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70 years of Friendship

From September 2016 we will be celebrating 70 years of friendship between Bath and Alkmaar.

ALKMAAR 70 WEEK IN PICTURES on our Facebook Page

September 2016 marks exactly 70 years since the first visit of Bath children to Alkmaar in 1946, which completed the 'circle of friendship' which began when Alkmaar children came to Bath for the first time a few months earlier.  

We are celebrating this 70 years of friendship from September 2016 through to August 2017, with a variety of special activities and events, including a planned Alkmaar Week sometime in Summer 2017.

Many organisations and people across the City - from sport, the arts, in education and business – will be involved, echoing the way the whole City came together to help the then desperate people of Alkmaar at the end of the Second World War.

If you or your organisation have ideas for activities to mark 70 years of friendship between Bath and Alkmaar, please contact us: we can help turn your ideas into reality.

The Alkmaar Week events programme

Newsletter 1 - Newsletter 2 - Newsletter 3 - Newsletter 4



‘Alkmaar 70’ Newsletter 5 – JUNE 2017

Detailing all the Alkmaar 70 activities!


‘Alkmaar 70’ Newsletter 4 – April 2017


Three months to go to Alkmaar 70 Week! Details of the programme are below - and already many other activities are underway as we move through our special Anniversary year.


We look forward to seeing all of you at one or more of the events!


Alkmaar Week – July 10th-16th


Monday 10th  time tbc: Launch of Alkmaar Week - Guildhall

We will be launching the Week at the Guildhall in the morning, with representatives of our twinning equivalent from Alkmaar, the AUC. Members will be welcome to join in this activity.  Details to follow.


Thursday 13th, 10.00am: Commemoration Service – St Swithun’s Church, Bathford

 A short service to commemorate the life of Eli Prins, the Alkmaar man whose escape to Bath triggered the events which link our Cities, and whose grave is in the churchyard.  The Mayors of Alkmaar and Bath will be present, as will children from Bathford Primary School.

Thursday 13th, 12.45pm: BATA Members & Supporters Lunch with Mayor Bruinooge – Larkhall Sports Club

Members, Corporate Members and supporters will be welcome to join us for a complimentary buffet lunch with the Alkmaar Civic Party, including Mayor Bruinooge.  Cash bar available – a separate invitation to this event will be issued to our Members shortly.

Saturday 15th, 7.00pm: “Connections” Concert with Alkmaar Regional Youth Orchestra, featuring Bath young musicians - Roper Hall, Hayesfield School

The wonderful Artiance Youth Orchestra from Alkmaar, and our great friend, conductor Otto de Jong, will be performing a special programme of pieces on the theme “Connections”.  Young musicians from Bath will also be joining the Orchestra for the concert, which will feature readings from our ‘origins’ story.  Tickets for this event will be available online shortly.


Sunday 16th, 3.30pm: “Connections” Concert with Alkmaar Regional Youth Orchestra, featuring Bath young musicians – St Michael’s Church, Broad Street

As above, but an afternoon concert, aimed at a younger audience. Tickets for this event will be available online shortly.

Mayor Bruinooge to visit during Alkmaar Week

A civic delegation from Alkmaar, including Mayor and Mrs Bruinooge and Alkmaar Council officials, will be in Bath from July 12th to 14th.  A busy programme of activities will be focused on ‘Heritage’, in particular investigating how Bath is opening up heritage locations to the public, and sustaining them financially, but without compromising their historic or archaeological integrity. 


The Party will be visiting the new developments at the Roman Baths, the Cleveland Pools and Number 1, the Royal Crescent, and receiving briefings from senior officers from B&NES and Bath Tourism Plus. 

During his visit, Mayor Bruinooge will also be meeting business representatives, attending the commemoration service for Eli Prins, meeting BATA Members at a buffet lunch, visiting the Holburne Museum, and holding a joint meeting with representatives of the two twinning committees from Bath and Alkmaar.

Bath Community Academy Arts Project with Alkmaar

We are delighted that, working with our friends in the ‘Alkmaars Utwisseling Comite (AUC)’, and the Charter Trustees of the City of Bath, we’ve been able to arrange for a party of 11 young people from Year 9, Bath Community Academy, to make a week-long visit to Alkmaar in May, hosted by the ‘Stedelijk Dalton College’.

The pupils will be visiting Amsterdam as well as staying with families in Alkmaar, and attending school. Together with their hosts, they will be working on arts projects inspired by meeting some of the original “Bath-Alkmaar” children, from both cities. 

Mrs Bridget Wakefield (seen here at the tulip bulb planting) and her good friend and fellow original Bath child, Mrs Monida Dolan, have kindly agreed to be interviewed, and will be visiting BCA on April 26th.

