april 23, 2014
Über issues Brussels bans the app-driven car-for-hire company, but Uber isn’t going anywhere 6
n e w s w e e k ly € 0 . 7 5
Out of boundaries Heritage Day works to break down the borders that separate us from a common history 10
w w w. f l a n d e r s t o d ay. e u
In the picture Knokke’s annual photo festival gathers the best and brightest from Flanders and beyond 13
New York state of mind Singer Gabriel Rios opens up about life and success at home and abroad Linda A Thompson
A few months ago, singer Gabriel Rios, 36, returned to his adopted home town of Ghent after three years in New York – time spent writing songs, performing in tiny clubs and metamorphosing from a pop star into a singer-songwriter. We spoke to Rios when he still lived in the States about why he abandoned his successful Flemish career to start anew in a city where no one is waiting for another singer-songwriter.
ne cool Thursday evening several months ago, Gabriel Rios (pictured) was getting ready for an intimate gig at a teeny Lower Eastside bar. Strumming a few chords, he self-assuredly looked down at the faces in front of him. He was ready to win over these New Yorkers with the pop music with a twist that had drawn thousands of fans to his festival performances in Flanders and made him the darling of the
local press. Before him were a dozen people at best. They were attentive in the way that bar crowds are – softly talking and surreptitiously checking their phones. In the middle of the first song, a handful of patrons rose from their seats in front of the barely raised cramped stage. Obliterating the band from sight, they put their coats on grindingly slowly. Rios glanced at the drummer to his left and grinned. This was one of the reasons he had moved from Ghent to New York: to feel again what it was like to write and perform music when he wasn’t preceded by two golden albums and a reputation as a Latin heartthrob. “Writing songs when you don’t have that pressure around you of who you’re supposed to be is cool,” Rios told me a week after the performance. “It feels like the world isn’t waiting for your album.” As Rios’ band members lit cigarettes outside after the set, two
high-heeled Flemings with a lot of hair strutted over to strike up a conversation. Rios managed a tepid smile, duly putting his arms around the young women when they pulled out their phones to take a photo. Staring down at the bright lights of Allen Street, he looked pensive. When he was just 17, Rios fell in love with a Flemish exchange student who was staying in his home town of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rather than do as most young Puerto Ricans did and leave for college in the States, he shredded his admission letter from Syracuse University and followed his girlfriend to Ghent. While completing a fine arts degree at a local school, he fronted a couple of early bands, eventually drawing the attention of Jo Bogaert, the producer behind the massive 1980s hit “Pump Up the Jam”. Backed by the producer, Rios soon established a successful solo career. From 2004, he released album after `` continued on page 5
a p r i l 2 3 , 2014
Massive speed check successful Speed-trap marathon slows drivers down as politicians debate how fines are spent Alan Hope & Anja Otte
he so-called flitskrieg – a 24-hour marathon of speed checks across the country – ended last Friday morning with the event being described as a success by the federal police. Speed checks were carried out at some of the 51,757 locations suggested by members of the public in an online campaign organised by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety. Despite the widespread publicity of the event, some drivers still managed to get caught speeding, though fewer than usual in a 24-hour period, police said. Among them was Willy Vanmeerhaeghe, a trucker of 53 years’ experience
lower than the other countries is because of Antwerp’s status as the main port of entry for cocaine to the continent at the time of the survey. However, that number one position was taken over by Rotterdam earlier this month. The report also showed that the Belgians, together with the Swiss, have the world’s lowest rate of misconception about their alcohol consumption. One in four respondents worldwide thought their consumption was more average than it is (an indicator of overuse), but in Belgium and Switzerland only 17% understated their own consumption. AH `` www.globaldrugsurvey.com
Brussels has dropped out of the top 10 global cities on the latest biennial Global Cities Index, published by market researchers AT Kearney. Brussels drops this year to 11th place, from number nine two years ago. A city’s rankings are a result of a weighted calculation of various factors: business activity (worth 30% of the final score), human capital (30%), information exchange (15%), cultural experience (15%) and political engagement (10%). The index lists what it considers the top 20 cities worldwide. Brussels scores highly for the engagement of its politicians, for political conferences and for the number of embassies and consulates. Eleventh place puts Brussels in third place among European cities on the list, after London (at number 2 in the world) and Paris (number 3). The capital’s ranking slipped to 11 thanks to the remarkable progress of Beijing ( from
© Sofie Coreynen/VisitFlanders
letter, and we’ve spoken to most of them on the telephone,” explained professor Patrick Martens. “In the meantime, we have built an extra safety filter into our system so that this sort of thing cannot happen again.” About 5,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year in Flanders, 750 of whom die of the disease. About 43% of the 249,000 people aged 66 to 74 invited to take part in the first major screening programme responded to the call – “a good many more than we expected,” said Martens. AH
Belgium is cheapest country for cocaine and other drugs According to the latest Global Drug Survey, Belgium is the cheapest country in Western Europe to buy cocaine. Belgium came out as the least expensive of all the 18 countries surveyed, which also included the US and Mexico. On average, cocaine costs €70-€100 per gram. In Belgium, the average price is €53/g. Belgium is also the cheapest place to buy ecstasy, MDMA and the tranquilliser ketamine. The countries included in the survey were the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, New Zealand, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Mexico, Slovenia and Brazil. The reason Belgium clocked in
state’s general finances. In 2012, speeding fines were worth €370 million, with 38% reserved for the Road Safety Fund. That should be 100%, according to MP Sabien Lahaye-Battheu (Open VLD), who interrogated Wathelet on the matter. “The connection between a fine and the purpose it should serve is too weak,” she said. “Those who are fined should know what the money is used for. If the police communicate better on this issue, there would be more support for the speed-trap marathon.” Wathelet agreed, as did drivers’ association Touring.
Brussels drops out of top 10 global cities in latest index
Colon cancer scare as letters incorrectly sent to patients A mistake at the Centre for Cancer Detection led to more than 750 letters being sent to people who had routine scans for colon cancer advising them to take further tests. The recipients of the letter were among 249,000 people in Flanders who were invited by the Flemish government to be tested for colon cancer. Each person had to provide a stool sample to the centre, and the letter was meant to be sent to those whose sample appeared abnormal. They were advised to consult their doctor to arrange further investigations. “Everyone concerned has received a new
who received his first-ever speeding ticket on Thursday in Oudenaarde. But he wasn’t bothered by it. “They can’t organise enough of these checks because they’re really needed,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “Yesterday, on the road home from Lyon, one of my colleagues overtook me. A couple of kilometres further on, and he was dead – ran off the road on a bend.” The speed check also drew political attention to speeding fines. In parliament, secretary for mobility Melchior Wathelet (CDH) revealed that only one-third of fines for speeding are used to improve road safety, with the rest going into the
14 to 8) and of Singapore ( from 11 to 9). The top seven spots remain unchanged: New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Chicago. AH ``www.tinyurl.com/g lobalcitiesreport
Dutch language studies becoming more popular abroad The number of students enrolled in Dutch language courses at universities abroad has risen from 12,000 in 2009 to about 15,000 now, according to Liesbet Vannyvel, a project manager at the Dutch Language Union. About 175 universities worldwide offer classes in Dutch, from Cordoba in Argentina to Nagasaki in Japan. “About half of the students hope that it will prove valuable on the labour market,” said Vannyvel. “That’s why there is a large increase of interest in Spain, Portugal and Greece.” In Salamanca, Spain, the number of students has
increased fourfold in the last two years. The numbers are also increasing in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. “Not in the hope of emigrating,” Vannyvel explained, “but to increase their chances of working for Dutch or Flemish companies over there.” According to the union, grandchildren of Dutchspeaking emigrants are increasingly interested in learning the language of their roots. In the US, Dutch is also popular among students of history and art history. Andy Furniere
THE WEEK IN FIGURES
people in Flanders live 1.6km or further from a natural area greater than 30 hectares in size, according to Natuurpunt. Limburg is the greenest province, while West Flanders, where large areas are given over to farming, is the least
fewer incidents of nuisance on board De Lijn buses and trams in 2013. The 1,306 incidents included damage to vehicles, causing a hindrance to service or failing to comply with instructions from drivers or inspectors
Dutch citizens working in Belgium, mainly in Flanders and Brussels, according to figures from the federal labour ministry. Polish people are second with 23,469, followed by Germans on 16,320
per hour being paid to 15 Portuguese construction workers, discovered by social inspectors at a site in Brussels. The legal minimum wage in Belgium is €14.23 an hour
thefts from churches in Belgium in 2012, according to the interior ministry. There were 304 breakins and 416 incidents of vandalism
a p r i l 2 3 , 2014
face of flanders
WEEK in brief Vincent Kompany, the captain of Belgium’s national football team Red Devils, opened a sports bar on the Grote Markt in Brussels last week. Another will soon open on Antwerp’s Groenplaats. Kompany wants fans to be able to follow all of the major sports events in the best possible environment, he said. The bars, called Good Kompany, include several large screens spread throughout the establishments. “Major events bring people together,” said Kompany. “I like that unifying factor.” The annual Gordel Festival, a celebration of the Flemish nature of the communities situated in the belt around Brussels, will return to being a one-day-only event this September. The walking and cycling event restyled itself last year as a multi-disciplinary weekend festival but is scaling back to one day based on a disappointing turnout of only 12,500. The festival will be based in the Bloso sports park in Hofstade and the Flemish Brabant provincial domain in Huizigen. Some neighbourhoods in Brussels could be hit by a ban on the sale of alcohol under a new plan for Brussels-City currently under review by mayor Yvan Mayeur. The plan aims to tackle the worst of the problems relating to alcohol: sales to under-16s, noise nuisance caused by cafes and drinkers and incidents of violence and vandalism following drinking. Mayeur said he is not in favour of restricting sales of alcohol after 22.00 but could apply a selective ban in particular neighbourhoods. Cracker, a sea turtle who lives at Sea Life Blankenberge, last week underwent an operation to replace the weight he wears attached to his shell to allow him to dive below the water. Cracker was involved in an accident with a boat off the coast of Florida years ago, which paralysed his back legs and introduced an air pocket under his shell, making it
impossible for him to dive. During a stay at Weymouth in England, he was fitted with a weight to counteract the air pocket, but he has since grown and the weight was no longer effective. Two of his former keepers travelled from Weymouth to fit the replacement. Jan Peumans, speaker of the Flemish parliament, and Flanders’ welfare minister Jo Vandeurzen are taking part in a ceremony this week to, in the name of Flemish society, apologise to the victims of child sexual abuse. Last week the parliament adopted a resolution recognising the victims of such abuse in youth and educational institutions. “I will be apologising to anyone who was abused or will be in the future,” Peumans explained. “That’s a strong signal on behalf of the broader society and a symbol of support for anyone who was a victim. We are also making a commitment to avoid it in the future, which is the responsibility of everyone.” Flanders urgently needs to make plans for the return of the wolf, according to Natuurpunt. Reports of the wolf ’s approach have been issued intermittently in recent years. Last year a wolf was hit by a car near the Dutch-German border, and two of the animals were sighted last week in Luttelgeest in the north of the Netherlands. According to Natuurpunt, the government needs to prepare a plan for when the wolf crosses into Flanders, similar to the one in force in the Netherlands, where the wolf has a protected status, with compensation for farmers and others who suffer damages they may cause. Brussels secretary of state, Bruno De Lille, (Groen) wants to abolish the priority regulation in Brussels’ Dutch-speaking education system. Children with at least one Dutch-speaking parent now get priority for 55% of the places. “We
don’t want to create second-class citizens in our city,” said De Lille, “and that’s what you do when you tell a Brusselaar with, for example, Turkish as a first language to wait until the Dutch speakers have a spot at a school.” Benjamin Dalle of CD&V responded that the priority rule has an important pedagogical goal and that abolishing the priority rule would further deter Dutch-speaking families from living in Brussels. The mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont, has withdrawn the licences of two market traders for two weeks, after they were involved in a brawl over the sale of cuberdons, also known as neusjes, the cone-shaped sweet particular to the city. The men were stationed next to each other on the Groentenmarkt, both selling cuberdons and both accusing the other of underhanded tactics to steal customers from the other. The argument ended in blows. “Let this be an end of it,” said Termont, suspending the sellers’ trading licence until 1 May and holding out the threat of permanent suspension if the dispute is revived. The Brussels-City council needs to do more to attract young entrepreneurs to take part in a planned food-truck system, according to Unizo, the organisation that represents the self-employed, and the Brussels Environmental Council. Travelling food sales is an excellent way for young people to start a business with little funding, the organisations said in a statement. “We are calling for the city to work together with partner organisations like Jobyourself and Microstart to train more Brussels young people in how to start up a food truck,” the statement said.
