The two session big load started the Tuesday before we set off, when all the pans were loaded. This was followed on Saturday with all the suitcases and sleeping gear jammed into the van for the sail across the North Sea, and to avoid us having to check them in at Stansted Airport so speeding up our flying journey. Sunday morning saw a group of 22 sleepy people leave Bredbury at four in the morning for the long drive down to Stansted. By 2.30 in the afternoon (on Danish time now) we were leaving Esbjerg Airport in two minibuses driven by Paul’s dad, Dave, who had flown over the day before, and Orla, our host at our accommodation in Bondergardsvej youth centre. Within an hour we were reunited with our suitcases as the other Dave had landed off the DFDS ferry ‘Britannia’.
Monday morning saw us all up bright (?) and early for the short trip down the coast to St Darum School where we played a half hour concert for around 160 children, before they all did the limbo to leave the hall, leaving us to carry out a workshop for 20 of them. After lunch all the children returned and the young Danish players played their newly learnt ‘Can’t Find My Brother’ to great acclaim from the audience. The afternoon was spent back in Esbjerg City Centre outside the Queen Louisa playing to the locals, many of whom were skating round on the outside rink. Time to relax, an enjoyable evening was spent at the Swimming Stadium, falling off the floats in the fun pool, enjoying the wave sessions and especially the showers.
Tuesday morning started with the purchase of the local newspaper to see our photo and an article from the Darum concert, although the shopkeeper couldn’t understand why we didn’t speak any Danish but wanted to buy a Danish paper. The rest of the morning was spent at the Seminarian holding a workshop for older music students, followed by a concert in the dining room over the lunch session. Time for some more social activity, the majority of the group made an afternoon of the Fishing and Sailing Museum where the fascinating aquarium and sealarium proved a great attraction. Meanwhile Steve and a couple of players taught ‘Drops of Oil’, the young steel pan players at the youth centre, how to play some new tunes. In the early evening a group of five went to the Queen Louisa to play a short session for the 5th anniversary of the local Beer Appreciation Group, run by Buster who had originated our trip to Esbjerg, before returning to the club for Steve to continue his marathon day teaching ‘Drops of Oil’.
Wednesday was a day to chill and we certainly did that. After a rainy shopping session in the city centre, the outdoor ice rink was awash so a short journey eventually found us at the indoor rink where the first timers quickly progressed to the middle of the ice and only three came off with cuts and bruises – and no broken limbs. The evening was spent at a Steel and Dance concert at Buster’s youth club at Groenlandsparken. Pantonics started the evening ably supported by the ten strong Wicked Moves who danced two sessions including a dance off between their two halves.
By Thursday morning the rain had died away so another skating session was called for. This time the city centre rink was dry and, with its many obstacles, more fun was had going down the slopes and over the humps. As the rain started again, it was back to McDonalds for lunch till we moved on to our afternoon gig. Our other host, Kennet and his wife had arranged for us to do an hour long concert at the Esbjerg Production School. As we arrived, the college lads and girls were just about to start a Danish tradition of ‘Smashing the cat out of the barrel’, in which members of the two teams take it in turns to hit their suspended barrel until it falls apart and the contents, (now a load of candies) falls to the floor and one of the teams is declared the winner. The hour long concert was well received and included our Music for Youth entry, ‘Pan in A Minor’ just to give it a public airing. The evening was spent back at the youth centre with Steve and some of the players once again helping Drops of Oil to improve their pan playing skills and repertoire. There were some young players we could do with taking home to complement our group.
The final day started slowly as the late nights caught up. The busking session was in the afternoon at the Saedding shopping centre, where it was great to be indoors as the wind and rain had caught up with us again. Following a quick trip back to the youth centre we headed back to the city for a last evening meal together and a bit of competition at the 10 pin bowling alley.
Back at the club it was great to say a very big thank you to Orla, Kennet and Gert, our hosts who had looked after us so very well at Bondergardsvej. The evening finished with a nostalgic sing song and some celebration drinks and coffees. On Saturday morning we said our goodbyes to Esbjerg knowing that we will return again for a summer session at the first opportunity.