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Kick-off event Bridging the North Sea

From left to right :
Elikya KANDOT, Director of museums, Boulogne-sur-Mer
Angélique DEMON, Heritage curator, and head of the archeology department, Boulogne-sur-Mer
Mireille HINGREZ-CEREDA, Vice-Président of the Département du Pas-de-Calais, and member of the Straits Executive Committee
Evelyne JORDANS, Deputy Mayor of Boulogne-sur-Mer for heritage, history, archaeology, and archives.
Marco SIMJOUW, Project coordinator, Province of South Holland
Tom HAZENBERG, Archaeologist

Bridging the North Sea, a project approved under the Straits Committee’s fourth call for proposals, held its official launch on 10th May 2023 at the Château-musée in Boulogne-sur-Mer. The event brought together the project partners, representatives from the town of Boulogne-sur-Mer and from the Straits Committee.

Representing the Straits Executive Committee at the event, Ms Mireille Hingrez-Céréda, First Vice-president of the Département du Pas-de-Calais, was delighted with the work initiated and highlighted the need to share it as widely as possible: “This project that has brought us together serves to remind of our shared history where challenges we faced in our past are ones we are confronted with again today.”

Keep an eye on the project website to follow their progress:  https://bridgingthenorthsea.org/

Report on the first ‘Force of Water’ conference

The first Force of Water conference took place in Zeeland, the Netherlands, on 31st January – 1st February 2023. Demonstrating the Straits Committee’s commitment to learning from each other, some 50 climate and flooding experts, elected members and officers came together to discuss how Straits Committee regions are tackling water-related challenges in the context of climate change and rising sea levels.

This rich, first exchange saw a long list of challenges being shared and a selection of these will be the focus for more in-depth knowledge exchange in the next two conferences.

With the conference in Zeeland timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the 1953 flood, participants had the honour of taking part in the Netherlands’ national remembrance commemoration at the Flood Museum in the municipality of Schouwen-Duiveland. This very moving ceremony was followed by a public symposium where 500 guests discussed the urgency to act in the face of climate change, and heard testimonies of survivors of the 1953 events, and of the more recent 2021 inland floods in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Elected members from East Flanders, Essex and Kent were privileged to represent the Straits Committee in one of the panels, share filmed testimonies from their areas and give an international perspective on the shared challenges in the Straits in the context of sea level rise and climate change.

The Straits Committee’s visit to Zeeland included a private guided tour of the Flood Museum and an early morning peak at the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier, the jewel in the crown of the Dutch Delta Works. These are some of the world’s most sophisticated sea defences and were conceived in response to the widespread damage and loss of life in 1953. The visit gave a sense of their scale and the justifiable local pride in these extraordinary feats of engineering. 

 For more information

  • A report on the conference and visit by Dr Martin Hurst, Chair of the Southern regional flood and coastal committee, can be seen on LinkedIn
  • The Straits Committee panel session at the flood museum symposium can be seen on the Omroep Zeeland facebook site. The Straits panel discussion begins at 05:48:55; the East Flanders interview and testimony is from 05:50:45; the Essex interview and testimony is from 05:56:59; the Kent interview and testimony is at 06:02:59 https://www.facebook.com/OmroepZeeland/videos/556611629730702
  • Presentations given at the first Force of Water Conference are available to all delegates taking part in the conference.

Follow-up conference in Kent

The second conference will offer the opportunity to discuss more in-depth the identified challenges and to further strengthen the network on the 4th and 5th July in Kent, UK. The event will combine inspiring plenary discussions with break-out workshops where participants will work in smaller groups on peer-reviews and exchange good practices on pre-selected themes as adaption to extremes: heavy rainfall and drought, governance of climate adaptation, awareness of climate change effects and risks for different groups of stakeholders involved. Participants will have the chance to visit recent water-related investments in Kent during a field visit programme and to exchange again views with the elected members of the Straits Committee during the event. 

The aim of the third meeting and closing conference later this year in Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands, will be on the results of the exchange and the opportunities for cooperation

The Straits Committee is pleased to announce the winners of its 4th call for small projects

North Sea in 395 AD
View over Dunkirk (Credit: FRAC Grand Large Hauts-de-France)

The Straits Committee’s 4th call for projects closed in October 2022. The members of the Executive Committee, deliberating both in person in Dunkirk on 16th November, and by written procedure in December, agreed to support the following projects:

Bridging the North Sea

Project partners: Province of Zuid-Holland; Hazenberg Archeologie; National Museum of Antiquities; Province of Zeeland; Stichting Cultureel Erfgoed Zeeland; Kent County Council; Newcastle University (out-of-area partner); Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (out-of-area partner); University of Ghent; Province of West-Flanders; Romeins Archeologisch Museum Oudenburg; City of Boulogne-Sur-Mer; Département of Nord.

