Van Julsinghastraat keeps to itself

Ann-Kristin Matthe had hoped to get at least 100 residents of the Van Julsinghastraat together for her running dinner last Saturday. In the end, only 10 people turned up. ‘We were a bit ambitious.’

German-born International Relations student Ann-Kristin Matthe had a dream. Students and other residents of the city of Groningen don’t always get along, because their different lifestyles collide. Wouldn’t it be great, therefore, if people got to know each other better?

In Germany, running dinners – where participants visit a range of houses in a certain street to eat and chat – are a popular way of bringing a community together. Ann-Kristin wanted to introduce the idea to Groningen, too.

She and her friend Tine Coobe went from door to door to invite all the residents. Anyone who wasn’t in got a flyer posted through their letterbox.

Get the ball rolling

In the end, though, hardly anyone showed up. ‘We were a bit ambitious with our expectations’, she admits. ‘But the ultimate goal wasn’t to make a huge event out of it. You can’t do that with this kind of idea. We just wanted to get the ball rolling, to show that it can be done.’

Some of the residents did get into the spirit of it, though. Els and Leo Castelein, a retired couple, prepared some starters. ‘We liked being a part of it and trying new things’, says Els.

Stefanie Nolte, a PhD student in Ecology, didn’t mind that the group was small. ‘It showed that these meetings don’t have to be big to succeed’, she says. ‘It was nice to meet everyone involved, rather than just a few people.’

So why didn’t more people take part? Didn’t they know about the dinner? A guy in his 50s says: ‘The girls were really young and I like eating more with people of my own age. It just seemed like a student thing and not for the rest of us.’

An older lady, further down the street, smiles. ‘It was a nice idea. I just I didn’t have the time.’


Another woman thinks it was a good idea, but a bit ambitious. ‘The people on the street keep to themselves. Inviting people we don’t know into our homes was asking a lot.’

Ann-Kristin hopes more people will be interested in future. ‘It was a successful pilot and it will definitely not be my last running dinner. I am looking forward to assisting others with their own running dinners.’

To do that, she is writing a pamphlet to help other students organize running dinners in their own communities. In a week or two it will be available on the Leveninstad website, which is also trying to bring students and Stadjers together. ‘There will be a blog as well very soon.’

March 25th 2013