The LRE Forum 2021 was held on 9-10-11 February 2021, for the very first time in an online form to make it a safe and accessible event for everyone. The LRE Foundation annual event was composed by the LRE Members Webinar, the LREXPO and the LRE Conference, and was streamed from a studio close to the famous John Frost Bridge in Arnhem, the Dutch city central to the Operation Market Garden. “Building the future of commemorations together” was the fil rouge of the event and the key topic for reflection. We are beyond grateful for the heartfelt participation of our members, partners and general public. Even if we would have preferred to meet everyone in person, we are happy that the digital format made us reach a wider audience with attendees from all over Europe, the US and Canada.
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The LRE Forum 2021 opened its digital doors on 9 February with an event dedicated to the members of the LRE Foundation. In one hour and half, our Managing Director, Rémi Praud, and our Deputy Managing Director, Jurriaan de Mol, took the members through the latest projects and developments of the LRE Foundation.
We talked about the new governance structure and proudly presented the new chairman, former Dutch diplomat Ed Kronenburg. Then we introduced the new name of the Foundation — LRE Foundation — and the refreshed visual identity for both the foundation itself and the Liberation Route Europe initiative. Afterwards, Chance Williams and Joël Stoppels gave an update about the Liberation Route Europe hiking trails and Europe Remembers respectively. Moreover, the Members Webinar was enriched by the contributions of Lisette Mattaar, Director of vfonds, and Ingrid Jung, Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy in The Netherlands, who talked about the reasons behind their support to our foundation. Finally, we shifted the focus on our members, first by introducing the latest additions to our network — Municipality of Rheden (NL), Museum Federation Friesland (NL), National Institute ‘Ferruccio Parri’ (IT), Municipality of Torgau (DE) — and then giving the floor to three members that shared some exciting project news with the broader LRE network. With Mathieu Billa, Director of the Bastogne War Museum, Andrew Whitmarsh, Curator of the D-Day Story Portsmouth, and Carlo Puddu, Director of LRE Italy, we closed our first day of the LRE Forum 2021 and gave everyone appointment to the next day for the LREXPO.
The Forum 2021 continued on 10 February with the annual travel trade event, the LREXPO. A large number of professionals from the international travel trade industry had the chance to network with members and partners of the LRE Foundation. Before the one-on-one meetings started, the attendees followed a workshop on the future of remembrance travel with Jurriaan de Mol, Paul Reed, Ronnie Weijers, Joost Rosendaal, and Miguel Gallego. The speakers shared their experiences and perspectives on the current status and future of remembrance tourism.
On 11 February, the final event of the LRE Forum — open to members, partners and to everyone interested in WWII history and remembrance — took place. The LRE Conference was a great occasion to reflect on the challenges, opportunities and future trends pertaining to WWII heritage together with industry experts, scholars, and international students.
Host Anouk Susan led the debates and the interactions with the audience that warmly engaged in the discussion. In the first panel discussion, with Linda Hervieux, Sebastiaan Vonk and Prof. Lucy Noakes, the speakers reflected on how WWII historical research and narrative can become more inclusive and tackle the present inequalities and discrimination towards minorities. Later on, the topic shifted to a different challenge that we are globally called to face: climate change. Nathalie Worthington, director of Juno Beach Centre, provided the audience with a great best practice — the Juno Beach Centre is one of the first museums to have articulated a strategy to reduce its carbon footprint, as in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030. In a second panel discussion with a specific focus on the link between sustainability and tourism, Massimo Turchi, Jan Engler, Jos Vranken, Jeroen Drabbe, and Rémi Praud brought their experience in a lively and insightful discussion.
In the second part of the LRE Conference, we reflected on the legacy we would like to leave to the future generations and the best ways to transmit WWII history and stories. In this segment of the event entitled Can remembrance be fun? – Strategies for Youth Engagement, Lisette Mattaar, Peter van ‘t Hoog and Michael Dodds shared their ideas and reflections regarding the fine line dividing entertainment and education, and explained some of the initiatives organised in the Netherlands and in Normandy to engage with a younger audience. The words of the British veteran Mervyn Kersh, who talked about the kind of legacy he would like to leave behind, closed the section on an emotional note.
Throughout the Conference, Joël Stoppels took us on a tour of Gelderland. First, he visited the Freedom Museum in Groesbeek, where he interviewed the director, Wiel Lenders. Then he met the mayor of Nijmegen, Hubert Bruls, and eventually joined the Sunset March initiator, Tim Ruijling. The LRE Conference 2021 wrapped up with the words of Managing Director Rémi Praud and the view of a breath-taking sunset over the river Waal.