Last summer we spoke to Harrie van Ham. He is chairman of the Koninklijke Vereeniging (yes, that's how you really write it) for Volksvermaken, the oldest relief association in the Netherlands. Bombarding – celebrating the relief of Groningen in 1672 – is their showpiece. Hooghoudt supplies gin and lemonades. We meet Harrie on the morning of August 28 at the bell ringing of the Martinitoren. It's a hustle and bustle.
'CLOCKWISE AT 9 AM'
Hello Harry. Sorry for the cheeky question, but a gin at 9am. Now what does that mean?
Haha, that's been happening since time immemorial. I don't know why, but I like it. We start the day with the whistle blowing, here comes the Hooghoudt around the corner with what we call 'clock grease'. With this ritual, the city wakes up sound.
It's busy here. Who all are at the whistleblowing?
In addition to the members of the Whistleblowers Guild, we have the mayor, the King's Commissioner and a number of board members and commissioners from our association. The relief associations of Alkmaar and Leiden are also present and a number of sponsors who make it possible for us to celebrate this party.
And everyone drinks?
I believe even the mayor and commissioner drink one. Maybe they sip a little. Of course it is also terribly hot this year.
Beats! And then also those black suits.
In recognition we move forward in tailcoat (black suit, ed.) And it is very clever of us that we get through the day without fainting.
What happens after the drink?
Then we lay the wreath at the bust of Carl Rabenhaupt, the hero who led the resistance against Bommen Berend. After this we go to the horse inspection at the fish market, together with another 1000 to 1500 people.
What does the Bommen Berend celebration actually entail?
In Groningen it is a concept. A holiday. We celebrate the 28th of August 1672, the day our besieger Bishop Bommen Berend (Bernhard von Galen, ed.) came down. We do this with a very extensive program that is organized by our association: The Royal Association for Popular Entertainment. We kick off on August 27 with an evening concert in collaboration with the Noord Nederlands Orkest, this year presented by Eric Corton. There will certainly be about 3000 audience members. After that we have a diverse and full program including the horse inspection and as a highlight in the evening the famous fireworks show in the Zuiderhaven. Other activities include the so-called Groote Mealtime at the WEEVA on the Zuiderdiep and in the neighborhoods and care homes, dragon boat races at the Hoge der A and a children's program with bouncy castles and a puppet show. Furthermore, a lot of music on different stages and a tattoo. This is just a small selection of what we do and it grows every year. We want to make sure that there is something for everyone because Bommen Berend belongs to everyone.
How special that you bear the predicate Royal. I did not know that. How is this possible?
We are the oldest relief association in the Netherlands. In 1974 we existed for 100 years and then we got the predicate. I was just a student at the time, but I already got it because I was sucked into the activities. When I moved to the city from Baflo, I got even more feeling for it. Now I have been a board member for 30 years and in March next I will say goodbye.
So no more gin at 9 o'clock in the morning?
The tradition continues. Don't worry about that.
And the lemonades?
It's for the kids at the puppet show. We stick to the drink, haha.
Thanks Harry! Another nice relief.
Text: Jannes Heidinga
Image: Nienke Maat