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