Stijn Vanheule Psychiatry has always come in for criticism from all corners, but a new wave of controversy has washed over the profession since the publication last year of the DSM-5, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association but used widely worldwide. Critics argue that the new DSM has taken the profession down a dangerous path by, for example, scrapping the definition of Asperger’s Syndrome and changing the definition of posttraumatic stress disorder. Now one of the toughest critiques of the DSM – and of the very basis of its methods – has been penned by Ghent University professor Stijn Vanheule in a new book titled Diagnosis and the DSM: A Critical Review. The DSM has undergone a lot of change in its five editions to date. As Vanheule told De Morgen: “In the 1960s and 1970s, criticism arose regarding the diagnostic methods then in use. Psychiatrists worked with what they called prototypes: wide-ranging descriptions of the symptoms
experienced by patients. Critics argued that this method led to too many differing and subjective diagnoses. The use of checklists – the method on which the DSM is based – was intended to offer a solution to the problem.” However, Vanheule’s book argues that there is evidence to show that the DSM is now less reliable than the old diagnostic method. The core of psychiatric diagnostics, he says, has to be the detailed and thorough observation of a patient within the social, cultural and personal context. The DSM method does the reverse: first determine a diagnosis on the basis of checklists, then turn your attention to the context. One notable example of the failure of checklists is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition diagnosed more and more, with a consequent explosion in medication. The diagnosis is made on the basis of vague notions, Vanheule says. “Restlessness – what is that exactly? Or overactiveness? Those symptoms have to be much more exactly defined. In other words, we have to go back to basics.” `` www.stijnvanheule.psychoanalysis.be
The end of the affair no more. Each is displayed without names and accompanied by an evocative or explanatory text by the donors. Part of the collection is always on tour, most recently to Amsterdam, where it was on show from November to March. The museum is now calling for inspiration from the people of Belgium. If you want to put your tender, bleeding heart on show at the visitors’ centre of the European Parliament, visit the museum
website and fill out a form. Be warned: you won’t get your objects back afterwards. Past pieces in the travelling show have included a Taser, a toy caterpillar and teapots. The museum helpfully provides some examples on show in Zagreb, including a postcard left behind by the unfortunate suitor of an Armenian girl whose parents declined the offer and a wedding dress from Berlin, the last remnant of a marriage that started in Greece and ended in rancour. Donations will be accepted until 18 May, and the exhibition opens on 16 June. © Museum of Broken Relationships
Misery loves company, they say, and judging by the pop music industry, nothing appeals to people more than wallowing in someone else’s shattered dreams or broken heart. It’s hard to imagine all the consumers of popular music are personally bearing the scars of the memories of what love could be, but if you are, an exhibition later in the year at the Parlementarium in Brussels may be of interest. The exhibition comes from the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia, which is built around the universal feeling of love and its loss. The museum was the brainchild of artists Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic, after their own relationship came to an end. The collection is made up of objects left over from a relationship that is
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a p r i l 2 3 , 2014
Towns with less than 15,000 residents asked to merge Internal Affairs department wants Flanders’ smaller cities to voluntarily fuse by 2019 Anja Otte
© Courtesy Wikimedia
he Flemish department for Internal Affairs has handed over a report on the merger of smaller municipalities to the Flemish Parliament. The department suggested that the merging of neighbouring cities with less than 15,000 residents could start after the 2018 local elections and be completed by early 2019. Municipalities targeted by the plan would be asked to merge on their own initiative. The report states that town administrations could be run more efficiently and that some financial difficulties could be solved.
Belgium is one of the few countries where the king bestows official titles of nobility upon citizens of great merit. These titles come with no extra benefits and are not hereditary, but they are considered a great honour. Last week King Filip announced the new titles. Antwerp designer Axel Enthoven; climate expert Jean-Pascal van Ypersele de Strihou; Hamid Aït Abderrahim, vice-CEO of the Study Center for Nuclear Energy; and Nordin Maloujahmoum, president of the Muslim Executive, can now call themselves Grand Officer in the Order of the Crown. The new Commanders in the Order of Leopold, meanwhile, are child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens and genetics expert Jean-Jacques Cassiman, both of whom are also professors at the University of Leuven. Flemish historian Sophie De Schaepdrijver, who specialises in the First World War and European history at Pennsylvania State University in the US; Naima Charkaoui, president of the Brussels-based Minorities Forum; and Antwerp choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui are from now on Commander in the Order of the Crown. Johan Swinnen, former ambassador to
Rwanda; Serge Brammertz, prosecutor of the Yugoslavia Tribunal and Jean-Pierre Hansen, president of NMBS Logistics, were knighted by the king, while Herman Daems, president of BNP Paribas-Fortis, and women’s rights activist Jennie Vanlerberghe, founder of the Ypres-based Mothers for Peace and especially active in Afghanistan, can call themselves baron and baroness, respectively. Paul Buysse, president of steel wire producer Bekaert, who already carried the title of baron and is a friend of the king, has been promoted to count. The title for mining tycoon George Forrest, grand officer in the Order of the Crown, was immediately called into question by NGOs and politicians. Forrest, who employs 30,000 people in Congo, has been accused of state corruption in the African country. He has been criticised by the UN, the OECD, the Belgian Senate and a number of Belgian non-profits. 11.11.11, the Flemish umbrella of development organisations, has challenged the title for Forrest. Political party N-VA, meanwhile, called the whole tradition of bestowing royal titles “a medieval practice”. AO
Not all the smaller cities welcome a merger. “Being bigger does not automatically make a town well governed,” said Luc Martens, president of the Organisation of Flemish Cities and Municipalities. When Belang van Limburg asked mayors of 23 smaller municipalities in Limburg whether they would merge with neighbouring municipalities, only one in five reacted positively to the idea. Most of the opponents cite having a close relationship with citizens as a reason not to merge.
Record subsidies for sewage projects in Flanders Joke Schauvliege, Flanders’ environment minister, has agreed to a subsidy programme for sewage projects, increasing the designated budget by one-quarter to €138 million. The investment is to improve water quality in rivers and streams so Flanders can meet European requirements. The 281 projects will bring sewers to remote areas and replace outdated sewage infrastructure. The total cost of
New royal titles bestowed
Internal Affairs suggests that the government of Flanders offer larger city administrations more means as a way to encourage merging. The report also states that governments could be decentralised, with merged communities taking on some of the tasks of the provinces. Parliament will not decide on the mergers before the May elections, though the situation will be discussed during government formation talks afterwards. In the meantime, the municipalities are being asked to audit their own administrative effectiveness.
the projects is €542 million, as streets and pavements will also be improved during the works. The Flemish Region, however, only covers the cost of actual sewage works.
In more remote areas it is sometimes cheaper to provide households with individual water purification systems; 554 such installations have been approved for funding, for a maximum of €2,250 each. The amount of wastewater treated in Flanders rose from 71% in 2008 to 80% in 2013. More investment is needed, however, to meet the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive. AO
Vilvoorde rejects memorial plaque The city council of Vilvoorde has decided to decline a plaque from the federal government, meant to be added to the city’s war memorials to mark the centenary of the First World
War, because it bears the name of defence minister Pieter De Crem. “We don’t understand why the name of a minister needs to be on the plaque,” said alderman for education Jo De Ro.
