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 Post subject: European Go Cultural Centre is closing its doors
Post #1 Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 11:01 am 
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The European Go Cultural Centre (EGCC) in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, will be closing its doors by the end of the year.

The following statement (translated to English by me) by Peter Zandveld and Martin Finke (board members of the EGCC) was published on the Dutch Go Association Website:

EGCC wrote:
Sad but true, the EGCC will stop existing in its current form. The European Go Cultural Center, the EGCC, was founded in 1993 in Amstelveen with a gift from mr Iwamoto Kaoru and had as its purpose the spread of the game of go in Europe. The business model of the EGCC was generating income through renting out the building and organizing large international go events. In the past few years, that worked less and less well: Income went down while expenses for maintenance, heating and furniture rose. Due to that, not enough time could be spent on the EGCC's main purpose, spreading go in Europe, and the EGCC ended up losing money year after year.

This was not an acceptable situation for the EGCC and the Nihon Kiin. Therefore, the decision has been made to sell the building in consultation with the Nihon Kiin, EGF and EGCC.

The building has been sold and must be emptied by the end of the year.

The proceeds of the sale will be used by the Nihon Kiin to repay a loan on the building, and for the Iwamoto European Go Fun, a new organization which will support go projects in Europe in the coming years. In this was, the dream of mr Iwamoto will be continued in Europe.

This has been a difficult decision to make, but we saw no other way forward.


Any translation errors are mine, the original Dutch statement can be found on the website of the Dutch Go Association (http://www.gobond.nl/)

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Post #2 Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:51 pm 
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Very sad to hear that, I participated several times in the past at tournaments organized at the center...

Did it happen because of low numbers of Go players in Europe?

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Post #3 Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 10:49 pm 
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What sad times are these. Where will the the Iwamoto Go Fund exist, or will it be baseless

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 Post subject: Re: European Go Cultural Centre is closing its doors
Post #4 Posted: Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:43 am 
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:sad:

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Post #5 Posted: Sun Jun 09, 2019 6:12 am 
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Ironically, I had given the EGCC as a counterexample of the small professional core of the EGF to the perceived amateuristic AGA as mentioned in several threads. With the closure of EGCC, we'll back to pure amateurism. In the meantime, it appears that the European Go Congress this year, organized in my home country, is turning into a disaster, because the few people driving it, left before it happened and now it's in the hands of a few other people who are trying to save it. They receive offers to help from some experienced lady in the EGF, but are rumoured to turn that down.

I think large bodies of amateurs will soon be something of the past. Voluntarism in the Western world / Europe / Belgium, is not what it used to be. Young adults are expecting to either have lots of fun themselves or be paid. The kind of voluntary effort "for the greater good" we used to spend has gone out of fashion - and I actually can't blame them for it, for the times I was not having fun while serving others for free (e.g. running the Brussels Go tournament) are the times I regret the most.

This will result in a shortage of very cheap events of organized pastime. If there will be an economy for slightly more expensive organized leisure, run by a few professionals, time will tell.


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Post #6 Posted: Sun Jun 09, 2019 10:28 am 
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Could this be at least partly related to the decline of face-to-face go clubs? In other words is it another effect of the internetization of culture?

Of course this sort of thing has happened elsewhere with other Iwamoto-funded centers. In the USA New York and Seattle have experienced financial difficulties. I seem to remember that something happened in Brasil, too (?) The USA created a National Go Center in Washington, D.C. I don't know how that is faring.

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Post #7 Posted: Sun Jun 09, 2019 1:16 pm 
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Just saw the message passing by on other social media. Sad day for Western/European go if you ask me. Had a lot of fun go moments in that place and was there only a few weeks ago. Very sad indeed.

On a different note ...

Knotwilg wrote:
In the meantime, it appears that the European Go Congress this year, organized in my home country, is turning into a disaster, because the few people driving it, left before it happened and now it's in the hands of a few other people who are trying to save it. They receive offers to help from some experienced lady in the EGF, but are rumoured to turn that down.


This too is very alarming ... I knew the Belgian go scene isn't that big but wouldn't have expected this to happen.