Beechen Cliff Sports Students Exchange, 2017

Following the success of this exchange in 2016, another is being held this year.  A party of 15 pupils from Beechen Cliff visited Alkmaar in February, and a return visit from students at the ‘Petrus Canesius College’ will be taking place in June.  The chance to stay in each others’ homes has proven popular, as has trying out new sports and training techniques!

Eli Prins Remembered

The last few months has seen our knowledge of the early days on our city link expand considerably, thanks not least to the efforts of our unoffical archivist and BATA committee member, professional translater and author, Aletta Stevens. 

Through Aletta’s efforts, we re-established contact with Eli Prins’ son, Professor Gwythian Prins.   Prof. Prins made a special visit to Bath to share with us some personal photos, documents and memories of his father.  


Our Mayor, Cllr Paul Crossley, kindly invited us to meet in the Mayor’s Parlour, and many new facts about Eli came tumbling out during a lengthy and highly enjoyable conversation.  We hope to do more with this information during Alkmaar Week, and in the future.


Barrel Organ hits the Airwaves

The saga of the famous Alkmaar Appeal Barrel Organ – or ‘barrel piano’ as we now know it should more correctly be called - shows no signs of ending, as we work on our ambition to have it playing once again, after 70 years. 

Thanks to a donation from the AUC and Alkmaar City Council, and with the permission of the Mayor of Alkmaar, the little instrument was moved to a specialist piano workshop for a general assessment and re-tuning by local piano technician, Hugo de Jong.  We hoped this would be all that was required – but, alas, no: further specialist adjustments are required.  We are now investigating whether experts from Dean Organs, in Whitchurch, can help us. Our efforts piqued some media interest, with committee member, Chris Davies, being interviewed by Ali Vowles of BBC Radio Bristol on the tale.  We continue to try to raise funds for this and other aspects of our Alkmaar 70 plans – see our story about ‘Local Giving’ below.



Bath Abbey Choir performing in Alkmaar “Great Church” in May

Corporate member of BATA, Bath Abbey, is playing its part in our celebration, with the Bath Abbey Choir singing in a special concert of typical Anglican Church Music on Sunday, May 7th, in the Great Church (‘Grote Kerk’) in the heart of Alkmaar.  We understand this will be the first trip to Alkmaar by the Choir for many years, since they took part in the re-opening celebrations of the famous ‘Grote Sint Laurens Kerk’ and its historic organ, following its restoration. 

The Choir will be performing pieces by English composers Byrd, Weelkes, Stanford, Holst, Ireland and Vaughn-Williams, as well as music from Haydn and Mendelssohn, and we understand tickets will be available on the door.

Alkmaar’s Tulips – bursting out all over!

The Alkmaar tulips – 5,000 were donated free from our twinning committee friends in Alkmaar – are flowering beautifully right now on the Orange Grove/Alkmaar Garden next to the Guildhall, and in Parade Gardens.  Members may recall Mary Berry helping children from the gardening club of Widcombe Junior school plant the bulbs last November. 

We invited the children back, plus members of the superb B&NES Parks department, and Cllr. Peter Turner, representing Bath in Bloom, to celebrate.  The sun shone, we waved our Dutch flags, and the children had fun trying to work out which were the tulips they planted, as opposed to Mary Berry!

Photo: Liz Bugg

Another famous diary by a Bridget re-surfaces

People may have read ‘Bridget Jones diary’, but for BATA, far more important is the diary kept, when she visited Alkmaar in 1946, by Mrs Bridget Wakefield, but which she no longer has.  BATA committee members Antonietta Sgherzi and Chris Davies visited the Alkmaar City Archive in January and asked if there was any information on the diary there: not only was there a record, the diary itself appeared, kept carefully in a box file, with some original photographs – an incredible record of the visit in 1946, barely a year after the end of the Second World War and Occupation.  Here is Bridget, aged 16, as she looked during her visit.

The Alkmaar Archive team were incredibly helpful, and genuinely thrilled by our visit – we expect to be making more in the near future.

Alkmaar and its current refugees

Eli Prins was, of course, a refugee fleeing war and religious persecution, so it seemed appropriate, while visiting Alkmaar on a (self-funded) reconnaissance visit in January, for BATA representatives to find out how the city has been helping current refugees.  Antonietta & Chris from the BATA committee were invited to go along to the “Freedom House”, an entirely voluntary project, spontaneously set up by concerned citizens and the local Joint Council of Churches, to help recent refugees integrate into Dutch society. 