“Remembrance is separate from politics, and for that reason we have rejected the offer.” About 70 other municipalities in Belgium with memorials have accepted the gift. Alan Hope
Sandy Evrard, the mayor of the small village of Mesen in southern West Flanders on the border with France, expressed his anger last week at colleagues from other First World War cities in the province. The statements were brought on by the launch of a special war tour bus that will take in some of the most important First World War sites but will not stop in Mesen (or Messines, as it is known in English). “The people of Ypres seem to think the whole war took place over there,” Evrard said. The bus will travel from Nieuwpoort on the coast, to Diksmuide and Ypres and back several times a day to allow tourists to visit all the
© Courtesy www.wijtschaete.com
Mesen mayor accuses Ypres of stealing away war tourism
major First World War sites. Evrard claimed that the bus tour was his idea originally: He had hoped for a route between Lille and Ypres, with
some stops to the south of Ypres, including Mesen. “They stole my idea and left Mesen out,” he said. The Open VLD mayor suggested that
the plan was a conspiracy of CD&V mayors in the other cities. Mesen is best known for the 1917 Battle of Messines Ridge, when English and Irish regiments hoped to retake the tiny city, strategically located on a hill, from the Germans. Some of the battle’s shell explosions are believed to have been felt as far away as London. The Pool of Peace, a crater made by such an explosion, later filled with water (pictured), is a permanent reminder of the battle. Historians note, however, that the Battle of Messines Ridge mostly took place in Wijtschate, which is home to the Pool of Peace and part of neighbouring Heuvelland. Nearby Ploegsteert in Wallonia is
also known for the 1914 Christmas truces, during which British and German soldiers fraternised and played football. Michel Platini, president of the Union of European Football Associations, will visit the area, including Mesen, later this year, but first he will deliver a speech – in Ypres. “Are we going to steal each other’s remembrances?” Evrard asked. Jan Durnez, the CD&V mayor of Ypres, responded to Evrard: “Where the First World War is concerned, Ypres comes to mind first. But let’s not start a war on the remembrance. There is no point in that.” AO
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New York state of mind Adopted Gentenaar reflects on starting again from scratch in the US `` continued from page 1
album to rave reviews from the Flemish press, drawing ever-bigger crowds at concerts and festivals in France, Spain and the Netherlands with his radio-friendly Latin-infused pop. With success, a slow creep of restlessness also set in. Increasingly, Rios felt a disconnect between his popular album tracks, which required him to perform with a band, and the stripped-down songs he actually wanted to write. “Can I play for half an hour by myself, or do I need these seven or eight people behind me?” he would wonder. Epiphany struck when he sold out the Vorst Nationaal concert hall in Brussels two nights in a row in 2007. Seconds before the curtain went up, something started itching. Having lived in Flanders for more than 10 years, Rios didn’t want to amuse the audience in the guise of a suave Latin entertainer, which felt like both a pose and a straitjacket. “I realised immediately: ‘That’s not who I am,’” he said, looking back. “I realised that I had successfully portrayed an image that people were buying tickets to come and see. I got nervous because I thought: ‘Do I have to do this from now on?’”
Creative crisis In the following weeks, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that he had hit a dead end. He became convinced that he would never be able to write new songs in Spanish while living between the pastures and cows in the Ghent suburbs of De Pinte. What followed was a one-year creative crisis punctuated by several attempts at reinvention. He travelled to LA to record an album with Beastie Boys producer Money Mark, which he shelved after two weeks, deciding it didn’t sound like the album he had had in mind. Soon after, he dismissed the band that had long backed him up during festival performances. In another attempt to jump-start his tours, he hit the theatre circuit to play intimate sets with jazz virtuoso Jeff Neve and percussionist Kobe Proesmans. These acoustic sessions led to his fourth album, The Dangerous Return, in which his trademark summery, computerdriven tunes made way for edgy pop songs spiralling out into rock, big band and jazz. Finally, he decided a physical move would help him shed the shell of the artist he no longer was. So after 15 years, he moved from Flanders to start afresh in New York (as a Puerto Rican, he had an American passport), moving in with his then girlfriend, model and actress Delfine Bafort. Rios crashed and burned. His relationship with Bafort ended after just a couple of months in the city. In the three years he spent in New York, there were no breakthroughs in the local music industry – no record deals, no album releases, no
Rios’ huge success in Flanders led to a slow creep of restlessness, which he treated with a move to New York
breakout performances. His only income sprang from a bimonthly residency at Rockwood Music Hall, with audience members kicking in chump change after performances. In Flanders, Rios had a manager, publicist, record label and several booking agents; in New York, he had to hustle his music like any would-be singer-songwriter – a turn of events he struggled to adapt to. “I lack this drive to go to places, network with people, talk to people and bullshit,��� he told me, running his hand through his thick, pitchblack hair. The times he tried it, even his voice sounded weird. “It’s like dancing to techno, I don’t know how to move to that,” he said. “And I think it’s too late; I’m too old to start.” In fact, his Flemish career is the only thing standing between Rios and the hard-knock life of aspiring artists in New York. Rios never cut all ties, regularly taking the eight-hour flight back to perform, to stay for four days, or even just a weekend. “I go whenever I have a couple of shows that pay well,” he said. “Because that’ll guarantee me a couple more months of living here.” When New Yorkers ask Rios what he does for a living, he explains he’s a Puerto Rican musician who used to live in Belgium. If they press on, he adds that his career in Europe allows him to pay his bills in the US. But he won’t be vulgar about it. “I never tell them that it went really well and
that I’m really proud of it,” he said. “I don’t play that card on people.” Even Rios’ band members didn’t know the exact details of his parallel European career. Dustin Kaufman, his drummer, was embarrassed to admit his ignorance. “Yeah, I should probably look that up,” he said. “I know he was the man, right?” But after his arrival in New York, Rios’ attitude to success became
He took them off quickly. In his second year in the city, Rios gradually began to reconsider the idea of landing a record deal or finding a US agent to represent him. When his manager invited industry people to his Rockwood gigs, he felt uncomfortable performing new songs, which still felt like works in progress. Eventually he just gave up on the idea of a breakthrough,
It makes me really nervous to be a ‘somebody’ “bigger isn’t better.” If he could write a couple of really good songs, make a living performing them and have enough of an audience to tour a little, he would be a happy man. “I don’t know what ‘making it’ really means,” he said, perched on a rock in a park a couple of blocks from his apartment. “If you convert what you’re doing into a brand, into a catchphrase, it usually tends to plateau, and you ride that thing.” Wearing a scruffy leather jacket, faded jeans and brown Converse sneakers, he absent-mindedly looked at the Sunday hustle and bustle of the park. Only his dark brown Giorgio Armani sunglasses hinted at his former pop-star cool.
deciding that creating songs for his new album was enough. All things considered, Rios doesn’t regret making the transatlantic leap. When he walks around the noisy, jam-packed streets of Chinatown, he feels like he’s where he needs to be. That happiness derives in large part from being one in eight million. “It makes me really nervous to be a ‘somebody’,” he said, “because a ‘somebody’ means that you’re gonna
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be constricted; there is an image of who that ‘somebody’ is.” On the night of the performance at Rockwood, several Flemings were in the audience. When Rios prefaced a song about moving to New York with the confession that he lived in a Belgian city called Ghent for 15 years, a handful of audience members cheered. Tourists visiting from Flanders and Flemings who live in the tri-state area often show up to Rios’ New York gigs. But those fans were never hurdles to his artistic rebirth, maddening reminders of the sound he had gradually let go off. “It’s not like they’re chanting like: ‘play this song, play that song,” he noted, emphasising that it was the Latin performer image, not the fans, that he wanted to get away from. Instead, roughing it in the city seems to have instilled in Rios a new appreciation for his Flemish audience. “From living here and looking back, it becomes clearer what I have there,” he said, his voice sinking to a whisper. “I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to lose that at all.”
Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 23, Ghent www.vooruit.be
Two Flemish beers picked up gold medals at the World Beer Cup in the US city of Denver. The top awards went to Oude Kriek from brewer Boon, now owned by Palm, in the category Belgian-Style Sour Ale; and to Rodenbach Vintage 2011 by Rodenbach, also now owned by Palm, in the category Wood- and BarrelAged Sour. The competition involved more than 4,750 beers from 1,400 breweries in 58 countries. Belgium was represented by 89 beers.
LogisticsH Essers The logistics group will create 400 new jobs in the next five to seven years at its headquarters in Genk, where the company is investing €50 million in its pharmaceuticals division. The expansion includes 72,000 square metres of new warehouses. H Essers has also been named as one of the companies interested in taking over part of Ford Genk site, which closes in December.
MediaMediahuis Staff at Mediahuis, the joint venture involving Corelio and Concentra newspapers, have accepted a social accord proposed by management in a vote taken last week. The agreement covers the 138 jobs that will disappear as a result of the fusion last year and includes a bridging pension from the age of 55. Mediahuis employs 1,200 people.
Theme park Plopsaland Theme park Plopsaland in De Panne on the coast has won this year’s Diamond Theme Park Award for the best amusement park in Europe. Plopsaland shares the award with Efteling in the Netherlands. Plopsaland also won the prizes for the most child-friendly park, best events, best roller coaster and best new attraction. The prize for best animal park was shared by Planckendael in Mechelen and Pairi Daiza in Wallonia, home of the new Chinese pandas.
TelecomsTelenet More than 12,000 Telenet customers have co-signed a letter from consumer organisation Test-Aankoop complaining at the company’s decision to disable older style decoders and make customers buy a new device if they want to continue watching digital TV. The older digiboxes, of which about 100,000 dating from 2005-2009 are still in use, will be disabled in September. Subscribers will be able to buy replacement devices at a discounted price of €79 decoders or €199 for recorders.
