London is home to around 40,000 Dutch people as well as the oldest Dutch-language Protestant Church in the world.
The Dutch Church was established by Royal Charter from King Edward VI who granted religious freedom to Protestant Dutch refugees fleeing Spanish occupation of the Netherlands.
“We want to be a place where Dutch people can come and feel at home whether through music, as a meeting place, or through religion.
“Most of what we do is in Dutch. We are open to all but our members are predominantly Dutch. Services are in Dutch and we organise six city lunches a year. At these, prominent Dutch people give a talk and it is a networking event afterwards. We get up to 200 people at these, depending on the speaker. We want to enable like-minded people to meet.”
The Dutch Church has played a huge role in the lives of Dutch people emigrating to London over the years, particularly after the Second World War, as Frank explains:
“If you look back at the generation that arrived after the Second World War, a lot has changed. It was a major step back then and the church provided an anchor to their Dutchness. Now, people come for one or two years to study or on a business assignment and can easily jump on a plane and be home in two or three hours. So it’s less of an upheaval and we are less of an anchor. But we still aim to be a home to the Dutch community.”
So, can anyone attend the Dutch Church?
“You don’t need a Dutch passport to get in! Any English people are welcome – we would host them just as they’ve hosted us all these years. We have people from South Africa and Belgium and sometimes other countries. Anyone is welcome, but our attendees are predominantly Dutch.”
And with 2012 on the horizon, the church is hoping to play an important to role for those new to London once again:
“The Dutch Tourist Board expects 40,000 Dutch people [will visit London] every day during the Olympics. We have used it as a time to renovate. We want to be a real centre of Dutchness – not just with religion but with culture, music and, again, to be a home to the Dutch community whether they are here for a day or permanently.”
Have you been to the Dutch Church? Do you know of any other Dutch experiences in London? Let us know in the comments below.