This day-centre holds sessions teaching Dutch to some 200 refugees from across the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan, and gives them a place to meet ordinary Dutch people.  It was a moving and impressive example of simply getting on and helping strangers from abroad in need, and made a big impact on the BATA visitors: given our history, this may well be a topic we return to in the future.


Local Giving – have you donated yet?

We are still seeking funds to help us further expand our activities, involve more groups and  broaden our links in this special Anniversary Year!

Even £5 or £10 can help – if every BATA member donated this (with GiftAid if possible) it would make a huge difference to what we are able to do.

You can donate quickly and easily online at http://www.localgiving.org/Alkmaar

And finally…Alkmaar Café: Wednesday, May 3rd: it will be an Orange Evening!

Join us on Wednesday, May 3rd, from 6.00pm at the Rising Sun, Grove Street, when the Mayor of Bath will be joining us for a special Dutch National celebration in Bath. 

May’s event will be our chance to mark ‘Koningsdag’, celebrating the birthday of King Willem-Alexander (only a few days late) – effectively the Netherlands national day.

Wear something Orange, bring something (or somebody) Dutch if you can, and prepare to celebrate in typical Dutch fashion, with snacks, games and maybe a few songs…


If the weather is nice, we may even go out onto the patio at the back…

We hope to see you there!

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‘Alkmaar 70’ Newsletter 3 – January 2017

Momentum is picking up as we go into 2017!  Below is an update on the activities of the first few weeks of our special celebration year, and plans for the next few months.

Update on our launch appeal for “lost” Alkmaar children

Back in September we launched Alkmaar 70 with an appeal for anyone with information on the original Alkmaar children – and their Bath equivalents – to get in touch.  Our friends in Alkmaar helped, and together we are delighted to have heard from several of the original children, and relatives, in both cities: one, Mrs Bridget Wakefield, from Bath (pictured here) even joined us as a guest at our tulip-planting event (of which more below). 


We’ve picked up some interesting new elements of the tale of that first year of twinning, and the exchange visits made by the children.   One thing is clear – both groups had a very enjoyable time, and clearly relished the freedom of the War being over (and being away from parental supervision!).  We are gathering the tales and stories and are considering how we can keep them in a publicly accessible way: we hope to have more information to share on this later in the year.




Celebrity tulip bulb planters

We were thrilled to have BBC Bake-off’s Mary Berry join us, together with the Mayor of Bath, Cllr Paul Crossley, in November to help children from the Widcombe Junior School Gardening Club plant tulip bulbs in Parade Gardens. 


More than one person commented on Mary Berry’s presence seeming to evoke a reaction not dissimilar to Her Majesty the Queen!  The bulbs were duly planted, hands shaken, media interviews completed and photos taken.  Over 3000 bulbs have now been planted in Parade Gardens and the Orange Grove, next to the Guild Hall.  A further 17 bags of a 100 bulbs each were distributed by the Rotary Club of Bath to junior schools, and a bag was also donated to the Bath Carers’ Centre on the Lower Bristol Road, for their garden: Bath’s MP, Ben Howlett, helped with the planting there. All the bulbs were kindly donated, free of charge, by our friends in Alkmaar.



Musical Offerings in May: Alkmaar

One aim for the ‘Alkmaar 70’ project was to extend the links between our cities to new groups and areas of mutual interest.  There have been musical trips to Alkmaar from Bath in the past, but not for some years, so we are delighted to see a number of musical groups commit to visiting our Dutch twin city in this special year. 

The Bath Abbey Choir are planning a trip which will include a performance in the ‘Grote Kerk’ (Great Church) in the heart of the Alkmaar, in early May.


In addition, the Mayor of Bath’s ‘Jubilee Waits’ folk band are confirmed as visiting, hosted by Alkmaar’s sea-shanty choir, the Lake Singers, in the middle of the May, and the City of Bath Male Choir are also considering a trip at the very end of the month.

Musical Offerings in July: Bath

The music-making is certainly not going to be one-way.  We are delighted that the Artiance Alkmaar regional youth orchestra, with their enthusiastic conductor, Otto de Jong, are finalising plans to be in Bath during Alkmaar Week, (July 10th-16th – see separate item).



The orchestra visited Bath for the first time in 2015.  On their visit this year Otto is working with the BANES Head of Music Service, Rainer Dolz, to create our very own international youth orchestra, including young musicians from Bath, for some pieces in the two concerts being planned.  These promise to be really rather special events in our commemorative year: more details will follow.



Alkmaar 70 Week – July 10th to 16th 2017

The very first “Alkmaar Week’ was held in July 1945, and we are echoing that by holding a series of activities in one special week, July 10th-16th,which will be the culmination of our year-long programme of celebrations.  During this week the Mayor of Alkmaar, Mr Piet Bruinooge, will be making a formal civic visit to Bath, taking part in a programme part-celebration, part-networking and part-commemoration.