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Post #8 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:16 am 
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sorin wrote:
Did it happen because of low numbers of Go players in Europe?

Could it also be due to declining bridge players? As I heard the EGCC got a lot of its income from hosting them.

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Post #9 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:30 am 
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I think it is a real challenge I have been concerned about for sometime. In fact, as a glass half full but leaking type of a person, I am surprised we have stumbled along as well as we have.

Knotwilg and gowan both point to different aspects of the problem, although Knotwilg's point is newer and more depressing to me - though I think it is right. The idea that we are raising generations of folks who just want to have fun or be paid is sad indeed.

But the roots are in gowan's point, which is a symptom of the go community's internet "success". When you can play unlimited opponents 24/7 the move to organize a go center or club is less urgent. Of course, most or many still prefer face to face, and as long as one of my generation is around to show up and makes sure it happens, clubs will stumble on. But before the internet, when someone burnt out, there was always someone to step up and take over and make that commitment because they wanted to play go. Now though, you can just play at home. Combining this issue with Knotwilg's theory is sad indeed.

I have a little hope for face to face play with the advent of game clubs and game stores but it will be different landscape.

Sorry to hear about the European Congress - the US "avoids" (or perhaps delays) that problem by having national folks come in and do a lot of the jobs. But again, as those folks burn out, who replaces them?

I have been running my club and tournament for over 30 years. I am not sure who will replace me, although I am actually blessed right now with two youngish possibles. But next year they could follow a job or a spouse out of the area, so who knows.

This is a very Mondayish post...

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 Post subject: Re: European Go Cultural Centre is closing its doors
Post #10 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:19 am 
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I don't have answers to all questions, I think not even the people of the EGCC themselves do, yet.

Javaness2 wrote:
What sad times are these. Where will the the Iwamoto Go Fund exist, or will it be baseless

I think it will be baseless, as in that it will be purely a non-profit that manages some money, but without any physical location or assets.

First off, the proceeds from the sale of the building will go to whatever must still be paid. That includes a loan by the Nihon Kiin, probably another loan the centre made recently to have repairs done, perhaps some funds to compensate staff for their lost job, or the bar owner for the loss of his lease. They're still figuring all of that out, AFAIK.

Also, the EGCC stores a lot of equipment both for the EGF and the Dutch Go Association, which will have to move elsewhere. The EGF stuff is probably going somewhere central, it is used yearly for the congress. As to the equipment owned by the centre itself, I don't know yet.

sorin wrote:
Very sad to hear that, I participated several times in the past at tournaments organized at the center...

Did it happen because of low numbers of Go players in Europe?
gowan wrote:
Could this be at least partly related to the decline of face-to-face go clubs? In other words is it another effect of the internetization of culture?

Of course this sort of thing has happened elsewhere with other Iwamoto-funded centers. In the USA New York and Seattle have experienced financial difficulties. I seem to remember that something happened in Brasil, too (?) The USA created a National Go Center in Washington, D.C. I don't know how that is faring.

Certainly go in the west is a small market, and it is hard to survive. I think a lot of go organizations are struggling to find members and volunteers, and there has never been much money in it.

I think that part of the problem was also that the EGCC has always been an ideological organization, concerned with the promotion of go, never a commercial organization run with the primary goal of making money. It always charged very little for its services (e.g. venue rental and organizational support for the Amsterdam Tournament was always very cheap, compared to what you would pay commercially). I think they have, for the first 20 years, managed to barely break even, but that did not include things like maintenance to the building. Then when those costs rose while the market shrunk, they slowly went under. Perhaps they should have sounded the alarm sooner and raised their prices. Hindsight is 20/20 vision and all that.

Uberdude wrote:
Could it also be due to declining bridge players? As I heard the EGCC got a lot of its income from hosting them.

The local bridge community is probably more affected by this than the local go community. The building hosted several bridge clubs who will have to find a new venue on very short (6 months) notice. I'm not sure how those clubs were doing in terms of membership, but I have the feeling all mind sports are shrinking.

