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75 Years of the Flemish Club 1923-1998

The origins and first years of the Flemish Club
The Club that Ernest Claes dreamed of has come about.
On July 5, 1923, a non-profit association was founded under the name "Flemish Club for Arts, Sciences and Letters", with its registered office in the Brussels Agglomeration.
The aim of the association is to promote the arts, sciences and letters, and to this end to provide housing with a meeting room, also suitable for lectures, concerts and exhibitions. reading room, library, etc. They want to promote the Flemish cultural image, not only in Brussels, but throughout the entire Flemish part of the country. Furthermore, international relations must also be promoted by organizing activities with a European and international perspective.
The articles of association are published in the Annex to the Belgian Official Gazette of 28 September 1923.
The foundation deed of the Flemish Club is drawn up in the apartment of Dr. Van der Ghinst, this following a reception. The Club groups a number of Flemish intellectuals. The first board sees
looks like this:

Chairman: A. Vermeylen
Vice-chairmen: A. Carnoy and F. Toussaint van Boelare Secretary Dr. I. Van der Ghinst
2nd secretary: E. Claes
Treasurer: A. Hegenscheidt
2nd treasurer: T. Zels Commissioners: E. De Veen, R. Hoornaert, O. Wattez.

Over the course of its existence, the Flemish Club can be proud of the fact that virtually all important Flemish personalities have been members of the Club, or have at least been present several times. Some names from the early period: J. Kuypers, J. Grauls F. De Backer, J.A. Van Acker, Karel Reinhard, R. Jonckheere, J. van Severen, J. Hoste, Jef Mennekens, Maurice Roelants, J. Boon, R. Verdeyen and many others.
Not only Flemish Brussels residents are part of the Flemish Club, many Flemish people from outside Brussels are also members. These outside members pay half of the membership. Despite the sometimes long journeys, they remain loyal visitors and regularly attend club evenings. These evenings will initially be organized every Monday. In the first years they are gatherings of friends, where, in addition to a fair amount of spirituous fluid, there is also a fair amount of talking. The first members are often men of letters. The story is told from his own work. Gradually there is a growing awareness that one must go further and other topics are also discussed.
Some examples from the years 1924-1925:
Prof. Colenbrander about «Future of Flemish Dutch Culture»
Prof. Vermeylen about “Symbolism” Prof. Hegenscheidt on «The Western question geographically considered>
E. Verheyen (inspector) about «Education Jan Grauls about «Black Africa, people and language» Prof. Sluyterman about "The development of the Dutch Binnenhuis>
Herman Teirlinck about «Theatre»>.
Jos Vleugels, chairman since 1976, has a lot to say during the introductions to the numerous activities of the Flemish Club,
The speakers are not just club members. Several eminent people at home and abroad are attracted. As a rule, the presentations are held in Dutch. Yet it happens that speakers express themselves in their native language. In the Flemish Club you can also hear French, English and German at times.
The presenters naturally receive an honorarium. Before WWII
this amounts to approximately 200 BEF. The then chairman Van der Ghinst also had that amount in his pocket when he thanked Mr Hoornaert for his lecture on April 3, 1932. However, the latter believes that money does not buy happiness, and asks for 3 bottles of whiskey instead.
There are 2 centers in Brussels where Flemish people meet. On the one hand there is the Flemish Club that meets on Monday evenings, on the other hand there is the group around Herman Teirlinck, the "Mijol", which meets on Friday evenings.
In the first years after the founding of the Flemish Club, the number of members quickly rose to 100. The Board of Directors sees around 50 of these members every Club evening.


The number of members is evolving:
Club year

1934-1935: 123 members

1938-1939: 212 members
1948-1949: 323 members
1951-1952: 278 members
1939-1940 175 members

Dec. 1945 82 members
1947-1948 245 members
1958-1959: 383 members
1963-1964: 438 members
1968-1969 303 members

So we see a steady increase in the number of members to 212 in 1938-1939. The war period is a breaking point. Afterwards it goes up again very quickly. A small reduction can be observed in the years 1949-1952. At the beginning of the Golden Sixties, the number of members of the Flemish Club also boomed. In 1963 the Club had 445 members + 120 family members. Of these, 180 are ladies. The decline in membership numbers around 1968-1970 can have its origins in the rise of a series of cultural centers around Brussels.
When we now look at the age of the members of the Flemish Club, we notice that most are middle-aged. The statutes state that the minimum age for admission is 18 years. Yet we find few young people between the ages of 18 and 30. What is the cause of this?
The membership fee? When the Flemish Club was founded, this amounted to 100 BEF per year. In 1932 it was increased to 200 F. After the Second World War it was 300 F. Afterwards it increased somewhat more quickly: 1975: 1,000 F; 1977: 1,200 F; 1982: 1,500 F.


