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Pitch perfect: ESGE and the pop star AMC

Hilary Hamilton-Gibbs, half of eighties pop duo Inker and Hamilton, wowed members of the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy with their own conference anthem. Ellie Evans discovers how it all came about…

It was, in her own words, a one-hit wonder: after former pop star Hilary Hamilton-Gibbs’ unique gift to the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ESGE) at its inaugural congress, she has no plans for more conference anthems.

Board members and delegates were shocked when association management company Hamilton Services unveiled a bespoke song and accompanying video at the welcome reception for the ESGE Days 2018 conference in Budapest. The tune, ‘A Crazy Notion (called the Days…)’, was penned by Munich-based Hamilton-Gibbs, the firm’s managing director, who spent much of the 1980s and 1990s touring as part of pop duo Inker and Hamilton.

The early days of Inker and Hamilton

She enlisted the help of her former bandmate, Dave Inker, for the arrangement and, after some initial hesitation, Hilary’s team joined in and helped to create a sweet and touching homemade video with Hamilton Services staff dancing and singing.

The clip, which also features candid photographs of the board, stunned the audience when it played on three huge screens at the Budapest Congress Center in April; secretary-general Søren Meisner was the only one in on the secret.

“It naturally came as a big surprise. Nobody knew about it, not even the president – we just said that we had a treat and that they needed to send us the photos,” explains Hamilton-Gibbs. “Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and it was such a nice start to offer our little present.”

After her pop career, Hamilton-Gibbs took an editorial position on a medical journal in the late 1990s and moved from reviewing manuscripts to become managing editor. She began running ESGE and, in 2005, decided to go it alone and set up Hamilton Services.

It was something from the heart, something unique, a one-hit wonder, not because I am a musician wanting to write songs.” Hilary Hamilton-Gibbs

The company now employs 16 staff and runs the editorial offices of 10 medical journals, as well as offering association management services to the ESGE and the World Endoscopy Organization (WEO). ENDO 2017, the WEO’s first congress, won Best Conference Development at this year’s International & European Association Awards.

The team behind the ESGE song: (from left) Dave Inker, Iwona Escreet, Hilary Hamilton-Gibbs, Francoise Heidenreich, Kristina Winter, Claire Guy and Nina Menard

And with the ESGE – made up of 2,500 individual members and 50 societies – set to hold its own inaugural congress in April, Hamilton-Gibbs decided to dust off her guitar.

She explains that while many urged caution about launching a new event amid tightening compliance codes, the association knew it was the right moment. “That is why the song A Crazy Notion has that atmosphere about it: saying we need it, even though everyone thought we were mad. I knew it had to be something special for the meeting, I was searching for something that no other congresses have that the secretariat could do, so I thought ‘why not do a song?’” she says.

The video has been watched nearly 1,000 times on YouTube and the convention itself was a huge success with over 1,400 delegates, more than double the hoped-for 600 participants. Next year, ESGE Days will take place in Prague – though Hamilton-Gibbs says the musical offering won’t be repeated. “It was something from the heart, something unique, a one-hit wonder, not because I am a musician wanting to write songs.”