Knotwilg wrote:
Ironically, I had given the EGCC as a counterexample of the small professional core of the EGF to the perceived amateuristic AGA as mentioned in several threads. With the closure of EGCC, we'll back to pure amateurism. In the meantime, it appears that the European Go Congress this year, organized in my home country, is turning into a disaster, because the few people driving it, left before it happened and now it's in the hands of a few other people who are trying to save it. They receive offers to help from some experienced lady in the EGF, but are rumoured to turn that down.

I think large bodies of amateurs will soon be something of the past. Voluntarism in the Western world / Europe / Belgium, is not what it used to be. Young adults are expecting to either have lots of fun themselves or be paid. The kind of voluntary effort "for the greater good" we used to spend has gone out of fashion - and I actually can't blame them for it, for the times I was not having fun while serving others for free (e.g. running the Brussels Go tournament) are the times I regret the most.

This will result in a shortage of very cheap events of organized pastime. If there will be an economy for slightly more expensive organized leisure, run by a few professionals, time will tell.

This is a discussion I have been having with more people recently. It is so hard to find volunteers these days, that it really feels like a cultural shift. Perhaps it is better to just switch to a commercial model. If people are unable or unwilling to donate their time, they'll have to pay money instead.

In the Netherlands we've had some good experiences with trading one for the other. Every winter and summer a go camp is organized. Anyone who feels the total cost is too much (last winter it was 180 euro for 5 days including accommodation, food, drinks, tournament and workshops) can request a discount in exchange for volunteer effort (e.g. cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, giving workshops, etc).

I'm tasked with co-organizing the Amsterdam tournament as part of my function within the Dutch Go Association, and I currently have no idea where we'll be able to run the tournament next year. The cost of venues in Amsterdam and surrounding is just very high. If we can find a venue for three times the price of the EGCC, we'll be very lucky IMO. (and that won't include help from the staff in organzing the tournament). It will probably mean a very significant price hike for entry fees. We'll see how it goes.

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Post #11 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:02 am 
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HermanHiddema wrote:
This is a discussion I have been having with more people recently. It is so hard to find volunteers these days, that it really feels like a cultural shift.

Isn't it just a natural consequence of modern life and the acceleration of the inequalities inevitable in capitalism? On average we have less free time and less money to spend.

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Post #12 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:29 am 
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HermanHiddema wrote:
Certainly go in the west is a small market, and it is hard to survive.


We can't expect community to grow, if organizations are focused on developing pros and only top percentile of players.
When I go to EGF site I do not find anything, that could keep kyu players attracted. There is of course EGF Academy, but you need to pay quite serious cash to get access to it (not even slightly worth the buck comparing to eg. Guo Juans extensive lectures or even donate dwyrin).
So we've got EGF to train pros, who will not be teaching others for free. We've also national organizations. I do not trust mine, as there is no transparency in how money are spent (and yeah, I cannot say what has been done to "promote go").

If we want to community to flourish, we need to have support for community - lectures, training games, commentaries for kyus and dans.

I do not believe, that we can create large, healthy and prosperous go community only around success of few professional individuals. This is the way to create exclusive go club.

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Post #13 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:13 am 
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The EGF does not have the ability to push go to and then hold the attention of 'the masses'. It is a skeleton, and the focus on the higher level seems normal to me. It is the national federations that have to promote go at the lower level. They are the only ones with the resources to do so. The EGF could help co-ordinate activities, but expecting something beyond that is misplaced.

At the moment it does support 1 activity for keen kids - SEYGO - which seems to be going reasonably well so far.

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Post #14 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:36 am 
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This is a discussion I have been having with more people recently. It is so hard to find volunteers these days, that it really feels like a cultural shift.


Somewhat related to that, I have been told that nowadays universities and companies in the UK are no longer the slightest bit interested in what activities and achievements you have outside the standard educational system. In what feels to me like the ultra-competitive modern age, if you get no credit at an interview or promotion board for being able to say "I have run the XXX go tournament," why should you run it? In my generation, at any rate, outside activities were always seen as a way of building up an interesting CV.

