LaceNews is honored to talk with Veerle Meersschaut , the President of Brugge 2018 vzw. Brugge and many cities in Belgium are major lacemaking centers keeping alive an ancient tradition. Veerle is giving us some insight into the 2018 Congress.
LaceNews: Thank you for agreeing to talk to LaceNews. Please tell us about the events planned for 2018.
Veerle: The congress takes place on 17 – 18 – 19 August 2018. This is the same weekend of the Lace Days in Bruges. The Lace Days are an event that takes place every year. Local lace groups present their work and some traders have a sales stand. Compared with the congress is this a small event. To avoid that this event would not receive visitors, we have integrated the Lace Days in the Congress program. During the Congress there will be exhibitions of traditional lace, contemporary lace, lace art, lace jewelry, the results of the lace contest, five different lectures about lace and a lace market.
Before the Congress, there will be four days’ courses in different types of lace. After the Congress, there will be a six days’ lace tour visiting lace exhibitions
We are not changing our original program. We are working on a website and we hope to get this online by the end of the year.
LaceNews: How did you plan the 2018 OIDFA congress? Who are the people and organizations working on the event?
Veerle: When a country gets permission from OIDFA to organize a congress, the workgroup that shall do the organizing must form a non-profit organization. This is obligated by OIDFA. In Belgium we called this non-profit organization “Brugge 2018 vzw”. The Board of Brugge 2018 vzw is composed of traders, representatives of the Kantcentrum, and lace teachers. Most are residents of Bruges. One gets good results more quickly if we can work with residents of the city.
LaceNews: What work has been done so far on the Congress, and how has OIDFA helped in planning process?
Veerle: The organization of the congress happened without the help of OIDFA. We have taken previous congresses as an example but we give our personal touch with a contemporary approach. We have all the venues reserved, and lace artists are working to create pieces specifically for the Congress. The lace teachers we have contacted have accepted to give courses. The persons who will give lectures have signed their contracts. The preparations for the exhibitions throughout Belgium are in full progress. There shall be on the website of the tourist office a special link for the participants of the Congress, where they can book hotel rooms.
To help you plan and organize a congress, OIDFA gives the congress organizing committee a Congress Pack. It contains all the terms and items that a congress should gratify. They also provide a liaison officer, who is the only contact person with the EC. She passes all the questions and comments of the EC to the COC. The contract that we have signed says that once our non-profit organization was founded, we were receiving an interest-free loan so we had a starting capital to cover the initial expenses. This loan we never received.
LaceNews: Several issues have been brought up in connection with the Congress. These include lack of communication within the BCOC and with OIDFA, missed deadlines, reports not written in English or French, and the very high budget. Would you care to comment on any of these?
Veerle: The communication with the EC was bad from the beginning. We asked for another liason-officer but we never got someone else. We send in reports, all written in English, but it was never enough. The EC wants that all contracts for the venues are signed two and a half years before the congress takes place. In Bruges contracts are signed at the earliest two years in advance. This was not accepted by the EC. The costs of the congress were based on a worst case scenario. That was also something the EC didn’t want to understand. The budget was rejected several times. Each time we got the comment that the budget was incomplete and the figures were too high. The last time that I asked help to get this budget right was two months before the last AC meeting. I never got any answer on my request.
LaceNews: You have cited a major concern, that it is not permitted for a non-profit organization to work for a foreign association in Belgium. Is this a new regulation? Did the 1998 Congress in Ghent have similar problems?
Veerle: The congress in Ghent (Belgium) didn’t have these problems. The association’s law became much stricter in 2002 and the statutes are strictly controlled before they can be published. Everything has to go exactly according to the law. This was not the case in 1998.
LaceNews: OIDFA is now searching for alternative venues for the AC meeting in 2017 and the General Assembly in 2018. Would they be welcome to hold their 2018 meeting in Bruges during the time of “Lace Experience in Belgium”?
Veerle: Everyone is welcome to the congress in Bruges. If OIDFA wants to keep their 2018 meeting in Bruges, they just have to ask.
This is the first and the last time that I and the board of Brugge 2018 vzw communicate about this item. We will concentrate ourselves on the splendid programma that we have to realise: “Living Lace” in Brugge 2018.