Sometime last year – or maybe the year before – the idea of marking the First World War Belgian Colony of Tunbridge Wells in some way wandered into my mind. Some sort of “Anglo-Belgian Friendship Event” to run during 2017, maybe over the Belgian National Day weekend in July. And perhaps we would be able to trace some descendants of the families who could join us…
Then when the Community Research Project was proposed, we decided we would round it up with an event for project volunteers on Belgian National Day, 21st July 2017 at which the Project’s Heritage Trail would be launched.
And now all of a sudden we have a mini-festival on our hands! Tunbridge Wells Belgian Week 2017 is now ‘a thing’. Wow! Thanks to a gang of volunteers who have taken up the idea, a variety of events celebrating all things Belgians will be happening in the week 15th-23rd July.
And I am delighted to say that family members from Belgium will be joining us for the weekend.
Among the events so far confirmed are :
- A Concert on Saturday 15th July at St Paul’s Church Rusthall, featuring local singers and musicians performing works by local and Belgian composers and others. Main items on the programme are James Whitbourn‘s Son of God Mass for choir, organ, and soprano saxophone, and a piece for oboe and piano by Frederic Bonzon who was one of the refugees in Tunbridge Wells in the years 1914-1919 and a Professor at the Antwerp Conservatorium. There will be a Retiring Collection at the Concert for the present-day work of Tunbridge Wells Welcomes Refugees
- Costumed role-players from CREATE will be on hand to guide visitors round the new Heritage Trail on the morning of Saturday 22nd July
- A friendly T20 Cricket Match at the Bayham Cricket Ground between TWBC Royals and the Royal Brussels Cricket Club from 11am on Saturday 22nd July (please note change of venue & date).
- An impro show by local group Claqueurs Impro and Improfiel from Leuven in Belgium on the evening of Saturday 22nd July at King Charles Church Hall
- A Country Walk and Picnic – perhaps a re-creation of that organised by the Belgians in July 1917 to celebrate their National Day – period costume optional!
- Unfest Sunday Session @ the Forum on Sunday 23rd July 1pm-7pm – music, DJ, food, drink and much more, including a screening of Jozef Devillé’s 2012 film The Sound of Belgium
We are also in discussion with a number of local hostelries regarding their adding a Belgian theme to their menus during the week – keep an eye on the website (see below) to find out more.
And we would also encourage local groups and organisations to follow suit – maybe a book group could read a book by a Belgian author, or a film society screen a Belgian film, or… or… Whatever takes your fancy! Just let me know and I’ll put it on the website.
What makes this all an even crazier idea is the fact that we have no funding. All events will need to fund themselves. Unless anyone fancies sponsoring, say, printing costs of posters etc? Just a thought.
Meanwhile, a website has gone quietly live – you’ll find it at www.twbelgianweek2017.org.uk Do keep an eye on it as it will be regularly updated as more details become available.
And for more information, or indeed if you would like to organise an event, please contact me via my contact page.
P.S. Unfortunately the tree-planting isn’t happening just yet as it’s the wrong time of year.