News from the Chairman

Committee Members’ Report

at the Annual General Meeting of April 21st, 2018

Last year’s activities were dominated, I think, by the celebratory event on the occasion of NTAB’s 20th anniversary, which took place at the Chateau de Val-Duchesse/Hertoginnedal Kasteel, on 21st October. The celebration was extremely well attended by our membership. It consisted of a seated session, in the presence of HRH Prince Lorenz of Belgium, who had kindly accepted our invitation in his capacity of Honorary Chairman of Demeures HIstoriques et Jardins/Historische Woonsteden en Tuinen and fervent supporter of all things heritage, in Belgium and in Europe.

We also had the pleasure of having amongst us Tom Burr, our British founding father, who immediately accepted our invitation to come to Brussels. In a short, but elegant speech, he recalled the origins of our association, now more than twenty years ago, and explained how the combined efforts with our first chairman, Max Osterrieth, were able to produce the basis for the NTAB as it still operates today. National Trust Headquarters dispatched Justin Albert, their director for Wales, to our anniversary celebration. He spoke enthusiastically about future developments at NT. After the seated session, our members and their guests had the opportunity to discover the wonderful park surrounding the chateau, and to visit two remarkable buildings on the premises, the Priory and the old St. Anna Chapel on the hilltop.

The day was blessed with an open sky and sunshine. After the walk a reception followed in the stately rooms of the chateau, where we also had the opportunity to have a rather indiscreet glimpse of the office of our Prime Minister who likes to convene meetings of his government at the chateau.

Another important development I would like to bring to your attention is our website. The breaking news is that it has now been updated and completely redesigned. You may remember that we decided last year that a complete update was necessary. All over the past year discussions have been taking place with the webmaster on the content, design and cost of this new website. Johan Vanbrabant, our past chairman, has been the driving force behind this project and was supported in his endeavours by Judith. Johan will give a short presentation of our new website immediately after our formal AGM meeting. You will all be surprised by what Johan will show us.

And finally I would like to mention important changes within our Committee. Not less than three members have asked to be discharged of their duties as Committee members.

At the beginning of the year our first ever chairman and co-founding father Max Osterrieth announced his wish to retire from the Committee. As we all know, Max has played such a prominent role in our association over the last twenty years, not only during his long chairmanship of our association. Together with Tom Burr he instilled at NTAB a spirit which ever since has been the guiding force of our association and which we will continue to cherish in the future.

Dear Max,

As an authentic Antwerpenaar, you steered our association to the open sea where it could deploy its full potential with confidence and steadiness. Looking beyond the borders with an open spirit is for you, and for Evelyne, a natural tendency given your family backgrounds, past and present. So is your interest for the environment and your passion for issues related to heritage. We will always be in debt to you for having given our association such strong foundations and such a clear direction. We’re all so pleased that you and Evelyne will not be leaving us and we really look forward to your continued presence on our monthly visits. On behalf of us all, past and present members, I would like to thank you most sincerely for your commitment to our association. And I would like to associate Evelyne in this tribute. Today we commit ourselves, collectively and individually, to remain faithful to the foundations you, Max, and Tom laid out for NTAB. As a token of our deep gratitude and sincere appreciation, I would like to offer to you, our first ever chairman, on behalf of us all a small present.

Another Committee member who announced his wish to resign from the Committee is Edwig Vancraenem, our programme coordinator. Edwig was been an active and enthusiastic member of our association since its early days. We all fully respect the reasons why Edwig asked us to be discharged of his responsibilities and we wish him well. On a more personal note, let me say this: talking to Edwig, I have always been impressed by his extensive, or should I say: limitless, knowledge of ‘small little Belgium’. It is Edwig who always puts on the Committee table the first suggestions for our monthly outings when the Committee starts establishing our programme for the next year. His ideas are always original, appealing and well thought-through.

Dear Edwig,

Thank you for strong commitment to NTAB and for your timeless efforts to offer our membership a programme which combines various aspects of the places we visit: history, arts, natural beauty or just coziness. Thanks to you, many of our non-Belgian members –and probably many Belgians also- have been able to discover Belgium under an original angle. Well done! And don’t hesitate to continue to send us ideas in the future.

Let me also inform you that André has accepted to take over from Edwig as programme coordinator. André has our full confidence and we wish him well in his new role.

A third Committee member has decided also to step down: Nick Fern. Nick has been a Committee member and our treasurer for many years and wishes to spend more time on other interests. The Committee has shown full understanding for his wish to resign. But like Max and Edwig, he will continue to be a member and has kindly offered to continue to organize our yearly trip to London in September.

Dear Nick,

We will miss your presence in the Committee, more particularly your straightforward interventions and your unique and inimitable voice. In recent years you have been an organizor of many of our outings. As a Londoner, you were the right person to be in charge of the London trips. Last year’s edition was an absolute success. We visited places outside the tourist circuit, some of the quite remarkable. On a personal basis, I will always be grateful to you for having given me the opportunity to command an authentic steam locomotive at the London Steam Museum. We are sure this year’s edition will equally be an initiative worthwhile attending. On behalf of us all, thank you for your tireless commitment.

It has also been decided not to replace the outgoing members. Carole has kindly accepted to replace Nick as Vice-Chairperson of our association.

This Chairman’s report to the AGM wouldn’t be complete without mentioning also that the day-to-day management of NTAB has been a permanent feature on the agenda of our Committee meetings. I already mentioned the redesign of our website and the financial implications of that decision, which fortunately enough could be kept at an acceptable level. When it comes to management, I would like to thank also Margaret, who always keeps a watchful eye over our finances and is doing also the registrations for our events; I would like to thank Judith, who follows our membership subscriptions on an almost daily basis, and Mary, who is the editor-in-chief of our Newsletter. And I wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Nicky, our Secretary, whose minutes of our meetings are always impeccable. I would like to say, in the presence of you all, that their commitment to NTAB has impressive and very much appreciated by our members.

Our membership has slightly dropped and remains a source of preoccupation. You may wish to comment on this issue during our debate. But on the other hand our outings were generally well-attended and this showed the vibrancy of our association. I would like to take this opportunity to thank most sincerely all those who have spent time and energy in the organization of these events.

Jan baron Grauls