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!


Photo: Lizz Bugg

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!

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.

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!