Regions covered: Zuid-Holland (NL); Kent (UK); West-Flanders; East-Flanders (BE); Zeeland (NL); Pas-de-Calais; Nord (FR); and outside the Straits network, Newcastle (UK)

The Bridging the North Sea project aims to set up an innovative transnational network of scientists, scholars, civil workers, commercial organizations, museums, curators and volunteers along the coasts of the North Sea Basin covering four countries to start with: the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The goal of the international consortium is to produce an archaeological research programme and interpretation plan of the North Sea basin in Roman times, raising awareness among modern coastal residents of their maritime heritage, the North Sea’s historic role in connecting the area, and how present challenges such as rising sea levels were dealt with in the past.

The actions planned are:

  • Building and launching the ‘Bridging the North Sea Network’;
  • Setting up and promoting the ‘Bridging the North Sea Network’ communication platform
  • Working Groups to map out archaeological research projects and initiatives taking place in the Network area, identify key themes and develop a framework which can inspire future research;
  • Developing an interpretation plan to demonstrate that the Roman History of the North Sea Straits and the North of England region is still relevant today and could influence the lives of its residents and its communities;
  • Organising a final conference in order to present the action plan consisting of the research framework and interpretation plan developed by the Bridging the North Sea network and its working groups.

Circulating Energies

Project partners: FRAC Grand Large — Hauts-de-France (Nord); Open School East (Kent)

Regions covered: Kent (UK); Nord (FR);

The Circulating Energies project will build on an existing Franco-British residency for artists called MAGNETIC, and the 2023 Dunkirk Triennial of Art & Industry, to develop a new cross border partnership between FRAC GRAND LARGE, a major cultural institution for contemporary art in Dunkirk; the Ecole Supérieure d’art Dunkerque-Tourcoing; and Open School East, an independent art school in Margate, Kent.

The project will allow the participating organisations to better understand the context in which artistic curriculums are delivered and created in France and the UK, and to explore how a shared, international curriculum could be tested.
Using research developed by the MAGNETIC artist in residence for a new public artwork for the Dunkirk Triennial on the theme of energy, the project will see the partners work with the artist to develop new pedagogical materials and a mentoring programme that the artist will deliver to students in the Nord and in Kent. This work will also include the production of a public event by the students and artist to take place during the Dunkirk Triennial.

The actions planned are:

  • Two discovery visits to the partners’ headquarters in Dunkirk and Margate to understand each other’s work, aims and objectives and to plan the project
  • Creation of curriculum materials to support a mentoring programme led by the artist in residence.
  • Delivery of a mentoring programme to students at Open School East and Ecole Supérieure d’art Dunkerque-Tourcoing (September-December 2023)
  • Public seminar delivered by students and the artist in residence to take place during the Dunkirk Triennial (January 2024)
  • An end-of-project sharing-and-dissemination event in Margate

The Straits Committee wishes all applicants every success with their projects and hopes they will inspire many other projects that can benefit the Straits area to come forward.

Do you have an idea for a project that can help implement the priorities of the Straits Committee’s vision and strategy? If so, please get in touch with your member authority. Contact details can be found on our contact us page.

The Straits Committee is pleased to announce the winners of its 3rd call for small projects

Etty Hillesum. Source: Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam

The Straits Committee’s 3rd call for projects closed in June 2022, and, on 6th July in Arras, the members of the Executive Committee agreed to support the following projects:

Etty Hillesum Exchange

Project partners: The Poetry Practice Ltd. (Kent); Stichting Het Etty Hillesum Huis (Zeeland)

Regions involved: Kent (UK); Zeeland (NL);

The Etty Hillesum Exchange brings people in Zeeland and Kent together to share knowledge on the life and works of Etty Hillesum.

Etty Hillesum, the Dutch-Jewish writer, was murdered in 1943 by the Nazis in Auschwitz. However, as her diaries and letters smuggled out of the Dutch transit camp show, she refused to allow hatred to cloud her response. Her example is as relevant today as it was then and needs to be kept alive for the future.

The project will adapt educational material by the Etty Hillesum Huis for schools in Kent and for the English-speaking world.

To promote Etty’s example, the Poetry Exchange will organise a public event at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge with two expert speakers, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and professor Klaas Smelik. The Etty Hillesum Huis in Middelburg will present the results of the exchange project to their international network through a hybrid live/online event, with a web launch of a film.

Local greener is cleaner

Project partners: Brockhill Park Performing Arts College (Kent); Lycée Mariette/Lyceum Mariette (Pas-de-Calais); LEGT EPID VAUBAN (Nord); Prizma Campus College (West Flanders); VO Zeeuws-Vlaanderen Reynaert College);

Regions involved: Kent (UK); West-Flanders (BE); Zeeland (NL); Pas-de-Calais; Nord (FR)

This is the winning project from the Straits Youth Event that took place from 21st-23rd March in Bruges, Belgium.

The project objectives are:

  • Learning through mobility and finding inspiration in the farm operated and managed within the school in Brockhill in Kent;
  • Developing sustainable development and dietary practices in participating schools (producing and consuming locally, eating a healthy diet…) based on each other’s best practices.

