It all began with the idealism of the late Mon De Clopper (1922-1998), a Fleming, the founding chairman of the Movement for Flemish Folk Culture (the Vlaamse Volkskunstbeweging or VVKB).Together with several fellow members of the VVKB, he organised the first Europeade in Antwerp in 1964. It brought together Flemings, Dutch, English, French and Germans as well as Ukrainian, Yugoslavian and Polish exiles to perform their traditional songs and dances in traditional costume. Each group displayed its own individuality and watched the others. Mutual respect, appreciation and friendship grew. There was evidence even then of an intense desire to bring the cultural side of Europe to the fore by means of its folk culture and a genuine solidarity between nations.
Moreover, the first statement of intent for the Europeade was entitled "For the youth of Europe". Forging peace among the youth of Europe was Mon De Clopper's motivation from the very beginning. After the horrors of the two world wars, he felt it was high time that young people started constructing a new Europe : a Europe of peace and freedom.
"As long as the youth can uphold and respect the values of their culture, and can allow them to take precedence over the artificial ways and alienation imposed upon themselves, then the Western world shall be preserved".
It was clear even then that folk culture would be the best vehicle for this.
"The figures who have set the tone in all the great periods in the history of mankind everywhere have always been the thinkers, poets and artists first". De Clopper saw his event as a giant step towards this goal. In his view, it was both literally and figuratively the proof of the thirst for mutual understanding, mutual acceptance, mutual respect and ultimately friendship and solidarity. "De Clopper wanted to see if it would work to invite dozens of folk culture groups from all over Europe to come together for an event that would last several days. He did not fully realise at the time what kind of an organisation he had created".
"On April 5, 1964, thousands of people had understood that the only way to the Europe of tomorrow could be to follow their hearts", wrote Mon De Clopper - who had since become the chairman of the Europeade committee - in the programm for the second Europeade in Dortmund (28 and 29 August 1965).
"And what makes the heart beat the fastest ?" he asked, "the experience of seeing and hearing something of beauty, the feeling of living in a time of eternal spring, new blossoming : blossoming of all that is beautiful, the kingdom that our ancient evening song bequeaths to the peoples of this continent".
The driving force behind the Europeade writes further : "Long live Europe as a community of nations where everyone has a place and all must be welcome. The Europe of the heart can only bring peace and friendship, and peace means prosperity. It leads to contentment and cultural richness. That is our wish for every European man and woman. That is the future we are building together for all the youth of Europe".
Passage from the Europeade book written by Johan de Donder.
Founding chairman of the Europeade for European Folk culture.
Born on 29 September 1922 in Antwerp and deceased in the same city on 26 December 1998.
In 1946 he founded 'De bundeling', a community for Dutch cultural life, which is the precursor of the folk art group Elckerlyc, which he chaired until the end of his life.
He brought the catholic folk art groups together in 1951 in the 'Katholieke Vlaamse Volkskunstfederatie' (Catholic Flemish Folk Art Federation), abbreviated as KVVF. The KVVF was transformed into a pluralistic organisation, to oppose pillarisation, but respected everyone's conviction in the 'Vlaamse Volkskunstbeweging' (Flemish Folk art movement), also referred to as VVKB.
Mon De Clopper continued to dream about a free and peaceful Europe (not only charcoal and steel) where every national community could simply be.
This is the background to Mon De Clopper's Europeade, which was founded in 1964, together with fellow founders Robert Müller-Kox, Edith Harbarth, Simonne Parpaillon, Léon Wery, Willem De Meyer,...
Every year the Europeade brings thousands of young Europeans together in an expression of folk culture. This is not conceived as a competition but as a celebration of friendship. The first Europeade constituted the basis of the current success.
When Mon De Clopper felt he was no longer able to lead the Europeade, he retired from the chairman's position in 1997 and became honorary chairman. Bruno Peeters took over from Mon De Clopper.
Even as honorary chairman, he was always concerned about 'his' Europeade for real Europeans.