Transport minister to discuss arrangement with international app-based taxi Alan Hope
judge in Brussels last week ordered the private taxi service Uber to stop operating or risk a fine of €10,000 for each fare they pick up. The case was brought against the taxi company by local taxi federations. Uber is an internet-based service that allows customers to contact drivers via a smartphone app. The taxis work only through the app service and are not allowed to pick up random passengers on the street. Uber contracts drivers in various cities, whose up-scale cars are privately owned and not marked as taxis. The US-based Uber is opposed by the government of the Brussels-Capital Region because the taxis are not licensed, and drivers are not bound by the regulations imposed on local taxi drivers. According to Brussels transport minister Brigitte Grouwels, Uber represents unfair competition. When the service started operating in Brussels two months ago, Grouwels warned that the drivers were running the risk of having their vehicles impounded – a threat that was realised in early March, when police seized two Uber vehicles in the Elsene district.
“There are 3,000 families in Brussels who are wholly or partly dependent on taxis to earn a living,” Grouwels said. “That’s important. We’re not simply going to throw that away for the sake of a wild new initiative.” The decision of the Brussels commercial court was followed by criticism from some local politicians as well as the European commissioner of the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, who took to Twitter to say she was “totally indignant” at the ruling. On her personal blog, she wrote: “What sort of justice system is this? This ruling has nothing to do with protecting or helping passengers. This is the protection of a taxi cartel.” As Flanders Today went to press, Uber was reported to still be operating in Brussels. Grouwels, meanwhile, called on Uber representatives to join her for talks, suggesting a possible desire to find a compromise. Brussels is not the only city that has had concerns about Uber. Last week, a court in Berlin also outlawed the service. Several American cities have also resisted the service, including New Orleans and Chicago.
In related news, the Flemish Region has warned that anyone using another popular internet service – letting out a spare room to tourists via sites such as Couchsurfing and Airbnb – risks a fine of €250 if they are not licensed by the department Internationaal Vlaanderen (IV). Obtaining a licence involves meeting a number of conditions on fire safety. Anyone renting a room without a licence receives a warning letter and is given a deadline for meeting the conditions.
Port of Antwerp agrees to buy former Opel site After months of negotiations, the Antwerp Port Authority has reached an agreement with General Motors (GM) to buy the site of the former Opel Antwerp factory. The Port Authority will take over the 96-hectare site for “a price in line with the sum proposed by a panel of experts in 2013,” according to a statement. Last year, the two sides were blocked over the price, with the port offering €30 million and GM asking at least €90 million. A court called on the advice of a panel of independent experts, who came up with a compromise of €43.6 million. The exact price now reached has not been revealed, but analysts say it is likely to be close to that figure.
exceptional economic development. The money will, the port said in a statement, “flow back through economic investments in the port area”. GM will also contribute part of the sale price to the fund. The site, the port authority said, is of “inestimable value”, offering “seldom seen possibilities to attract new industry”. The authority will now look for candidate occupants active in some form of manufacturing. “Each project proposal will be evaluated according to the added value it brings to the region,” the statement said. AH
The Port Authority will also pay a sum into the Flemish government’s Hermes Fund for
Lanxess factory will close unless Helicopters over Limburg to strike ends, company warns protect fruit trees from frost Unless a strike at chemical company Lanxess in Zwijndrecht, Antwerp province, comes to an end with an acceptable agreement, the factory will close, the parent company in Germany has warned. “We are devoting all available resources to reaching an agreement as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson said. “But there isn’t much time left.” Unions had been given a deadline of “a couple of weeks,” he said. “We regret that this is the language management is using,” said Inge Paeshuys of the Christian trade union ACV, which is striking with its socialist counterpart, ABVV. “At the moment the talks are aimed at fixing the agreements reached in the sector accord. We should be discussing that.” The plant employs 435 people, and the strike has now lasted seven
weeks. Unions and management are attempting to agree on a new collective labour agreement after the company’s initial proposal was rejected by unions. “The collapse of the collective agreement was used as an excuse by the local representative to call a strike,” Lanxess spokesperson Philippe Van Wassenhove said. “For them it’s all about power.” “It would be better for this kind of communication to stop,” said ABVV representative Patrick Lodewijckx. He said the statement from Germany this week showed that management was “willing to seek a constructive dialogue with workers and unions for a fair solution. That’s positive. We’re more in line with management, in wanting to co-operate on finding a solution that’s good for both parties.” AH
Fruit growers in Limburg were driven to desperate measures last week as some newly blooming fruit trees faced a night of frost. The past winter was unusually mild, leading to early blooms in cherry, pear and apple orchards across the Haspengouw region. Regardless of that, an attack of frost this late in the year is a danger for the trees. Frost can kill off the blossoms, with disastrous consequences for the fruit harvest. Normally, growers use smoke pots, which produce a heavy smoke that hangs close to the ground, providing a protective blanket of warmth. A helicopter can have a similar effect, flying over the trees and using its rotor blades to push warm air towards the ground, helping prevent ground frost from forming. The various measures taken appear
Court orders Uber taxi off the streets of Brussels
© Courtesy Port of Antwerp
week in business
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to have been successful, according to Tom Deckers, a researcher at Limburg’s Fruit Test Centre. “We were expecting worse,” he told De Standaard. “The temperature dropped to -3° on low-lying land, and there was some damage, but nothing serious. It didn’t freeze for long enough and began only around 4.00. But we remain alert. The situation remains critical until the beginning of May.” AH
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When cells collaborate
week in innovation
Discovery of electricity-producing bacteria causes worldwide firestorm Andy Furniere
hen a Danish research team found seabed bacteria that appeared capable of producing electricity during lab experiments on seabed sediment samples in 2010, their discovery was received with much scepticism in the academic world. Filip Meysman, a researcher at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) was equally unconvinced by the notion of electricitygenerating microorganisms. “I was one of those sceptics,” he admits. But when Meysman’s team also noticed a similar phenomenon during lab experiments, the researchers decided to get to the bottom of the matter. In 2012, the project received €1.5 million extra funding for five years through a prestigious European Research Council grant.
The bacteria produce their own biochemical energy to grow and live The VUB and NIOZ marine researchers subsequently identified the so-called “living batteries”, which they believe to be present in seabeds around the world. The discovery of the bacteria, capable of producing and conducting electricity, challenges current biological and chemical principles and could lead to new technology uses for everyday electronic devices, like smartphones. Their previous lab findings indicated that the marine researchers should specifically target spots with sulphide-rich black mud. So to collect material for their analyses, the team gathered sediment samples from seabeds in the North Sea off the coast of Ostend and the Delta area in the Netherlands. Again, they found the same electricity-producing bacteria under the microscope. By examining global archives, the researchers subsequently confirmed the worldwide presence
A seabed sample is hauled up from the North Sea, where the electricity-generating bacteria were found
of the bacteria – from Chile to the Nile Delta region. “The chemical footprint of the bacteria was spotted in several publications, but its presence was put aside because no explanation for it could be imagined,” explains Meysman. “During the preparation of our academic publication, we also had to break through a wall of disbelief and criticism, but the group of believers is growing now, thanks to all the new evidence.” So what do the bacteria actually look like? “White spaghetti-like strings about 100 times thinner than a hair, consisting of tens of thousands of interconnected cells,” says Meysman. “One end of the string goes into the seabed a couple of centimetres deep, where it extracts electrons from the sulphide. These electrons are transported by the co-operating cells, conducting electricity like a battery, and are finally passed on at the other end to the thin oxygen layer at the surface of the seabed. Through this process, the bacteria produce their own biochemical energy to grow and live.” It is the concept of collaboration between the
different cells for energy production that has astonished many researchers, since it conflicts with general biochemical principles. “Cells have always been known to independently take care of their own energy production,” says Meysman. “Each muscle cell in our bodies individually takes electrons from glucose and passes the electrons on to oxygen.” In contrast, he continues, “the cells in the newly discovered bacteria only carry out part of this process, with some cells extracting the electrons while other cells pass the electrons on to oxygen.” A next goal for the team is to figure out how the bacteria succeed in conducting electricity. This could lead to innovative practical applications in seabeds. “There are already engineering projects with instruments to extract electricity from sulphide in the seabed,” says Meysman. “The US marine corp sponsors such research, for instance, with the idea of developing autonomous power for acoustic seabed systems to, say, spy on Russian submarines. By integrating the bacteria in these kinds of projects, such engineered seabed batteries could perhaps be considerably improved.” But the research could also increase the efficiency of applications used in everyday devices, like smartphones and solar panels. “Finding a way to conduct electricity through organic materials is the Holy Grail for nanoelectronics experts,” says Meysman. “Currently, polymers need heavy chemical treatment before they can be used for electricity-conducting fibres.” The scientists are now reaching out to researchers in other disciplines to investigate the possible uses and are also hoping to attract interest from business partners. One of the remaining major challenges is to grow the bacteria on a larger scale and in a more pure condition in laboratories – without the interference of other organisms. “The seabed is like a complex chemical soup,” Meysman explains. “Growing the bacteria in a controlled environment, rather than in their natural context, would make them more easy to analyse.” Together with the pioneering Danish researchers, the Flemish-Dutch team will also be responsible for naming the bacteria. ``www.microbial-electricity.eu
Q&A For her PhD research at the University of Antwerp, Aurélie Weerts examined new medication options for astronauts to relieve space sickness Is space sickness similar to sea sickness? Just like car sickness and sea sickness, it’s indeed a type of motion sickness, with similar symptoms, like dizziness, fatigue and nausea. A difference is that symptoms of space sickness can occur very suddenly after a certain movement of the head, without advance indications. That problem is due to the equilibrium system being unable to detect the gravitational force in space, which alters the communication of signals to the brain. Seventy percent of astronauts suffer from space sickness, and it takes them an average of three days to adjust to conditions.
