These are not invitation letters. Instead, they ask groups to state an interest in being asked to take part. It’s a form of pre-selection, giving groups a chance to rule themselves out or to say they’d like to be considered.
The selection process itself takes place later, in September/October. The choice is made from those groups who reply positively to the initial “expression of interest” letter, on a rota basis but with geographical weighting.
Each FEATS group is in one of three lists. List A consists of groups based in Belgium, France and Luxembourg; List B, Germany; and List C the rest of the world. Four groups will be chosen from each list. The aim of the geographical grouping is to ensure that there are not all the Belgium groups one year, six German groups another year, and so on.
Within each list, groups are rotated on the principle that those which take part in year X go to the bottom of the list the following year. Added to this rotation are a few other considerations:
- New groups (that have not previously taken part in the FEATS main festival) go to the top of their list.
- The previous host group goes to the top of its list. So NWTC, which hosted in 2014, will be first choice in List A for 2015.
- Groups that drop out at short notice are “demoted” to the bottom of their list – but still rank above the groups that did take part.
The host group, advised if necessary by the FEATS steering committee, combines the rota system with the replies it receives to the “expression of interest” letter to work out which groups get a definitive invitation, and which may be asked to be reserves.
Complicated? A little, maybe, but the system has worked with only a few adjustments over many years. (The lists were introduced in 1993, although they have been revised since.)
If you want to see how it works, go to the interactive FEATS lists page. Here you can simulate part of the selection process by clicking on the column headings to sort the lists. To get a correct sort, start by clicking on 2010, then 2011, 2012, 2013 and lastly on 2014. (Sorting only by 2014 doesn’t take account of the previous years’ rankings. No one has yet worked out whether you really have to start with the earliest year available, but it seem the safest option.) If you’ve followed the instructions, the 2014 column should be sorted so that all the red ticks (meaning groups that performed in 2014) are at the bottom.
Now you have the 2015 order of priority. But that assumes all the groups have said they’d like to take part, which is rarely the case.
Only the organising committee – Hamburg Players in 2015 – has the full answer. Those groups definitively invited to take part should find out towards the end of October.