On Thursday the 8th of November, an International City Tour organised by D66 will share some of Groningen’s historic secrets and some lessons about local politics.
The free tour is part of a wider initiative by the local D66 party to engage foreign-born voters. The local liberal democrats launched a voting information site for internationals, You Can Vote Groningen, this summer ahead of the municipal elections later this month, and started a think tank focused on internationalization in early 2017. Foreign-born residents of the city are eligible to vote it they are from an EU country or have lived in the city for at least five years.
The tours will be led by Arend Jan Wonink, a member of the municipal council for D66, and Boike Teunissen, a former city guide. Matt Veerkamp, a member of the D66 Platform for Internationalization and the organiser behind the tour, says that he does not want to ruin the surprise of which locations the tour will visit, but the description of the tour says that it starts at the Grote Markt and digs into Groningen’s connections to Hollywood, Carnegie Hall and Johann Sebastian Bach, among others.
Veerkamp spoke with The Northern Times about why D66 wants to reach out to Groningen’s international population.
The Northern Times: Is this the first year that D66 has been doing outreach to first generation people in Groningen? Why did the party decide to put on a tour for internationals?
Matt Veerkamp: This is the second edition of our tour; the first edition took place this summer. There’s is a growing number of internationals studying, working and trying to make Groningen their home, and we think it is very important that their voice is heard in local politics. Through initiatives like the tour and our platform, we want to encourage internationals to let their voice be heard.
TNT: There was a tour during Let’s Grofor internationals led by D66 councillor Fleur Graper at the municipal house, so will this tour be different from that?
Veerkamp: The tour led by Fleur Woudstra focuses on city hall; International Groningen City Tour will show both famous places in Groningen’s city centre and its hidden gems with interesting histories
TNT: What locations will the tour include? When/where does it start?irst year that D66 has been doing outreach to first generation people in Groningen? Why did the party decide to put on a tour for internationals?
Veerkamp: That’s still a surprise. Our city guides Arend Jan and Boike both have different styles and interests, and will try to tailor the tour to their groups preferences. We will show you Groningen’s history in international context, as well as how Groningen has left its mark on the world. This includes some very interesting anecdotes and stories; last time, for example, we learned what links Groningen with Quentin Tarantino’s film, “Inglorious Bastards”.
TNT: Are there any particular issues or themes that the tour is focusing on?
Veerkamp: Groningen is a city with a very international history. We want to show how that history has shaped the city we know today, and how Groningen and its citizens have made their mark on the world. On top of that, we want to draw the international’s attention to the fact that they can vote on the upcoming municipality elections, and that it is very important they let their vote and voice be heard.
TNT: Are there any similar initiatives by D66 (or other parties) in the north?
Veerkamp: There seem to be more and more organizations and initiatives in Groningen and the rest of The Netherlands focusing on internationals. It’s good to see that it is slowly be surely becoming common sense that internationals are a part of our society.
TNT: Does D66 think that all political issues impact everyone equally, or are there certain topics that you think impact internationals more than the rest of the population?
Veerkamp: For internationals, it is very important that they are provided with the right information from the moment they decide to move to Groningen: information about housing, health-care, public transport, education, childcare and other things. The last few years, progress has been made in this respect, but there’s is room for improvement.
TNT: How can people sign up?
Veerkamp: People can reserve a free spot through our Facebook event. However, there’s a limited number of tickets still available.
TNT: Are you considering doing any more walking tours sometime soon?
Veerkamp: We don’t have time to organise another one before the elections, but as far as I’m concerned, we’ll definitely do another one soon.
The event page shows that 120 people are interested, but Verkamp stresses that the tour only has a couple of spots left. The group is hoping to organised more similar tours in the coming months.
This interview has been shortened and edited slightly for clarity.
What are the issues that matter in the upcoming elections? Which municipalities in the north will be heading to the polls? Curious about how other local political parties are engaging with the international community? We’ll be publishing an election guide later this week, so stay tuned!
Photo source: Wikipedia
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Matt Veerkamp was the chairperson of the Young Democrats Groningen. His term as chairperson ended in September of 2018.