What are the consequences for astronauts? In the first three days, all astronauts are barred from performing any activities outside the spacecraft because sudden nausea could, for example, put them at risk in challenging situations. Space sickness also affects the cognitive capacities of astronauts, making it more difficult to take decisions in emergency situations. How is space sickness currently being treated? Astronauts now typically get Promethazine, which is the same drug given to anyone who suffers from motion sickness. But research shows very contradictory results for its effectiveness. Furthermore,
Promethazine causes heavy fatigue, which is in turn treated with amphetamines. Because this is far from an ideal situation, I tested alternative drugs during my PhD work at the Antwerp University Research centre for Equilibrium and Aerospace. I selected possible medication options and analysed their effects on trial subjects, who took equilibrium and cognitive tests.
Which medicines showed the best results? Scopolamine, already a well-known medication for motion sickness on Earth and usually administered in pill form or a patch applied behind the ear. I used an innovative Scopolamine nasal spray, however, which becomes effective after half an hour, instead of the usual two hours. This spray is not available in pharmacies yet, but we were able to use it, thanks to contacts with the scientist responsible for its development, who works at NASA. The European Space Agency (ESA) also expressed its support for our research. The next step will hopefully be to test the Scopolamine nasal spray on NASA or ESA astronauts in the International Space Station. Interview by Andy Furniere `` www.tinyurl.com/spacesickness
Leuven and Brussels among top ICT hubs Brussels and Leuven have been included on a new European Commission list that identifies Europe’s top 34 ICT hubs. Leuven finished in 11th and the Brussels-Capital Region in 24th. Leuven also received a special mention as one of the smaller-sized regions that are performing very strongly. Regions in Munich, London and Paris occupied the first three spots. The ranking demonstrates where digital technologies thrive and examines the factors contributing to this success. Key ingredients were found to be access to top universities and research centres, plus funding opportunities such as venture capital. “This is proof that digital success comes through a willingness to invest and an open mind-set for innovation and planning,” said Neelie Kroes, the commissioner responsible for the digital agenda.
€10m for Scheldt heat network Six chemical companies have received €10 million from the government of Flanders for the construction of a heating network in the Waasland area of the port of Antwerp. It will enable four of the companies – Ashland, Monument Chemical, De Neef Chemical Processing and Lanxess – to use the heat produced by incinerators run by the other two, Indaver and Sleco. The total investment for the project is now €25 million. Essenscia, the federation representing the chemical industry and the life sciences, also supports the project, with the De Maatschappij Linkerscheldeoever, which manages the property on the left bank of the Scheldt. The network will allow the companies to, for the most part, stop using their gas boilers and use heat from Indaver and Sleco for their needs.
Two in five rest home residents take 10 pills a day About 44% of elderly people in Flemish rest homes are taking 10 or more prescription medications a day. Similar numbers take between five and nine a day, according to reports from 735 rest homes in Flanders. In some homes, every resident takes 10 or more prescriptions a day, while in others, no resident takes that many. Majda Azermai of the medical faculty at the University of Ghent, who studies the use of medication among the elderly, says: “The older people get, the bigger the chance of side effects. Taking a large number of pills, therefore, does more harm than good.”
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week in education
VUB and Karel Cuypers centre partner up for Flanders’ first humanist archive Simon Van Dorpe © Heritage Images/Corbis
any young Belgians today take abortion or euthanasia rights for granted and might find it hard to imagine that these topics weren’t even open to debate two generations ago. A new initiative wants to preserve the story of the individuals and organisations that, through their continued activism, made these legal milestones possible. With the Centrum voor Academische en Vrijzinnige Archieven (Centre for Academic and Humanist Archives), or CAVA, the Flemish humanist movement now has its own documentation centre. The centre brings together documents and objects that were important in the decades-long struggle for humanist values that fundamentally transformed Flemish society, long under the influence of Catholic dogmatism. CAVA brings together the academic archives of the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and the cultural heritage archives of the Karel Cuypers centre, which collects the newspapers, annual reports and even the clothes of the more than 35 liberal humanist organisations spread across Flanders. The latter include not only study circles and charities, but also a production house as well as youth movements and student fraternities.
A 1908 illustration of Belgian suffragettes upsetting a ballot box
The documents are now being kept in a repository under one of the VUB campus buildings in Etterbeek, in optimal conditions of temperature
and humidity. The archives will be available for consultation by appointment, and the organisers will make important documents available to exhibitions. Although the roots of the humanist approach date back to the Age of Enlightenment, it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that the movement broke through in Belgian society, at a time when the Catholic church started losing influence. “We have relatively little material from the early period,” says CAVA co-ordinator Frank Scheelings. “That’s why we recently organised evenings where people tell their stories, which we then recorded.” Most of the local humanist organisations were founded in the 1970s, when the movement really began blossoming in Flanders. In this period, humanist houses began popping up in different cities across the region. Scheelings points out that the VUB also embraced research that other universities weren’t as eager to engage in for ethical reasons. “The VUB became an authority, with its research on topics like parent abuse and in-vitro fertilisation,” he says. The centre will officially be inaugurated on 8 May. `` www.cavavub.be
Children can speak native languages in Ghent schools Ghent’s education alderwoman Elke Decruynaere (Groen) has adopted a new measure that allows primary school children with foreign roots to speak their first languages among themselves on playgrounds and in classrooms. Many Dutch-language schools in Flanders require children to speak Dutch everywhere on the school premises and penalise those who do otherwise. For Decruynaere, that’s a counterproductive approach. “Because of this ideological obstinacy, many children with a foreign background now leave primary education with a language deficit,” she told De Standaard newspaper. The alderwoman clarified that the purpose of the directive isn’t to teach children in their own
language. But, she said, an 11-yearold Bulgarian child should, for instance, be able to give advice to a younger Bulgarian pupil in their shared native language. “You also shouldn’t punish children because they speak their own language on playgrounds,” she said. The initiative is being applauded by Piet Van Avermaet, a lecturer in multicultural studies at the University of Ghent and director of the university’s Centre for Diversity & Learning. According to Van Avermaet, research shows that children pick up a second language faster when they have first learned to speak their mother tongue fluently. “So the better children of foreign origin know their first language, the faster they will make cognitive links with Dutch,” he says.
Research shows children learn a second language faster when they’ve mastered their mother tongue
Van Avermaet carried out tests in schools where children with a foreign background were allowed to speak their mother tongue on the playground. The scores of these children on Dutch-language tests were similar to those of children in schools with mandatory Dutch. The Ghent measure has also attracted criticism, notably from
N-VA politicians Zuhal Demir and Peter De Roover. In an op-ed published by De Standaard, they said that the measure was essentially “akin to apartheid”. According to the politicians, the measure will cause children to primarily befriend children with the same origins and make it more difficult for teachers to keep control over their classrooms because they won’t understand everything that is being said. Demir and De Roover also feel that more and more children of foreign descent simply see Dutch as their “own language”. For them, these children shouldn’t be treated like foreigners just because their parents or grandparents speak a different language. Andy Furniere
Q&A Criminologist Lieselot Bisschop from the University of Ghent was awarded the Rudi Verheyen prize for her PhD research on crimes against the environment What was the focus of your PhD research? The purpose was to analyse the prevention and monitoring of environmental crimes, specifically illegal e-waste and tropical hardwood traffic between Flanders and West and Central Africa. I examined how e-waste is collected in Flanders, transported from the port of Antwerp to the port of Accra in Ghana and used there. E-waste is a term for electrical or electronic devices – from mobile phones to refrigerators – that are discarded because they are outdated or defective. There is heavy demand for European e-waste in African and Asian countries.
I understand you went to Ghana to see the trade for yourself. Yes, I spent time in particular in Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Accra that has become a sort of dumping ground for e-waste. The processing of legally and illegally imported e-waste – to retrieve metals such as copper – is mostly carried out in unprotected conditions by youngsters and people from minority groups. What are the consequences of this activity? Toxic substances seriously affect the entire ecological environment by polluting water, air and soil, which indirectly contributes to climate change. The health of workers is
lost because legal recyclers are at a disadvantage because of the unfair competition.
threatened because they don’t wear protective clothing. I saw the resulting chemical burns with my own eyes. One youngster told me he could no longer play football because of breathing problems. Research shows that contact with heavy metals can cause anaemia, cancer and birth defects. On an economic level, many natural resources are
Is the illegal traffic of e-waste controlled by organised crime? That is often assumed, but I found that a large variety of actors are involved, from companies like scrap dealers to so-called waste tourists. Waste tourists are, for example, African people here who look for defective devices at thrift shops and send them to Africa in a container or truck. Recently, the Flemish government became the sole body responsible for the monitoring of illegal traffic, where before this used to be a shared responsibility with the federal government. Hopefully, this measure will increase monitoring efficiency. Interview by AF `` www.bit.ly/RhVOvZ
Government backs summer schools As part of the Flemish action plan for student mobility, five Flemish universities and colleges are being given financial support to set up international summer campuses in July and August. These intensive short programmes are open to both Flemish and foreign students, who will be taught by an international staff of lecturers and can acquire credits via the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. According to the education ministry, summer campuses contribute to the internationalisation of Flemish higher education. From 12 applications for support, five have been granted up to €15,000. The programmes are at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), Hasselt University, the University College of Ghent, the University College of West Flanders and Antwerp Management School.
Private sector seniority approved If it passes approval from the Council of State, a new measure would allow professionals who switch from the private sector to nursery, primary and secondary education in Flanders to take up to 20 years of seniority with them. Currently, only a very limited number of new teachers can bring up to 10 years of valid private sector experience with them. Seniority, or previous career experience, influences salaries. The measure applies to professionals who start for the first time in the education sector and those who have returned to it after a maximum of five years’ absence. It is intended for teachers; administrative staff will not benefit. The government of Flanders approved the measure at first reading last week. It will now be discussed with the social partners and presented to the Council of State.
