution remained unsigned. Finally, three days into the band’s visit, a constitution was signed but the signatures were not witnessed and many of the alterations had not been initialled.
It would be possible to continue this list. The most important point is that many agreements made on Monday appear to have been modified on Tuesday and frequently broken on Wednesday.
Agreements made at (the only) meeting, and also between members of the core group, were not honoured.
Perhaps the sanest or maturest response to all this would be to say that there may be some incompatibility in this particular trio and it was perhaps a misjudgement on my part to acquiesce in Peter and Joy’s suggestion that they join me in the exciting enterprise of International Gypsy Band Swap.
I put in two other applications for Arts 4 Everyone with other groups of people (one so far successful, the other on appeal) and perhaps, for me, what I perceive as the eccentricity of the administration of International Gypsy Band Swap has one positive aspect - it enables me to better appreciation of the normality and lack of eccentricity in these other organisations.
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