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The festive celebration of the 20th anniversary of our National Trust Association Belgium (NTAB) on October 21st was a gratifying event for us all. Over 120 members and invited guests met at the Château de Val Duchesse/Kasteel Hertoginnedal, in Auderghem/Oudergem. We all thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

We welcomed several representatives of other organizations involved in heritage conservation in Belgium, such as Europa Nostra, Demeures Historiques/Historische Woonsteden and Herita. The UK Embassy was also represented.

We were specially honoured by the presence of HRH Prince Lorenz of Belgium, in his capacity of Honorary Chairman of ‘Demeures Historiques et Jardins’ / Historische Woonsteden en Tuinen’ but also a keen supporter of all matters heritage, not only in our own country, but also in the wider Europe.

We had two main speakers: Mr. Tom Burr first, one of the founding fathers of our association, who brought us back to the early days of our association twenty years ago ! It was an unique opportunity to have Tom with us recalling the birth of our NTAB in the presence of several founding members and officers.

Our second guest speaker was Mr. Justin Albert, National Trust representative for Wales and in charge of NT’s international relations network (INTO). Mr. Albert focused on the uniqueness of the National Trust, its significance for Europe as a whole and the possible effects of Brexit on the NT in Britain.

After this seated session, at about 4 o’clock, all attendees were invited to visit the chateau and the beautiful surrounding park. We closed the celebration with a champagne reception in the chateau.

In my speech as Chairman of NTAB I focused on two points:

First. Enthusiasm and commitment have been the characteristics of our membership from the start. They explain that NTAB has never failed to be a vibrant association, a club where Belgians and non-Belgians, mainly British citizens, meet. Not only Belgians and British by the way, we also have quite a number of other nationalities represented within our association.

Today we have more than 150 active members. Over the last 20 years, we organized more than 200 guided tours and visits to historic places and gardens in Belgium, as well as some 150 visits to NT properties and historic sites  in England and Wales. I know it doesn’t fit to mention money issues, but let me make an exception today: over the last twenty years, some 100.000 euros have been donated by our NTAB to NT properties across the Channel.

All this shows that we are a vibrant association, a keen supporter of heritage conservation and preservation in Belgium and the UK, and a stimulator of personal interactions between citizens of all our nations.

Second. NTAB has contributed to the bilateral relations between our two countries which have been, still are and will continue to be intimately linked to each other, be it by history or by popular feelings. My compatriots will always remember Britain’s contribution to our independence and freedom. Consequently the centenary of WWI has been duly integrated in our programme of activities. And, going back further, our common history has left indelible marks. During our visits to castles and museums in the UK, we were confronted with Brussels tapestries, Flemish painters and cabinet makers and art works by Walloon Huguenots. Inversely, our visits to Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp or Liège confronted us with a strong English presence, not only in the field of trade.

I am convinced that NTAB has contributed in its own way to our strong bilateral relationship and will continue to do so, whatever the outcome of the sad Brexit saga.

Let’s start preparing our 30th anniversary!

Jan baron Grauls