Brussels’ student-friendliness examined The student councils of Brussels University College (HUB), the Free University of Brussels (VUB), Erasmus University College and the Luca school of arts have presented a joint memorandum in the lead-up to the May election. Their goal is to turn Brussels into a student city. The memo focuses on student housing, mobility, party and sports accommodation in the centre, Brussels’ negative reputation as a student city and the need for a central contact point. One of the key demands is the creation of a minister of student affairs, as VUB suggested in its own memorandum last month. AF
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week in activities Leuven Beer Weekend The biggest Belgian beer event in Europe, Zythos Beer Festival, is the main draw during a weekend full of beer happenings. Admission is free; rent a glass and buy tokens for 15cl tastings of 500 beers. Other activities in and around Leuven include brewery tours, beer walks and bike tours, beer talks (in English) and cooking workshops. 26 & 27 April, Brabanthal, Brabantlaan 1, Leuven ``www.zbf.be
Night of the Great Thirst Kick off the weekend with the International Gueuze and Kriek Festival Payottenland, aka The Night of the Great Thirst. Twelve Belgian breweries will conduct tastings of the spontaneously fermented beers that are unique to this region. Free shuttle from Ternat and Denderleeuw stations. 25 April, 19,00, Frans Baetensstraat 45, Eizeringen ``www.geuzegenootschap.be
Festival at the Sea This free music festival on the Belgian coast includes lots of other entertainment and activities for all ages. 26 & 27 April, on the beach and sea dyke in De Panne, free ``www.dranouteraanzee.be
Flemish Ardennes Day The Flemish Education and Training Centre for Nature and Environment in East Flanders is the starting point for a wealth of activities for young and old during this celebration of the geographically rich region known as the Flemish Ardennes. Guided walks, children’s workshops, information stands, local products and beer tastings. 27 April, 8.00-18.00, free, De Helix, Hoogvorst 2, Grimminge ``www.vlaamseardennendag.be
Antwerp Convention Antwerp’s only convention for fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror, including comic books, computer and board games, cosplay, movies, manga and more. Meet Colin Baker – the sixth Doctor – and other celebrity guests. Also interviews, panels, screenings, tournaments, fan clubs and competitions. 27 April, 10.0018.00, Antwerp Expo, Jan van Rijswijcklaan 191 ``www.antwerpconvention.be
Guided blossom walk This 10-kilometre walk starts at the station in Sint-Truiden and includes a tour and tasting at brewery and distillery Wilderen. 25 April, 14.00, €8, reserve via 011 70 18 18 ``http://tinyurl.com/guided-blossom-walk
Heritage Day 101 All you need to know to make the most of the annual Flemish heritage party Denzil Walton
veryone in Flanders knows that the first Sunday after the Easter holidays is Heritage Day. But if you’ve recently arrived in Flanders from a different planet, here’s our guide to this special day.
How does Heritage Day differ from Open Monument Day? Heritage Day focuses both on the movable (objects) and the intangible (stories, traditional techniques and skills) and thus differs from Open Monument Day, which concentrates on architecture and other immovable heritage. Isn’t Heritage Day mainly for older, nostalgic people? Not at all. Heritage Day brings history alive for children. They can do more than just read about the past; they can visit places, examine ancient artefacts, smell old documents, listen to music from the past, even taste food that their ancestors used to eat. This year’s programme contains more family-orientated events than ever before. What can we learn from all this? Heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, and economic legacies. These are the things that make us who we are. We learn from our past in order to achieve greater influence over our future. Heritage Day helps us understand who we are now, what we are to become and what we should avoid. Everyday decision-making made around the world is based on what came before. What’s this year’s theme?
Conversations with monks, 26 April, 10.00 & 14.00; 27 April, 14.00, Abdij Zevenkerken, Zevenkerken 4 Monks from the Sint-Andries Abbey describe their personal interpretations of the theme Grenzeloos. You will gain insight into the abbey, abbey life and the world of monks today – a world that is both limited and limitless. Interactions between monks and visitors will make this event even more fascinating. Reservation required.
What is Heritage Day? It’s an opportunity for everyone in Flanders to interact with the cultural heritage in their daily environment in a contemporary, qualitative and meaningful manner. It’s a chance for every one of us to discover cultural heritage as something valuable and relevant. So, what, that’s castles and museums? It certainly does include castle and museums, but much more. In fact, Heritage Day involves 515 organisations, including archives, churches, documentation centres, libraries, folk groups, cultural clubs, youth organisations, universities and schools. Together they are opening their doors to the public, with 680 activities throughout Flanders and Brussels.
Heritage Day highlights
Grenzeloos – Without Borders. It’s been chosen to challenge our preconceptions about heritage and break down possible barriers or misconceptions. For example, 2014 marks 50 years since Moroccan and Turkish migration began, following the bilateral agreements of 1964. Why not celebrate this and its effect on Flanders? This year also marks 40 years since Islam was recognised as an official religion in Belgium. That’s more than enough reason to go on a quest for Islamic religious and cultural heritage in Flanders and Brussels. Grenzeloos also lends itself to all sorts of surprising heritage: tourism, twinning, circus and fairground history, cartography, colonialism, smuggling and customs, carrier pigeons, the internet. In short, 2014 is a Heritage Day that knows no boundaries! Where should I start? The full programme for the day can be found on the website. It’s divided into provinces so you can easily check out what’s happening near you. If you’re overwhelmed by the choice, see our recommendations below. All take place on 27 April unless otherwise stated.
Heritage Day Across Flanders
Exhibitions, Bozar, Ravensteinstraat 23 & SintGorikshallen, Sint-Goriksplein 23 The Miras 50 project focuses on the heritage of Turkish migrants to Flanders, while Dakira celebrates the evolution of the Moroccan community in Belgium. Both are within the context of the bilateral labour agreement signed in February 1964.
Ghent Guided tour: The Executioner and the Pain Threshold (16+), multiple times throughout the day, Gravensteen, Sint-Veerleplein 11 Was medieval law as cruel as we think? Were suspects routinely tortured to extract confessions? Discover the truth about the horrific torture of the middle ages in the Museum of Judicial Objects at the Gravensteen Castle.
Leuven Walking/cycling tour: Fleeing from Leuven in August 1914, 11.00 & 15.00, Martelarenplein At the beginning of the First Word War, refugees from Liège and Tienen sought refuge in Leuven. Soon, however, they were on the road again, fleeing along with many of the city’s residents. Some returned after the war, but others ended up in West Flanders, France, the Netherlands or the UK. Choose a walk through the city or a bike ride in the environs to discover their stories. Reservation required.
Mechelen Demonstration: Boundless Communication Past and Present, Lamot, Van Beethovenstraat 8 Morse telegraphy has now disappeared from official services, but long before the advent of the internet, telegraphy was the only way to easily pass information across borders. Mechelen’s Radio Amateurs Club shows you the history of this form of communication and will teach you how to send and receive telegraph messages. Robyn Boyle
The asparagus bus Asparagus is one of Flanders’ most soughtafter spring vegetables, and the white version is popping up on farms across the region from May until mid-June. To enjoy the tasty stalks, you can take home a bunch from the supermarket and prepare them with hollandaise sauce or Flemish style, with eggs, butter and parsley. Or you can take a ride on the asparagus bus. The Limburg village of Kinrooi may be small but it knows how to show off its biggest attribute: white asparagus. Last year it launched the asparagus bus tour, which returns this season due to resounding success. Passengers on the bus spend an afternoon and evening getting to know the plant, seeing where and how it grows and, of course, tasting it in several different preparations. First, visitors are treated to a warm welcome with coffee and asparagus pralines before filing into a room filled with asparagus paraphernalia to watch a short film about the vegetable.
