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Organising Tips
Here is a very general description on how to get started in organising the European Juggling Convention (or any other convention for that matter!) No two conventions are the same, and every project brings its own problems and solutions. If you require more information, please contact the EJA. As your plans progress you will be in contact with them anyway.

In the beginning:
  • Try to organise an evening open to any and everyone interested in helping to make such a wonderful event. Try to feel everyone out on how much they want to get involved. Some might say they are busy in the winter, but want to help in the last month or two, and others might say they have certain skills or facilities that can be useful. In any event out of this meeting, I should hope you can find 3 - 5 people willing to commit to helping for the entire year. Together you can form the 'core group' that knows the total picture. With this group you can get together another time, and start dividing the responsibilities.
  • Set up an organisation. The laws are different in every country, but you have to establish the convention as its own legal entity that can open a bank account, sign contracts, etc. This should be a non-profit organisation set up with the goal to stimulate the growth of juggling as a hobby, sport and art through the organisation of the European Juggling Convention. Once you have this, decide where your office will be. It is recommended to set up and address and telephone line just for the convention. A personal address is fine, but if you give out your private telephone number, you will go crazy! Jugglers from America or Australia can call at the most inconvenient times. Then you can think about things like a logo, business cards, stationary.
  • The next step is to try to confirm locations, support, and put together a realistic budget and time planning. If a good plan is made in the beginning, and kept to throughout the year, then watching the festival unfold before you is an amazing experience. If you put everything off until the last minute, you will be facing the most stressful week of your life!

The most important part of organising a European Juggling Convention is in putting together a good team. It is impossible to organise this on your own, and the more fun the committee has, the more fun the convention is. Also, with a few people involved, you have more ideas, connections, and energy to work with. A group of around 5 dedicated people, and support from another 10 - 20 in the area is optimal. The core group should realise they are all in it until the end, and be prepared to put in some time and energy spread though out the year. As the convention gets closer, the support group will get more involved. Actually it is like a flame that grows into a fire. For the first few months, one or two people can take care of laying the foundation. By about January, the other 3 should be well on their way with their responsibilities, and in the spring, you attract the rest, filling in all the details, and doing the preparations.

Although there are many aspects to organise, there are certain main responsibilities that should be divided amongst the committee. You can split them up any way you want amongst yourself, but there should be at least two clear positions:
The Leader

This is the one person, that just makes sure everything is getting done, and runs the organisational side of the festival. Democracy works great, but you still need someone to call the vote, and run the meetings. His vote however should not carry any more weight than the other members.

The Treasurer
There should only be one person in charge of the books, and who handles any money. A second signature on the banks is handy in case he/she gets sick, but in principal only one person should deposit or withdraw any funds. The other main responsibility is to draw up a realistic budget which the whole committee approves, and then make sure it is kept to. No-one on the committee should commit the festival to any expense without first getting approval from the treasurer. At the same time, if a certain item ends up being cheaper than expected (or donated!) then the treasurer will know he has some playing room to let another item go over if the committee agrees.

IMPORTANT: The leader and treasurer should under no circumstances be the same person!
Other committee members should then take on a broader range of responsibilities and try to delegate them amongst other jugglers in the area. For example:
One person takes care of the whole location(s): juggling halls, sleeping locations, show locations, electricity, water, stages, site management, garbage disposal, road signs, transport, traffic control, badge control, etc.
Another can take on all events. Organising the public show, parades, workshops, traders and vendors, parties, children's areas, decorations, ticket sales.
Another can take on all publicity, and printing. From stationary and business cards to posters, T-shirts, tickets and passes. press releases, public relations, help with decorations, designs, and stage decorations.
And lastly there must be someone who keeps an eye on the office, and takes care of the administration. This is normally the leader and/or the treasurer, but could also be the publicity person. It depends a lot on who has what capabilities.

Obviously, there must be a lot of communication, so that people can help each other, or try to delegate to each others friends. This is the main job of the leader, to delegate as much as possible to reliable people and then spend a lot of time checking and rechecking that people actually do what they said they would. If your plan is solid and you find enough people to help execute it; organising the convention can be a lot of fun. You will notice the more you go along, the more people get involved. That is when it is important the 'centre' knows what all the satellites are doing.

As for a time planning for the European Juggling Festival:
You should start looking for a location and organising group at least 18 months in advance. This way you can bring at least a skeleton idea to the convention and explain it to the jugglers. If your proposal is chosen by the jugglers, you then have one year to put it together, which is more than enough time. (Some organisers have done it all in the last 2 months, but it shows when you look closely!)

Upon your return home with the jugglers mandate, the real work can begin. The first step is to sit down with anyone and everyone interested in the convention and brainstorm on creative ideas to make the convention something special. Even people who don't want to help organise probably have some great ideas. This is also the time to try to put the committee together. Sometimes good people get involved who barely juggle, because they like the idea. Especially good treasurers seem to be hard to find amongst jugglers (mathematicians on the other hand seem to be plentiful!)

Make a list of everything, then plan the 'big picture'. Try to estimate the costs and make a budget. The EJA office has budgets from all the past conventions and can help first time organisers put together a realistic picture.

Once your budget has been approved by the committee, try to get confirmations on as much as possible. Decide which site you all want to use, where people will eat, sleep, juggle, perform and party, and get them reserved on paper. To do this you will need to set up some sort of office for the festival. This can be anywhere, but should be established immediately, and permanent for the whole year. Even if the address is someone's house. For a phone, I strongly recommend you get a new telephone number that is only for the festival, with an answering machine. This saves a lot of confusion, and lets you get some stationary printed up. If possible try to get a logo as soon as possible and use it everywhere.

Start to contact eventual sponsors, or advertisers.
As you get going, more and more little jobs will present themselves. I always try to get as much done as early as possible. the more you can arrange in advance the better. Don't put things off, or in the spring you will find yourself in an avalanche of little problems.

By December, all the main facilities should be reserved on paper. In the coarse of the winter you can fill in more details, rent the sound and light systems, arrange artists for the shows and workshops, get all the permits necessary, contact police, fire department, first aid, design posters, T-shirts, catering, etc.

By spring you should be down to confirming the last details, and starting to set the wheels in motion. This is when the pre-registration starts coming in, and the publicity and printing take up most of your time.
My philosophy was to try to get as much of the planning and confirming done by two months before the convention. Not only do you then get to enjoy some of your summer, but it also then gives the time to make sure things get done that where promised months before. If the drawings are ready in May, and the printing time reserved with a printer for the week before the convention, then that is one less worry.

Written by Lee Hayes
 
 
© 2006 European Juggling Association, Amsterdam
 
 
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