Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Hague Jazz - Great Music, Poor Communication

The Hague Jazz has become a victim of its own success.

It is described as Holland’s most friendly, comfortable, and intimate jazz party burst for two days on May 23 & 24. That wasn't my experience. Already at 1800, the "World Forum" location was buzzing as an estimated 25,000 tried to get into the building. What amazed me was to discover they were still selling tickets at a booth outside.

So, when it came to the star of the show Miriam Makeba, the main auditorium was heavily oversubscribed - and the special reservation cards at 2,50 each were just meaningless. It reminded me more of a rugby scrum than a jazz festival. Festival director Ruud Wijkniet needs to have a re-think on how they handle the main events, since all this happened last year. The bouncers at the door keeping people out were all full of apologies (including complaints that it wasn't like this when it was the North Sea Jazz Festival).

These kind of events are expensive to organise, but also to attend. They used all the clever tricks of having a token system (1 token = 1 Euro 10 cents) to pay for drinks and food. Yes, it may be a little faster for the personnel behind the counters. But the "exchange" system always means people pay more for a sandwich (Euro 5.50) without realising it and you tend to buy more chips than you need, just in case. This was all in contrast to the excellent music - haven't seen a jazz festival this well attended outside Holland, except in Japan.

The atmosphere was fine - until the last night when several African visitors were very annoyed that "white Europeans are again blocking access to our attempt at saying fairwell to a spokeswoman of the anti-apartheid movement". Ok, full is full. But the ticketing system was clearly at fault here - promising access that just wasn't possible. Irony indeed.
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