Van zaadje tot plant (From Seed to Plant) offers a fascinating underground glimpse of the asparagus’ development. It explains, for instance, that the only difference between green and white asparagus is a little sunlight. Then, it’s all aboard the asparagus bus for a scenic tour of Kinrooi and its surrounding farmland. Stops along the way include a farm where visitors take a tour of the fields, try their
hand at picking the “white gold” and hear a farmer explain the laborious process of washing and sorting. A guided visit to a working windmill in Molenbeersel and a chocolate producer round out the tour, but not before visitors have enjoyed an asparagus-loaded three-course meal at a local restaurant. The menu at ’t Stampertje, for example, offers eight asparagus dishes, including a Flemish version with ham or smoked salmon. At Oppenhof, the asparagus come grilled, au gratin, with different types of fish or just “classic”. They even have asparagus ice cream for dessert, topped with strawberries, roasted almonds and… asparagus. The asparagus bus runs on Fridays, from 2 May to 13 June, 13.00-18.30.The tour costs €35 per person, excluding drinks at dinner; reservations required on 089.56.47.36 or vvvkinrooi@skynet. be. `` www.toerismekinrooi.be
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Medieval port adventures Comic celebrates history of Antwerp’s port as work continues on world’ largest lock Marc Maes
he world’s biggest lock is being built at the port of Antwerp’s Deurganck dock, and there’s a new comic strip to mark the achievement. De Havengeest (The Habour Ghost) takes readers back to the fifth century, to the very beginnings of what has become one of the world’s leading ports. The main character, Sylvester – the name refers to the mythological Roman soldier
With little material available about the port in the fifth century, I let my imagination take the lead Silvius Brabo, killer of the giant Antigoon, who guarded the Scheldt – is based on illustrator Jan Bosschaert’s 17-year-old son. While exploring the dredging works for the new Deurganck lock, Sylvester finds an antique jar containing a ghost that transports him back in time. “The idea was to explain the importance of the Deurganck lock to the readers,” says the strip’s author, Peter Van Gucht. “And, in the same story, to boost public awareness about the port’s investments and continuing expansion. We were given carte blanche, so we broadened the horizon and instead of concentrating on the lock and its impact on business and the environment, we used the whole port history as an inspirational background.” Van Gucht and Bosschaert were commissioned by the Port Authority to produce a comic strip based on the past, future and overall economic impact of the port. The pair have impressive careers both in their own right and occasionally
as a duo: Van Gucht is head of the editorial team for the Suske en Wiske comics, and Bosschaert is a comic strip designer and illustrator. It took the pair about a year to complete the comic; once the basic script was ready, Bosschaert started to draw. “With little archaeological material or knowledge available about the port in the fifth century, I allowed my imagination to take the lead,” he says. “What a great gift for a comic designer like me!” According to Van Gucht, as well as being a visually attractive and educational story, De Havengeest is an archetypal comic strip – a mix of humour and adventure. “But the bottom line is that the port of Antwerp is a source of prosperity,” he says. The book also includes an explanatory section about the construction and technical operation of the new lock. “De Havengeest focuses on the consequences of the on-going expansion of the port, the budget and the social debate,” says port alderman Marc Van Peel. “And the key question: Is it worth the investment and the sacrifice of open space?” Forty thousand copies of De Havengeest will be available for young visitors to the port pavilion at the MAS Museum, the Lillo Port Centre and on guided tours of the construction of the Deurganck lock. The final excavations near the Waasland canal are now being carried out. “Since we started the project 30 months ago, we have moved three million cubic metres of soil and replaced it with 400,000 cubic metres of concrete,” explains engineer Freddy Aerts, head of the Flemish government’s maritime access division. “The lock doors and bridges are being manufactured in Shanghai; their arrival in Antwerp next spring will be an event to look out for.” Construction of the Deurganck lock is on schedule, with the opening planned for September of 2015. `` www.deurganckdoksluis.be Peter Van Gucht (left) and Jan Bosschaert relay the history of the port of Antwerp in the new comic strip De Havengeest
Antwerp welcomes world’s equestrian elite
orses were once a common sight in Antwerp and its port, where the animals were used to transport goods from quay to road. Now, the only stallions to be seen are the gentle Belgian draft horses that pull carriages full of tourists through the historical city centre. This weekend, however, Antwerp will be invaded by their sleeker and faster cousins, as the elite jumping event known as the Longines Global Champions Tour takes over the industrial area around Waagnatie along the river Scheldt. The tour is the Grand Prix of showjumping, an equestrian sport that involves a rider and a horse completing an obstacle course. The four-day Champions Tour of Antwerp kickstarts the international jumping season, culminating in the finale in Qatar in November. It’s a great chance to see the best riders in the country – and the world – at work in an unsurpassed location. The ground around the hangars known as Waagnatie on the north side of Antwerp, bordering the port, is a busy free car park throughout the year. For the space to be used as a sports venue is quite original: Just
imagine seeing horses jump against the backdrop of Antwerp’s quays and cranes. Jumping fans, however, will know that it’s not a first. The local organisation Jumping Antwerp has hosted its annual competition here for the last six years as a revival of the event of the same name held at the Sportpaleis arena between 1973 and 1995. The luxurious setup and sensational setting quickly turned Jumping Antwerp into an internationally renowned event. That was reason enough for Dutchman Jan Tops, founder and president of the Longines Global Champions Tour, to add the city to his list for the first time this year. So Jumping Antwerp is now part of the prestigious Longines event. “The tour will be making its debut in Antwerp, Shanghai and Paris this year,” says Tops, himself an Olympic medal winner. “The 2014 season looks set to be groundbreaking for the tour and will once again set the benchmark
Jumping Antwerp is now part of the Longines Global Champions Tour of elite riders
for elite-level showjumping. Our goal is always to bring the sport we love to more and more people in new parts of the world, and it gives me real pleasure to see this becoming a reality.” Tops hopes to draw large crowds in Antwerp, as he insists jumping should not be seen as an elitist affair. Yes, there is a VIP tent, but truly everyone is welcome at the event – even those who aren’t interested in horses, since it’s as much a lifestyle events as a sports one. The organisation is betting on all of the city’s strong points. Expect fashion shows, demonstrations by diamond cutters, a showcase of classic cars and a gin bar. So put on your spurs and gallop over to Waagnatie for this five-star equestrian festival. Or arrive in style by horse-drawn carriage. Catherine Kosters
Rijnkaai 150, Antwerp
Mediterranean 23 kg baggage and unlimited romance
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Book until 5 May 2014 - Travel between 1 July and 31 October 2014
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Not your usual suspects Knokke-Heist’s annual festival puts a young generation of photographers in the spotlight Tom Peeters
The chosen photographers had to combine good technique with an idiosyncratic vision “Photography gets a lot of attention these days, also in the general media,” says Van Vlaenderen. “But mostly you only get to see the usual suspects.” By offering 11 lesser-known talents a platform to show their work, the curators of Unknown Masterpieces hope they
© Veerle Scheppers
his year’s International Photo Festival Knokke-Heist again offers a handful of thought-provoking exhibitions, but, unlike in previous editions, there is no contest for local talent. “The formula was worn out,” says Stephane Verheye, co-curator with Freddy Van Vlaenderen of the Unknown Masterpieces show on view this year. “It’s bizarre. Every year, we got more entries for the contest,” Verheye says, looking back. “But while the quantity went up, the quality went down.” His fellow curator blames it on the digitisation and democratisation of the medium. “We received more and more inferior digital images, made by recreational photographers lacking a real vision,” says Van Vlaenderen. So the two men decided to change course and become more pro-active. Verheye visited photography students and graduates in art schools, while Van Vlaenderen, also president of the Centrum voor Beeldexpressie (Centre for Visual Expression), concentrated on selftaught photographers. Together they selected a mix of new talent and autodidacts. “We started from a blank page,” Verheye explains. “The chosen photographers had to combine good technique with an idiosyncratic vision.” The pair were also keen on showing different styles, so not just still lifes, say, or documentary photography. “We were lucky since the photographers we really liked already represented this broad range,” says Verheye.
Veerle Scheppers’ “Expectations 2012” tries to capture the lost innocence of young girls
can help the artists launch long-term careers. Van Vlaenderen also distinguishes one additional selection criteria – social relevance. All the photographers communicate a message about the society in which they are living. Take self-taught Jef Paepen from Wuustwezel, Antwerp province, at 59 the eldest artist included in the selection. In his “Inner State” series, Paepen made digital alterations for the first time, but only to maximise the scale of the images, making the naked female models he photographed in his studio look even smaller and more isolated, like a faraway cry. “As you take a closer look at the expression on their faces, you notice they are trying to hold the walls around them,” Van Vlaenderen says. These burdensome walls are meant to symbolise today’s societal pressures and at the same time criticise the overregulation people are confronted with. “The idea was to capture the smallness of
humanity,” Paepen tells me. “These women are detained by their state of mind and their surroundings.” In Paepen’s work, the nude body becomes a metaphor for nature, life and freedom. The contrast between the women’s stately and angular gestures and the unnatural expression on their faces is striking. “We try to be free, but it feels as if we don’t get the space for that anymore,” the artist says. This lack of freedom seems to run counter to the message proffered by most of the young photographers in Unknown Masterpieces. They find comfort in portraying the desolation, even the triviality, of humanity, without shouldering the weight of the generation of
Until 9 June
photographers that came before them. “I was flabbergasted by the ease with which the younger generation throws away unnecessary ballast,” Van Vlaenderen says. “What used to be an obstacle for us was self-evident for them.” In Unknown Masterpieces, he continues, “we leave the ‘Yes, but …’ behind”. The academy-trained artists especially seemed to easily free themselves from irrelevant rules, without giving up their idiosyncrasy. “This don’t-give-a-damn attitude shows their real potential,” says Verheye. The work of Julie Scheurweghs is illustrative. Examining the intimate relationship between people and their cameras, the Ostend-born, Brussels-based photographer asks questions about the codes of photography itself against the backdrop of a society that sees photos as an extension of people’s personality. “Her selfies in the bathroom mirror are not trivial, but fit inside a strong conceptual vision,” explains Van Vlaenderen. For the Knokke-Heist show, Scheurweghs, 26, created more than one series of photos. A wall covered with prints she found on the street functions as a metaphor for what happens to our photos when we separate them from their natural habitat on a digital platform. The intriguing images of remote, snow-covered landscapes by Ghent-based Maroesjka Lavigne grab you in a different way. With one peculiar, colourful and “perfect” object often at the centre – a bus, a house, a crane – the photos the 25-year-old took during a five-month stay in Iceland have a universal appeal, with each of them making you wonder what’s inside, each of them underlining the fascinating relation between humans and nature. Veerle Scheppers from Leuven likes to take photos of young, vulnerable-looking girls in their bedrooms. But don’t be mistaken: this imaginary world that tries to capture the girls’ innocence was staged in her studio. Scheppers, 25, says she wanted to capture the children’s gaze because they lay bare their souls. In a world in which the ubiquity of new technologies and excessive parental expectations is increasing, she asked herself: Can children still be children?
Cultural Centre Scharpoord Meerlaan 32, Knokke-Heist
From 11 May, the traveling World Press Photo ’14 exhibition will also be on display at the International Photo Festival Knokke-Heist. Until then, the “international” in the festival’s title will be honoured by the African continent. And that’s a pleasant surprise since curator Christophe De Jaeger has selected 16 top photographers who work from or visited Africa for the outdoor Haute Africa exhibition. The photographers on view all take a closer look at the hybrid of colours and mixed emotions the continent’s dress codes pack. Post-colonialism doesn’t always oppose Westernisation, you’ll notice. Wealthy people pose in front of the lens of British Magnum photographer Martin Parr at
© Baudouin Mouanda
An African dress parade heeled passers-by. Other outdoor locations are also spot-on. When you stroll around IJzer Park, it feels like you’re literally bumping into Jim Naughten’s brightly coloured and razor-sharp portraits of Herero tribe members, dressed in clothes reminiscent of Namibia’s old colonial regime. The beach and the sea offer a cool background for the sapeurs series of both Congolese photographer Baudouin Mouanda and his Spanish colleague Héctor Mediavilla. You’re immediately struck by the different attitudes of the African
and European artist towards their dandy subjects. The second observes a distance through a more documentary approach, while the first emphasises movements and the moment. An antidote to the exuberance of the sapeur colours can be found in the simple black-and-white portraits of young lesbian women from townships in South Africa. For artist Zanele Muholi, exhibiting them in a church represents the ultimate freedom of expression. Compelling.