Bath will also be hosting a visit from at least one Alkmaar sports team during the week, and we hope to also have in Bath children from the Petrus Canesius College, taking part in their link with Beechen Cliff and Hayesfield schools. 

There will be a joint Bath-Alkmaar photographic exhibition on display in the Library, and the 100-strong Alkmaar Youth Orchestra will be here during the final weekend of the week as well.  Other events are also being planned, so do keep that Summer week free in your diary: Bath will be going Dutch!




There is a lot going on and, inevitably, despite all of the committee being volunteers, there are some costs involved.  We are keen to (very modestly) support groups taking the trouble and time to reach out to our friends in Alkmaar; at the same time, we want to help those, specifically children, who might not otherwise have opportunities to experience life in another country and culture. 

We receive a grant from the Charter Trustees of Bath, and a number of private organisations have helped with specific funding in the past.  If you know of any which might be interested in supporting us, please let any of the committee know. 

A number of people have asked us if they can help individually.  We value hugely the membership fees you all pay; if you would like to add to that support, we now have an online page – here – where you can make a private donation.

The company behind this page, Local Giving, specifically focus on local, smaller charities and community groups, and have pledged to double the first £250 of donations we receive online: a very generous offer.

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POSTSCRIPT: Our monthly informal Dutch drinks evening, our ‘Alkmaar Café’, has been growing rapidly in popularity in the last few months.  We now meet at the very welcoming ‘Rising Sun’ pub in Grove Street, central Bath (just round the corner from Pulteney Bridge).  We meet on the first Wednesday of each month, so our next gathering is on February 1st, from 6.00pm to 7.30 (and sometimes later!).  It’s a great way to catch up with the latest news on Alkmaar 70, and meet other local people with an interest in our Dutch twin city.

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‘Alkmaar 70’ Newsletter 2

Our 'Alkmaar 70' celebration year begins officially on September 1st, 70 years since the first trip to Alkmaar by Bath schoolchildren. 

Here’s an update on what’s been happening recently.

The Launch: searching for the lost Alkmaar children
We are marking the launch of the Alkmaar 70 year by publicising our search for information on the original Alkmaar children.  There are in fact two sets of children on which we’d love to have more information: the 50 from Alkmaar who came to Bath in 1945 and a similar number from Bath who were invited back to Alkmaar in 1946.  It was these exchange visits which turned what was initially feelings of sympathy into friendship between our two cities.
Full details of the search can be seen by clicking on this Appeal link.

If you have any information on any of our “lost children”, in Bath or Alkmaar, do let BATA secretary Victor Windt know, via vic.windt@me.com

Tulips will be bursting out all over.
Our first activity is on a grand floral scale, thanks to our friends in the Alkmaar twinning association, the 'Alkmaars Uitwisseling Comité (AUC)', who have kindly donated 5,000 tulip bulbs, echoing the original gift to Bath made by the newly liberated mayor and councillors of Alkmaar in Autumn 1945.

We have been working with 'Bath in Bloom' to liaise with the Council’s Parks Department, who will be planting some of the bulbs in the Alkmaar Garden/Orange Grove, and Parade Gardens, both in the centre of town.

In addition, thanks to help from the Rotary Club of Bath, we are offering large bags of bulbs to every school in Bath, for planting by children in the school grounds, or nearby verges or parks. We’ve had a lot of interest from schools across the City, but we still have a few unallocated bags, so if you know of a school which would like some tulips for next year, please let Victor, BATA secretary know: vic.windt@me.com

Educational resources go online
We want more schoolchildren to be aware of the origins of our Alkmaar link.  To help teachers across the curriculum, we’ve pulled together some materials to act as stimulants for further creativity and investigation by pupils: the results can be found under the Resources-Home tab on the left-hand side of the BATA website pages.

The resource materials include photos of some of the characters who played a part in linking Bath and Alkmaar, a poem, and an article by Eli Prins’s son, from celebrations a decade ago, and a list of all the ways Bathonians responded to the original Alkmaar Appeal in 1945.

News of the Barrel Organ #2
More news of the legendary 'Alkmaar Barrel organ', which played a key part in 1945.  Further investigation, including a personal visit to Alkmaar Town Hall, where the instrument now resides - has confirmed it is indeed operational, albeit it very out of tune. Interestingly, we now realise calling it a ‘barrel organ’ is a misnomer: it is actually a barrel piano (confusingly, still often referred to as a barrel-organ, in England at least).  We are investigating what it might cost to re-tune the venerable instrument so it can play again (if it won’t collapse under the pressure).  If you’re unfamiliar with how a barrel piano sounds, here's a link to one playing: quite a wonderful noise!


