By Chula Bruggeling
Every autumn holiday the city of Odense, Denmark turns into a city full of magic and wizardry when the city hosts its annual Harry Potter Festival. This year, the festival was held on Oct. 21-22.
Besides the usual entertainment one can expect from such a festival – children and adults alike cosplaying as “Harry Potter” characters or dressing up in generic wizarding robes, a marketplace full of magically-themed wares, and a variety of workshops – this year the festival seemed to have decided to step it up a notch. While some form of quidditch is not new to the festival programme, this is the first time any form of competitive quidditch played by IQA rules was included.
Since Denmark does not yet have its own NGB, nor does it appear to have quidditch teams playing by IQA rules in general, the organisers behind the Harry Potter Festival earlier this year contacted then-IQA Executive Director Harrison Homel with a request for help. When Homel resigned a while back, interim Executive Director Nicole Hammer took over the organising work.
Originally, the organisers of the Harry Potter Festival had hoped to bring the national teams from the US and Australia to Denmark to compete against each other, but that idea was ultimately discarded due to distance. Instead, the festival flew in players and officials from countries a bit more nearby; delegates from both Team UK and Team Norway travelled to Denmark, as well as a referee team consisting of Belgian Pauline Raes, the IQA Referee Development Team’s new leader, and British referee Dave Goddin. Gust Lumbeeck, who some might remember as the snitch runner for the third-place game at IQA World Cup 2016, rounded out the team of officials as the snitch.
Meanwhile, Nicole Hammer attended on behalf of the IQA and assisted as a referee, while IQA Membership Director Matthew Guenzel, probably best known as IQA World Cup 2016’s Tournament Director, spent his time in Denmark focusing on development by networking, trying to help kickstart Danish quidditch and represent the IQA while the rest of the delegates were either playing or refereeing.
The event organisers were very eager to try and make this one of the selling points of this year’s festival, promoting it on their website as a “quidditch tournament of international calibre with the IQA.” So eager, even, that it seems all expenses were paid for those attending to help out with costs.
“The organising team proved to be great hosts,” said Elisabeth Ingeberg Jørstadt, former captain of Team Norway. “We were better taken care of than I think any of us expected, with a central hotel, good dinners, and we were even taken to a concert!”
“It means that we suddenly have set an international footprint in the festival, and in this way we can attract even more fans,” said Gleen Blæsbjerg, event coordinator at the Harry Potter Festival, speaking to Danish media organisation TV2 / Fyn.
And they certainly attracted fans. Despite brisk autumn weather of around eight degrees Celsius, featuring quite a bit of rain and wind, the festival saw about 10,000 visitors. An estimated 3,000 of those visitors passed by the festival’s quidditch stadium to witness exposition games between the UK and Norway, as well as to try the sport out for themselves.
“The pitch itself was impressive,” Jørstadt said. “Heavily HP influenced, with the towers representing the Hogwarts houses and commercials for magical companies – it was visually the coolest pitch I’ve ever played on. There were around 400 seats for spectators, and in addition a number were watching from all around the boundary. While I don’t know how many watched the games, I’ve heard that we passed 400 spectators (and maybe more?) in the last game, which I’m sure has to be some kind of European record (at least counting non-players)!”
Besides fans, the media was also eager to learn more. Both the festival and quidditch were features in local and national media, including a feature on the local news station. This will certainly help grow awareness of the sport, which will in turn hopefully help efforts to start quidditch in Denmark.
On Friday, October 21, the two teams from the UK and Norway faced each other on the quidditch pitch for three exposition matches. The first two of those went to Team UK, with scores of 180*-30 and 90-80*, respectively. Norway managed to grab the third and last victory of the day however, with a SWIM catch, ending the game 110*-100.
“I believe that the event was an amazing opportunity for me to get to know other teams, help build Danish quidditch, and allow us to bring the sport to a part of the world that had never seen us in action before,” said Hammer. “I believe that we left an awesome impression with them, and I hope that we get the opportunity to do this again.”
If the words of Project Manager Søren Dahl Mortensen are anything to go by, we very well might. Speaking with TV2 / Fyn, he explained that he expects there will be another festival next year, with many of the new initiatives repeated.
Meanwhile, Denmark might finally get their own IQA quidditch team as well.
“While most of the spectators were children and their parents, and maybe too young to play themselves anytime soon, we also met the players beginning to start a team in Odense,” Jørstadt said.
Who knows – maybe next year we will see a Danish team challenge other European teams in Odense.