2013 EJN Award Winner

The jury of independent jazz experts and EJN representatives unanimously agreed to give the EJN Award for Adventurous Programming 2013 to the Bimhuis, Amsterdam.

Following the first EJN Award in 2012, of which the worthy recipient was TWELVE POINTS, Dublin, the second award goes to a long-established venue which for the 39 years since its foundation has led the way in programming adventurous music of all kinds, with jazz to the fore.

The Bimhuis was founded in 1974, initially based in a former furniture showroom on Oude Schans, near Amsterdam’s Red-Light district, which had been rented by a group of musicians who had just founded Beroepsvereniging voor Improviserende Musici (BIM), including saxophonist Hans Dulfer and pianist Misha Mengelberg. It was a time of new, enthusiastic initiatives in jazz, with a conscious choice to depart from traditional approaches. In the Netherlands this led to the formation of such progressive ensembles as the Instant Composers’ Pool and Willem Breuker Kollektief.
The Bimhuis quickly achieved the status of the premier Dutch venue for improvised music and became a favourite spot for such renowned bandleaders as Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra. The space was simultaneously made available to new Dutch initiatives, conservatory students and apprentice orchestras. The Bimhuis has continued to be a place where new bands and projects are formed and where local and international musicians collaborate.
In 1984 the building underwent a drastic renovation, whose most important feature was an amphitheatre-shaped hall which allowed for an intimate atmosphere near the stage, while still allowing the audience to circulate at the back of the space to the adjacent bar. A professional recording system was installed which resulted in countless concerts either being recorded for LP and CD releases or radio broadcasts.
The present-day Bimhuis opened in 2005 as part of a prominent waterside development near to Amsterdam’s Central Station, sharing the premises and spectacular architecture with Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, while being carefully designed with the old Bimhuis in mind on the inside. The layout of the stage and access to the bar have remained the same, but now everything is more spacious, comfortable, technically advanced and has excellent acoustics. The Bimhuis annually receives twice as many visitors now as the old venue did in its most successful year ever. Everyone plays there now, from stars to amateurs, from mainstream to avant-garde. In essence, the Bimhuis has basically remained the same: an important junction in the international network of improvising musicians.
Comments from members of the Award Jury included:
‘a great venue which has survived a move to a new location while retaining its brand and character through very careful attention to identity, design and atmosphere.’
‘there is no other example throughout Europe of a venue or promoter that has created the level and range of programme - and sustained it for so many, many years - as the Bimhuis has done. And, in respect of this EJN Award, it is still, week after week, month after month, producing adventurous, wide-ranging, risk-taking, thought-provoking programmes’
Huub van Riel, Artistic Director of the Bimhuis, comments:
Next year we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary as Bimhuis. An organisation that old easily runs the risk of becoming a fading institution. To reach this age and then receive an award for adventurous and forward-looking programming from your peers is an honour, an encouragement, and the perfect birthday gift.
We have always consciously chosen to support music that is alive and under construction, music that takes risks. And will continue to do so, in co-operation with our friends and colleagues in the international circuit.
I hasten to add that this city, Amsterdam, plays a major role in encouraging adventure thanks to its eagerness to embrace experiment and innovation in so many fields, not least music.