Against that, though, the British Go Association appears to have always had, and still has, plenty of very good volunteers nationwide, many of whom I'd class as young. Some of them are currently also involved in the new London Go Centre, which (early days, touch wood, and all that) appears to be thriving, partly thanks to reliable funding from the T Mark Hall Fund. Incidentally, the Fund did look at offering funds to the Amstelveen centre, but we decided we couldn't justify it, for a raft of reasons. The main one is that we have to keep to the specific terms of the will, but among them was a feeling we'd be subsidising bridge players and not go players.


Quote:
We can't expect community to grow, if organizations are focused on developing pros and only top percentile of players.


I've been saying this for many, many years and, to my utter bafflement, don't think I've ever found anyone else to agree with me - so welcome, confrère!

Edit: Just after posting the above, I went on to Sensei's Library. This was the main message on its front page:

No changes in the last 3 days.

Seems as if there are plenty of other trees falling in the go forest that we don't hear falling. Yes, Keith, it's still Monday here as well!

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Post #15 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:15 pm 
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Javaness2 wrote:
The EGF could help co-ordinate activities, but expecting something beyond that is misplaced.


I do not want EGF to do anything "beyond". I just think EGF strategy is misplaced (it is not doing what it should right now).
We say it is for competitive go and that's ok. But... How competitive go in Europe is benefiting the community? I see this as very targeted help on getting particular career for few. And national organizations are doing almost the same, but on lower level.

I love to teach beginners in our local club. Giving some commentaries online - sure. Help in organizing tournaments - yeah.
But, if you would ask me, would I seek for any assistance in national org or EGF to make more o better? The answer is - no. As a player I do not see any value added for myself and other players in area. I see, that there is something going on, but it is so far from every day players, that it's almost irrelevant for community.

John Fairbairn wrote:
I've been saying this for many, many years and, to my utter bafflement, don't think I've ever found anyone else to agree with me - so welcome, confrère!

There must be others! :study:

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Post #16 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:51 pm 
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Sorry if I ask dumb questions, but: what was the purpose of the EGCC? What kind of events did they organize, and were they different from international events elsewhere in Europe?

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Post #17 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:03 pm 
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jlt wrote:
Sorry if I ask dumb questions,
Dumb questions don’t exist, only dumb people, namely those who don't ask questions :)

Quote:
but: what was the purpose of the EGCC? What kind of events did they organize, and were they different from international events elsewhere in Europe?


See here http://www.go-centre.nl/Pages/Page.php?P=7

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Post #18 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:25 pm 
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Javaness2 wrote:
HermanHiddema wrote:
This is a discussion I have been having with more people recently. It is so hard to find volunteers these days, that it really feels like a cultural shift.

Isn't it just a natural consequence of modern life and the acceleration of the inequalities inevitable in capitalism? On average we have less free time and less money to spend.


From what I observe it's a mixture of modern upbringing, where parents who our not able or willing to devote actual time to educating their children, spoil them instead, creating a culture of entitlement, and the insecurity of the global village with its 7 billion inhabitants swarming about, which tends to paralyze people's community spirit.

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Post #19 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:27 pm 
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John Fairbairn wrote:


Edit: Just after posting the above, I went on to Sensei's Library. This was the main message on its front page:

No changes in the last 3 days.

Seems as if there are plenty of other trees falling in the go forest that we don't hear falling. Yes, Keith, it's still Monday here as well!


I have probably been one of the most - and I fear sometimes the most - prolific admin/editor on SL. In its heighdays I spent hours keeping the place tidy while trying to product quality content. I'm not sure this has been the best spent portion of my lifetime.

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Post #20 Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:49 pm 
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This news about the EGCC closing, and the explanation about why this may have happened (organizers not being very concerned with positive cash flow) puts into a different light for me the online debate last year about how expensive the entry fees are at the US Go Congress vs the very accessible ones at the European Go Congresses.

Charging higher fees seems like the wiser thing to do in the end, since it's a sustainable practice, even if not everybody likes that or can afford it.

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