The visit of Queen Máxima of the Netherlands to Hoogezand was a bit of a belated birthday present for me. Two days after my birthday, on Wednesday 15 September 2021, the Queen opened the new “Huis van Cultuur en Bestuur” (House of Culture and Administration) of the Municipality Midden-Groningen. As it is not too far from the city where I live, I decided to go, and luckily received accreditation as a journalist and was allowed to take pictures. Honestly the train ride, just 15 minutes, was much shorter than the cycling tour to the railway station and the walk to the location itself.
I must admit I watched the weather closely. The previous day the weather app said it would rain all day. Thankfully that didn’t happy. The weather was nice, but it was very cloudy and I am sure the rain was never too far away. However no single drop fell on the location. That was a good thing as the opening itself took place in open air.
After the 2018 reclassification of the municipalities a new municipality hall was needed. The old municipality hall of Hoogezand-Sappemeer and the Theatre Kielzog have been integrated into this new sustainable and earthquake-resistant new building that is multifunctional. It houses also the library and the music school. The cultural part of the building was already realized in 2016, the other part was only finished recently. The result: a modern building with lots of glass and space, at least from the outside. I haven’t been inside, so I wouldn’t be able to tell what it looks like there.
Queen Máxima arrived around 12.40pm and was greeted at the car by the mayor of Midden-Groningen Adriaan Hoogendoorn, the King’s commissioner in the Province Groningen René Paas and the Chamberlain of the King in the Province Groningen Jaap Wolters. Also quite a few onlookers had gathered, and before walking on, the Queen turned around and waved to the people waiting for her. The children’s mayor of Midden-Groningen, Lieke, presented the Queen a beautiful bouquet of flowers. After Queen Máxima had reached her seat the mayor held his speech. Of course he said that they were very happy to receive the Queen for this opening and told her:
That you come today to meet this – let’s be honest – most beautiful piece of the puzzle called the Netherlands. Those 17 million pieces are your challenge: we know that you work hard with your heart and soul to get to know and fit all those pieces. With attention, interest and involvement. Attention for people with debts, for people with psychological and other problems. Interest in the cultural and social development of children and adults. Involved with 17 million Dutch people and – as your presence shows today – involved with 61,000 Central Groningen residents. That is precisely the attention, interest and involvement that we need here and that set an example for us for what our new House of Culture and Administration should be and radiate That is why your presence is so important to us today, because Central Groningen is worth being seen.
Afterwards a choir of school children sang the Midden-Groningen song. Then it was time for the actual opening. Queen Máxima was accompanied to the piece of art, a “table of encounters”, that will be placed in the hall of the building. The big wooden and glaze table was created by artist Marc van Vliet and was revealed by three school children: Sofia, Thijs and Belle. They also laid the first three wooden pieces of the puzzle. The last connecting piece was laid on top of it by the Queen herself. I couldn’t help noticing the finger prints on the piece of metal afterwards.
Then it was time to enter the building. Inside the Queen talked with employees and volunteers about the language house and the e-lab in the library, she was informed about the Time for the Future program in the living room, that is about extra education for school children focused on talent development, well-being, health and reducing disadvantage. She also visited the music school, the Kielzog Theater and the new council chamber of the municipality hall. In the Grand Café she spoke with members of the housing council working group, the children’s mayor Lieke and residence about their experiences with the new building. Around 2.10pm it was time for the Queen to leave. Once again she smiled and waved to all the people outside and then she quickly stepped in her car to go back home to The Hague.