Chairman of the Board of Vierdaagse Feesten Walter Hamers

It is nice to announce that the chairman of the board of the Four Days Marches Festivities Walter Hamers has become a symbolic forerunner of the Walk of Wisdom. He has written a page for our contemporary book of hours and pilgrims Seasons of Life.

The Walk of Wisdom wants to become the contemplative brother or sister of the Nijmegen Four Days Marches, which has been subtitled ‘Walk of the World’ for a number of years now. In addition to Walter Hamers, the march leader of the Four Days Marches – Johan Willemstein – is also one of our forerunners.

With 1.4 million visitors, the Four Days Marches Festivities is the largest event in the Netherlands that can be visited free of charge. The entire city centre of Nijmegen will be transformed into a stage for the Festivities. All that exuberance seems to be the opposite of the understated, contemplative ambition of the Walk of Wisdom. But celebration and repentance belong together, just like carnival and fasting. Although the latter combination seems to have gone out of fashion.

The Festivities are emphatically committed to sustainability, for example by enabling a ‘circular economy’ in which waste is reused as a raw material. Hamers’ position is unpaid.

Walter Hamers is also a director of the Nijmegen housing corporation Talis and was previously chairman of the Tilburg pop temple 013. He was born in Brabant, but studied in Nijmegen. Below is his speech about the core values of the Four Days Marches Festivities at the opening of the Four Days Marches 2014 in the Stevenskerk.


Dear people, I would like to devote a few words of substance to this celebration at this opening. Maybe also a little reflection. And that’s allowed in this environment.

The Vierdaagsefeest is valuable. And I mean that literally. The party represents a number of values that we as the Vierdaagsefeesten Foundation hold dear, want to propagate, and want to strengthen.

They are the values of freedom, community, hospitality and connection. I’m going to say something about this.

When I go to Midnight Mass in this church every year, I do so for two reasons. The Midnight Mass itself and the fact that I can drive my car through the Burchtstraat and park on the Grote Markt. That gives a feeling of freedom. That you can use a piece of public space for once, which I am otherwise never allowed to do.

It’s party time and we are allowed to use the public space for something different than usual.

All the streets and squares of the city centre are used when they would otherwise not be used or they would be used differently. The parks are full of music and on the sidewalks you can have a drink, buy oliebollen or eat ham on the bone. The traffic lights don’t work and you can cross anywhere. At its deepest level, this celebration is a celebration of publicity.


So that, that gives a sense of freedom because you can use the public space. This, then, is the first value: that of freedom. For a while, for a week, a Four Days Marches week, we feel free in that public space. And that’s party.

In addition to this freedom, we want to stand for the value of commonality.

Thanks to a great cooperation agreement with the municipality, we as a Foundation can fill in that public space. It’s not just freedom, happiness. That’s why we regulate that, a little bit. Not too much, otherwise we will lose the spontaneity. Not too little, otherwise we will get anarchy. We want that space to belong to everyone, to us, to all of us. That means we offer diversity and variety in the program, something for everyone.

So many people, so many guests in a room with each other for a whole week, that results in a commonality. In cohesion. Because everyone – yes in a mass of 1.5 million visitors – can do their own thing to some extent, together with others.

This fosters a special sense of community. It is the second value – next to that of freedom – that of commonality. We meet strangers, who you know are not strangers, because they have come here for the same purpose.

And everyone is there. Without distinction of races or classes, religions or income classes. There is a lot of running and everything is intertwined. Because the dividing lines have been lifted and the party is freely accessible. For everyone.

And then there is another value that we as the Vierdaagsefeesten Foundation hold in high regard. I already mentioned him. That of hospitality. Do you know that too, at your own birthday parties, that you open your own living room to the partygoers. And that feeling of being allowed to receive. And the guests who are with each other. One half who has known each other for a long time and the other part of the guests who get to know each other at your party, and strengthen ties.

I always think it’s so beautiful that you can never really organize hospitality. I came to our office this week and asked one of the employees if we were ready. Well, no, she said, but are you ever ready? You always have something you want to do, something you want to prepare. Just like at home. The birthday party starts when the bell rings and the first guest announces himself. Always too early, because you actually wanted to get the coffee cups ready. Do you know that? The party starts right when the first guest announces himself, when you get there.

And that is the deeper meaning of hospitality: be welcome, we have created the conditions, go ahead. But we haven’t regulated everything and we’re going to do it together. Hospitality is also vulnerability, making ourselves vulnerable as a city. We organized it superbly, super safe, super crowd management, super preparation, super everything but still, something unforeseen can always happen. And we’ll solve that together.

I already talked about the connection. A fourth value. The connection between the municipality and us. But another important link is with the walking marches. The connection is strong, powerful. Thank you for that. The connection between partying and walking is so powerful that the outsider does not see that they are two different organizations.

That’s true. The Four Days Marches Foundation organises walking and that is the basis. And the Vierdaagsefeesten Foundation organises the party. But you see one thing and you feel the inseparability.

There’s another connection that I love. And that is the one between enterprising Nijmegen. Not only the entrepreneurs of the city center are connecting, but also the entrepreneurs in Nijmegen. They do this in the Ambassodorsclub. The more than 130 entrepreneurs are a great support for the Vierdaagsefeesten. The Ambassadors Club ensures that the Vierdaagsefeesten are carried to the veins of enterprising Nijmegen. And more importantly: that this is propagated. Because every ambassador promotes this party, tells all his relations about it. And I can tell you, they don’t think that’s a task, they like to do it because they’re proud of it.

But we don’t just have ambassadors. Other partners also support this party, financially or otherwise. This year, as a Foundation, we have set up a platform for partners in the field of sustainability and innovation. This platform is a more intensive form of connection and collaboration and will take the place of flat sponsorship. Yes, it’s a different way and we find it exciting. But when you see what we are doing this year with these partners in terms of sustainability and innovation, we have a lot of confidence as a board and organisation.

This party, dear people, is of value. Yes, also the monetary value of almost 40 million spending effect, yes also the value for the city’s city marketing.

Certainly, but also the social value: that of freedom, community, hospitality and connection.

And that makes the Vierdaagsefeesten invaluable to our city: the pride of every Nijmegen resident. The sense of community and bonding that is created among the city’s residents is impressive.

This year, for the first time, I have the honour of being chairman of the board of the Vierdaagsefeesten. On behalf of the board and our organization, I can tell you that we will continue to propagate, strengthen and keep up to date the invaluable value of our 4-day festivities.

We don’t need more and bigger, but we do need better and more valuable. Quality, content and relationship are more important than quantity and scope. Always innovating, following the wishes of our guests and working in solidarity, with you as a municipality, with you who organizes the walk, with you all the partners present here and with you who are here as guests.

I wish you a valuable feast. But keep those values in mind, no more, no less. Just enjoy, feel, taste, experience, undergo and live this party. And have fun!

Thank you for your attention.

Walter Hamers

12 July 2014