The elitist character of the Flemish Club? Perhaps we should first ask the question: is the Flemish Club an elitist Club?


Some members say no, others do not express themselves. It is a fact that it is not easy to get a foot in the Flemish Club, but once accepted, there appears to be a pleasant atmosphere.
Honorary chairman Ivo De Nys also mentioned this in his occasional speech on April 18, 1983 at the solemn opening of the 60th anniversary year.

What has always concerned me from the beginning of my club life was the welcome at the Club, the approach to new and/or very young members. My wife and I also had difficulties with this when we, as neophytes, were here three times without ever being spoken to by anyone. It was chairman Leo Van Hoorick who, at the last minute of our decision to stay away, was the first to speak to us and involved us in discussions with other members. That helping
new members need a hand.

From left to right: Ivo De Nys, chairman 1974-1976, Maurits Naessens, member of the board of directors, club year 1978-1979, Jos Vleugels, chairman from 1976 to the present; Jeroom Depraetere, chairman 1971-1974
However, we must say that not everyone can feel at home in the Flemish Club. The members all have a certain education and training. The topics discussed during the lectures are also of a high standard. And they certainly want to perpetuate that. Does this consciously pursued high intellectual standard hold the young people back?

Finally, we must also ask whether young people are still so interested in clubs and association life. They dread meeting one evening every week, with the same people, in the same room. Would they prefer more variety?

The questions remain open.

The past shows us that from the very beginning of the Flemish Club, young people have not been present. They do have their own club, the Piccolo club, founded by Willem Pelemans (secretary from 1927 to 19311). The Piccolo club exists completely separately from the Flemish Club. They have their own chairman, Willy Weemaes, a cousin of Herman Teirlinck. they give their own lectures and of course meet on a different day than the Flemish Club, but they do use the same room
Although we can certainly say that the Flemish elite in Brussels are members of the Flemish Club, this does not mean that everything is Flemish and everyone speaks Dutch in the Club.
Board members, themselves prominent Flemish people, are sometimes married to a French speaker. The result is that when the ladies meet at meetings, they speak French among themselves.
The Flemish Club sometimes reacts very sharply towards outsiders. For example, the chairman and/or the secretaries regularly write this letter, in response to the French-language letters they receive: Out of respect for the country's laws, we must request that you contact us from now on
want to correspond in Dutch... We are in 1933. As already mentioned, the Flemish Club groups the Flemish elite in Brussels. The organized activities are of a high intellectual standard
tual level. This doesn't mean there's no fun being had. It sometimes happens that after a meeting club member Rietgens invites all club members to his dancing and treats them to champagne. Herman Teirlinck also contributes to relaxation. As chairman of the Board of Directors in the club year 1929-1930, he treated the members to a revue, «De Vlaamse Helicon, written and directed by himself.
The intention is to attract both the fellow players and the members of the Flemish Club. It is an antidote to the seriousness that Flemish intellectual Brussels residents have to take all year long to manifest their Flemishness to the outside world.
The Flemish Helicon is a contribution to self-confession and a warning not to become cancerous in unsuspecting euphoria. Teirlinck really enjoys directing. In addition, he can also count on the somewhat masochistic cooperation of his victims. This proves that his serenity is accepted as welcome wisdom by all present.
Willem Pelemans is responsible for the musical accompaniment of the whole
secretary of the Flemish Club -- guarantor.
The characters appearing in the play are: Apollo, played by a certain Jan Clerx; Lucifer, August Vermeylen: Pegaas, R. Hoornaert De Fantasie, Maurice Roelants; the Director, Herman Teirlinck himself. You see: the Flemish Club for Arts, Sciences and Letters is a Flemish elite club. The members, the vast majority of whom are men, all have higher education. Yet even with them the bow is not always tense.

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