Among the actions planned are:

  • A 3-day exchange visit, including a site visit to the pilot school in Kent and its farm; a day visiting the Lycée Mariette’s Eco-high school with a workshop on local cuisine; and a day exchanging practices and implementing a sustainable collaboration network at the Hardelot Centre in Hardelot, Pas-de-Calais (managed by Kent County Council).
  • Introducing tools aimed at a sustainable diet approach in each of the schools: vegetable gardens, hives, greenhouses, composters, rain water collection containers…
  • Producing a “making of” film using a compilation of videos taken by each of the schools. The “making of” will be edited by the Province of West-Flanders.

The Straits Committee wishes both projects every success and hopes they inspire other projects to come forward.

How to submit a project to the Straits Committee

Do you have an idea for a project that implements the priorities of the Straits Committee’s vision and strategy? If so, please get in touch with your member authority. Contact details can be found on our contact us page.

The next deadlines for submitting projects to the Straits Committee are:

  • 21st October 2022, with decisions on applications to be taken in November 2022
  • 3rd January 2023, with decisions on applications to be taken in January 2023

Urban planning conference in the Straits region

Province de Flandre orientale

Let’s discuss planning practices and issues facing our cross-border area !

The Straits Committee and the French society of urban planners are joining forces to propose a joint conference on the challenges of urban and regional planning at the scale of the Straits cross-border area.

On 6 July 2022, in the Hemicycle of the Pas-de-Calais Departmental Council in Arras, from 9.30 a.m., join us to discuss together the practices and issues of spatial planning on a cross-border scale.

The day will be structured around two round tables that will bring together elected and technical representatives of local authorities that are members of the Straits Committee with experts in urban planning.

Prior to this dialogue, the major current issues of these territories will be recalled. At the beginning of the morning, Vincent Goodstadt, Honorary President of the European Council of Town Planners, will present the Manifesto “Re Start Europe”, which will focus on spatial planning in response to the crisis of the COVID. Then, Charles Lambert, Executive Committee member of the French Society of Spatial Planners, will address the challenges of European spatial planning and the international recognition of the Straits region.

In the second part of the morning, a panel discussion on environmental issues will highlight how planning approaches can be used to reconcile them with the other interests at work in the territories.

The afternoon will be dedicated to a second panel discussion on examples of logistical development between the sea, the coast and the hinterland, through the presentation of emblematic spaces within the territory of the Straits Committee.

A look back at the first Straits Youth Event:  21st – 23rd March 2022, Bruges, Belgium. 


Almost one year ago in Ghent (Belgium), the Straits Executive Committee decided to organise an event in Bruges that would bring young people together from all areas of the Straits Committee. The theme selected was the environment and host province, West Flanders, appointed House of Europe Ryckevelde to deliver the event. 12 secondary schools from six Straits’ regions agreed to take part in this year-long initiative and, on 21-23rd March, over 109 students and 12 teachers met in Bruges and online at the first ever Straits youth event.

The event in Bruges, the high point of the students’ work together, was the Straits Committee’s first major hybrid event. This format was chosen to allow students from Kent to work with their peers remotely throughout. Over the three days together, the young people were set a challenge: work in mixed nationality teams to come up with an idea for an environmental project that could be implemented at all their schools. Each project had to address one of the following areas: mobility; sustainable food; or the circular economy. 

To help get to know each other in the months leading up to the event, the students enjoyed a pre-event programme of online meetings and activities overseen by the event organizer Ryckevelde. These included preparing video presentations for each other about their schools.

With their projects proposals designed, the students then took part in a closing reception where they brilliantly presented their ideas to the judging panel composed of Straits Committee members. This was a convivial moment that allowed the students, teachers and members of the Straits Committee to discuss the projects presented and, more generally, served to underline the commitment of young people to taking action on climate change.

Although six excellent projects were put forward, only one winner could be chosen, and the most votes went to a project on using more local sustainable food and creating dedicated growing areas in schools. This project will now be implemented with Straits Committee support in the second half of 2022 and students from all regions represented at the Straits Youth Event will take part. Watch this space for more information about the project’s progress in the weeks and months ahead.

To find out more about the Straits Youth event in Bruges, check out the video below.  


The Straits Committee announces the winners of its 2nd call for small projects


The Straits Committee’s second call for projects closed in February 2022, and, on 22nd March, the members of the Executive Committee agreed to support the following projects:

South Holland joins the Straits Committee


The Straits Committee is pleased to announce that the Province of Zuid-Holland from the Netherlands has joined the Straits Committee to become its 7th full member. The decision was confirmed by the Straits Committee at their December 2021 meeting. Jeannette Baljeu, the regional minister for European and International Affairs, said: “We are looking forward to working with the coastal regions around the Straits of Dover, a collaboration of regions that have shown in the past that they have many points of contact.” 

The Straits Committee announces the first winners of its Small Project Initiative


On the occasion of its second birthday, the Straits Committee is pleased to announce the first projects that will be supported under The Straits Committee’s Small Project Initiative.

Executive Committee – July 7, 2021


On July 7, 2021, the fourth Executive Committee of the Straits Committee took place in Ghent. This meeting allowed the members of the Committee to re-launch cross-border exchanges between the six local authorities of the Strait, physically reunited for the first time since the Executive Committee of July 1, 2020 in Middleburg.