Bath will be turning orange in the middle of July – but it won’t be the effects of the Summer sun. Instead, the city will be celebrating a special Anniversary ‘Alkmaar Week’ from July 10th to 16th, marking 70 years of friendship with the Dutch city.
A programme of events during the week will focus attention on Bath’s connections with Alkmaar, a link which has its origins in the Second World War.
BATA Chairman, Martin Broadbent, explained:
“In 1940 a young Jewish man from Alkmaar, Eli Prins, escaped the advancing Nazi army by literally jumping onto a small fishing boat leaving the Netherlands. He ended up in Bath, where he became an Air Raid Warden, gave talks about his home town, and made many friends.
“When in early 1945 the Dutch government-in-exile asked Britain for help after a terrible Winter famine, the people of Bath decided to collect food and clothing, and raise money for Eli Prins’ home town. It was the start of a friendship which has endured over seven decades.”
As part of its efforts to help, in 1945 Bath hosted 50 children from Alkmaar affected by the War and the Winter famine. The following year, the grateful people of Alkmaar invited 50 children from Bath back to their city for a Summer holiday, cementing the friendship between the two communities.
A wide range of sporting and community groups continue to have strong links and arrange regular exchange visits, including local rowing, badminton, petanque and swimming clubs. Several Bath schools have also been involved over the years, most recently Beechen Cliff and Hayesfield.
A group of pupils from Bath Community Academy are travelling to Alkmaar this month on an Arts project.
Alkmaar Week will be launched at the Orange Grove next to the Guildhall with a ceremonial raising of the flags of the Netherlands and Alkmaar. The Mayor of Alkmaar, Burgemeester Pieter Bruinooge, will make a formal civic visit, bringing officals from Alkmaar Council, and the week will be rounded off by two concerts in Bath from the Alkmaar Youth Orchestra.
The Comedy Festival organisers are planning an alternative Dutch comedy night during the week, and will be organising a fun “Dutch Cheese Trail”, inviting members of the public to search for dozens of classic waxed Dutch cheeses, placed in shop windows and public places around the city centre.
A special church service commemorating Eli Prin’s life, and the spirit of the link, will be held in St. Swithun’s Church, Bathford, where Mr Prins married and settled down after the War.
“We hope many people in Bath and Akmaar will take part in the events we are organising, and find out for themselves the story behind our cities’ friendship” added Martin Broadbent.
“ It is a tremendous tale, one which we believe people both countries should cherish, and which even now speaks to us all.”
Other special activities have already taken place to mark the Anniversary year, including the planting of 5,000 tulip bulbs around the City, donated by Alkmaar. The BBC’s Mary Berry returned to Bath to help schoolchildren plant some in Parade gardens, as her brother, Roger Berry, was on the first children’s trip to Alkmaar in 1946.
At the weekend the choir from Bath Abbey performed a concert of English Church music in Alkmaar’s ‘Great Church’, in the centre of the old Dutch city; a large group from the Rotary Club of Bath is visiting the twin city this week; and later in May the Mayor’s official folk band, the Bath City Jubilee Waits, will be performing there.
Tickets for the Alkmaar Youth Orchestra Concert being held on 15th July in the Roper Theatre are now available online at https://alkmaaryouthorchestra.eventbrite.co.uk