Mayor of Alkmaar to visit Bath in July 2017

The most exciting news in recent weeks has been the confirmation that the Mayor of Alkmaar, Mr Piet Bruinooge, will be paying a formal civic visit to Bath in July next year.  This is highly appropriate, given July was the month of the original Alkmaar week in 1945.  We are therefore planning to hold a special week worth of events to mark his visit, during 10th to 16th July 2017.  We are thrilled the Mayor is coming - formal civic visits are less common now than they were, so it is a great honour for the city, and for our Association.





Alkmaar 70 more special activities: quick update
There are many groups across Bath pulling together plans for doing something  special  to mark the Alkmaar 70 year.  These include several sports clubs, a number of musical groups, and two sets of visual artists. 

We've been really pleased by how interested so many people are in taking advantage of our friendship with Alkmaar, several new to our Association.

Plans are still being finalised for an array of special activities: as soon as details are ready to announce, we’ll let all supporters and friends know.  Suffice it to say, we think it should be quite a year!

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‘Alkmaar 70’ Newsletter 1

Plans for what we are now calling our 'Alkmaar 70' celebration year (from September 2016 to August 2017) are now well underway.  This September the 1st will mark 70 years since the first trip to Alkmaar by Bath schoolchildren, completing the circle of friendship which began with a visit to Bath by children from Alkmaar in December 1945/January 1946.  Here’s an update on what’s been happening…

Launch event: March the 10th 2016
We kicked off the planning stage with a civic reception in the Mayor’s Parlour, hosted by our Mayor, Councillor William Sandry, to which we invited a wide variety of local organisations, to test their interest in getting involved.  The response from those attending has been very positive: it is reassuring to know that the story of how the two cities first came to be linked can still move and inspire people.

Programme coming together
We are still finalising details of the programme, but the good news is we hope to see included a range of activities, including existing groups, who are planning something a little special, and new groups, keen to explore the opportunities our Alkmaar link offers.

As well as plenty of interest from sports teams, we are also talking in detail to community groups, artists, educators, festival organisers, musicians and businesspeople.  We are optimistic that our celebration year will help deepen and broaden our valuable links, and not just in 2016-2017, but into the future too: there have been many creative ideas developed in the last couple of months, and even if they don’t all come to fruition in the next year, they have given us plenty to think about – and become excited about – for the future.

Primary Schools initiative
One activity which is definitely happening is our effort to take the Alkmaar origins story to Bath’s children, through their history lessons.  Many Year 6 classes study the Second World War, and its impact on Bath, giving us an ideal opportunity.  We trialed just such a presentation to 60 pupils of Widcombe Junior School on March the 21st, which went down very well: we’d welcome the opportunity to take the story to all our schools. 

Supporting that effort, we are developing some downloadable material for teachers, including images of the originators of the Bath - Alkmaar link, Eli Prins, Freddie Wills and ‘Burgemeester' Van Kinschot.  See the RESOURCES-HOME page for more details.
If you know of a school which might like a visit from us, please let us know.

Tulips for Schools Project
Building on our communication with schoolchildren, we are working with the Rotary Club of Bath on an initiative to offer all Primary Schools in Bath a large bag of tulip bulbs, free of charge, to plant this Autumn so they will flower in Spring.  Our counterparts in Alkmaar, the ‘Alkmaars Uitwisseling Comité (AUC)', have kindly offered to supply the bulbs.

If it’s Spring again…
We hope to be bringing not tulips from Amsterdam, as the old song goes, but tulips from Alkmaar to Bath - and not just into Primary Schools.  We are liaising with 'Bath in Bloom' who are talking to the BaNES Parks department about putting on a tulip display in Bath’s parks, including Victoria Park and the Orange Grove near the Guildhall, next Spring.   We hope a little bit of Bath ‘tulip-mania’ will help raise the profile of our link across the City.

News of the Barrel Organ
Supporters will know about the legendary ‘Alkmaar Barrel organ’, a key element in the original fund-raising efforts undertaken in Bath in 1945.  The barrel organ was presented to Alkmaar and now resides in the City Hall.  We wondered how this venerable old musical instrument was faring: and our friends in the AUC have confirmed, having gone to check, that it can still play music, albeit rather out of tune: not surprising given it was something of a Museum piece even in 1945!  We are thinking about ways we can involve the instrument in our celebrations: watch this space.

You can make a donation to support our Alkmaar 70 activities.

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