Baudouin Mouanda’s photographs of Congolese sapeurs emphasise movement and the moment
the Durban horse races, just as socialites do at similar events in Dubai or the UK. Here, Parr’s
installation on Rubensplein, close to the waterfront, serves as a mirror for Knokke’s notoriously well-
Until 9 June
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Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui wins Olivier Award Antwerp choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has won an Olivier Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the world for a stage production, for his piece Puz/zle. The choreography examines how we perceive – rightfully or mistakenly – the way things fit together to form identities. The annual awards, name after Laurence Olivier, honour the best in theatre and dance onstage in London the previous year. Puz/zle won for best new production. This is Cherkaoui’s third Olivier; he won two in 2011 for his production of Babel. Cherkaoui is an associate choreographer at London’s Sadler’s Wells Dance House. `` www.east-man.be
Cartoon’s celebrates re-opening with party Cartoon’s in Antwerp is celebrating its re-opening this weekend with a Grand Opening featuring special screenings and talks. The long-time independent cinema in the city centre near the waterfront declared bankruptcy last autumn, but the Ghentbased Lumière cinema group and the Dutch Wild Bunch film distributor took it over, spruced it up and re-opened the doors a few weeks ago. The celebration on 26 April includes non-stop screenings of new films from 14.00 to midnight, incuding Danish director Mikkel Norgaard’s The Keeper of Lost Causes and American Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves. In the cinema’s café – open for the first time in eight years – people who work both in front of and behind the camera are on hand to share their experiences and gossip on topics such as what new Flemish films we can expect this year and which local actors are going to make a splash. There are also free refreshments, a film quiz, cocktails for happy hour and a closing party. `` www.cinemacartoons.be
British fashion mag Dazed devoted to Belgium Flemish actors Veerle Baetens and Matthias Schoenaerts are each featured on special edition covers of the landmark British fashion magazine Dazed. The spring/summer issue is dedicated to “fashion rebels” and was shot by Flemish fashion photographer Willy Vanderperre. It also includes an unprecedented 50-page special dedicated to Belgian fashion, also shot by Vanderperre. Antwerp designer Walter Van Beirendonck and Limburg actor Matteo Simoni (Marina) both appear in the spread, as does Flemish designer Raf Simons, creative director of Dior. `` www.dazeddigital.com
“Rough, but very beautiful” Cinema meets performance art in new Flemish film Drift Ian Mundell
rief is a difficult emotion to capture on screen, but Flemish film Drift succeeds through an inspired combination of narrative cinema and performance art. The result is a moving tale of lost love, in which a man tries to escape a painful reality by disappearing into the landscape. Drift, which releases in cinemas this week, is a collaboration between director Benny Vandendriessche and artist Dirk Hendrikx. Since the early 1990s, Hendrikx has been working in the area where installation, film and performance art overlap. Whether on stage, in a studio or outdoors, his ideas always involve some physical interaction between himself and his surroundings. “I never saw myself as a performer, a dancer or an actor,” says Hendrikx. “For me it was more like going into a trance, into a feeling or a situation. It was like I was making living sculptures.” It was the physical side of Hendrikx’s work that appealed to Vandendriessche, whose background is in music videos and advertising. “We always had the same tastes,” he explains. “Something very simple, something physically rough, but at the same time very poetic and very beautiful.” Having decided to work together, the challenge was to bring the abstract beauty of Hendrikx’s performances into the more accessible format of a feature film. So Vandendriessche started to build a story around a recurring figure he discerned in Hendrikx’s work, a drifter creating rituals in a landscape. An important catalyst was the
scars the body, but at the same time it’s very beautiful. It deals with the ambiguity between beauty and pain.” While the gestures are not explained, they still need to touch something inside the viewer. “They seem to refer to something familiar to us, even if we don’t know where it comes from. This is an exaggeration of a state of being that maybe we recognise.” Throughout the shoot, which took
We were looking for the poetic, the exaggerated, maybe even the grotesque in reality
Dirk Hendrikx stars in the new Flemish film Drift, which opens this week
discovery of a filmed dance performance, rather like a fragment of silent film, in Hendrikx’s archives. “It’s very beautiful because everything about love, the pushing and pulling, is already there,” says Vandendriessche. They cast the other dancer, Lieve Meeussen, as the drifter’s lost love and used fragments of the archive film as back-story. “It is 13 years old, but it involves the same people. You see how their bodies have changed, but also the intimacy in the dance makes it very real.” This intimacy is reflected in the first part of the narrative, which appears in flashback throughout the film. The man and his partner, who is suffering from a long illness, are waiting in a snowbound hospital. But from the outset we know that something has gone awry and that the man has fled, pursued by the police. “He escapes into a parallel reality,”
Vandendriessche explains. “This gave us a lot of freedom. We could choose any kind of landscape. It didn’t have to be a perfect description of a country. It could be very peculiar, but at the same time we didn’t want it to be staged. It had to seem real. We were looking for the poetic, the exaggerated, maybe even the grotesque, in reality.” This is where Hendrikx’s rituals come in. He describes the process as going on a trip. The actions that emerge, such as trying to force his head into the ground or balancing a heavy stone over his eyes, are instinctive. But he doesn’t like to talk about where these gestures come from or what they mean. “We decided to go beyond the symbols into nothingness, and to not explain,” he says. “Whatever you see, it’s up to you.” Vandendriessche disagrees slightly: “What he does is not easy. It’s painful. It creates a tension in the body and
place in Romania, they stayed true to the idea of recording whatever these “trips” produced. Yet it was not until they started to edit the images together that they knew their film was in the bag. In fact, the silent storytelling worked so well that they discarded dialogue intended to explain explicitly what was going on. “We’ve tried to create a film that delivers an experience, like a tactile experience,” Vandendriessche says. “We tried to create a kind of intrigue, a reality that suggests much more than it explains.” `` www.driftthefilm.com
Guy Dermul looks at the real hunger games in Mest There has never been a time in history when food security was not an issue for at least parts of the world’s population. But this made it no less shocking or unprecedented when, in 2007 and 2008, much of the world saw food prices skyrocket about 20%, and in some African countries over 100%. Mest, the latest work by Flemish actor and director Guy Dermul, explores the peculiarities and excesses of the modern global food trade. It is part of the larger, international collaboration Hunger for Trade co-ordinated by Schauspielhaus theatre in Hamburg, Germany, in which nine countries – including India, Burkina Faso and South Africa – collaborate and share research to create theatre pieces that explore the issues of food security and rising food prices. The main focus of Mest (Manure) is speculations of food prices, a practice by large investment banks that causes huge spikes and dips in prices around the world, since the trade often has little to do with the actual supply or work of its producers. For example, says
© Herman Sorgeloos
week in artS & culture
Dermul, the amount of wheat traded on the stock market is 46 times that which has really been produced. And the earnings on these investments are rarely reinvested in the agricultural sector. In his piece, Dermul is interested in the “why” behind these practices and their effect on the world’s food producers and consumers. It is a heavy subject, as food security is a place where many issues come together – from labour and health
to culture and national security. Dermul says he struggled with the theme’s complexity. “It was hard not to give course lectures – we are not in school. I want to give information to the public, but I also want to create art.”
23 April to 1 May
As for solutions to the problem, Dermul suggests that, while it is important for governments and intergovernmental organisations, such as the United Nations, to promote laws that prevent abuse of the free market in ways that impoverish or endanger communities, for him the greatest strength lies down the food chain, at the community level. Belgium has already seen some change at this level, he notes. In 2012, in the town of Herstal, near Liège, mayor Frédéric Daerden imposed an initiative refusing environmental permits to supermarkets that did not donate surplus and unsold food to food banks. “Mayors can really make a difference,” says Dermul. “They have an enormous impact on local communities. It is at this level that we can start looking for solutions.” Katy Desmond
KVS (in Dutch) Arduinkaai 9, Brussels www.kvs.be
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You’re having a laugh
International Comedy Week when artists perform exclusively with ‘English’ material, expat audiences often don’t grasp the jokes. This is why this festival mixes nationalities; expats relate more to comedians who are also ‘expats’ in a way.” The first three evenings take place at the Kings of Comedy Club and cost €15. Closing night on 2 May with Al Lubel is €25. If you go to all four shows, you can save a little by buying a full festival pass for €56. Kelly Hendricks
28 April to 2 May Kings of Comedy & Espace Lumen, Brussels www.tinyurl.com/intlcomedy
riginating from Montreal, Juste Pour Rire is a world-renowned comedy festival 30 years in the running. The Brussels edition is now in its fourth year, but it’s the first time they’ve added an English element to the mix: English Comedy Brussels is launching a special International Comedy Week, with four nights featuring English-language comedians. “The prestige of Juste Pour Rire allowed us to get a lot of very talented comedians in the same week, which would have been impossible otherwise,” says Xavier Rossey from English Comedy Brussels. He’s referring particularly to the headliners: American Al Lubel and Canadian Pete Johansson. Lubel (pictured) is a comedy veteran: he’s toured with big names like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Hick and performed on the David Letterman show five
times. Johansson, meanwhile, has toured with Reginald D Hunter. Many more English speakers are on the bill, including our own British-Flemish comedian Nigel Williams, Ireland’s David Hayden and Australia’s Yianni Agisilaou. There will also be performances by non-English natives. “Many expats in Brussels use English as a second language,” says Rossey. “So
Flanders Today has tickets to give away to every night of International Comedy Week. To win a pair, send an email to editorial@ flanderstoday.eu with “international comedy week” in the subject line by noon on 25 April. Let us know your name and which evening (or evenings) you’d like to attend (28, 29, 30 April or 2 May). Winners will be notified the same day
Théâtre National, Brussels
As a scientist, Jane Goodall gave us our most intimate peek into the lives of primates. As an activist, she made us understand how important it is to protect our closest evolutionary relations and their habitat. Goodall has been relentless in her advocacy of conservation and sustainable development since her first African expedition in 1960. Now, in celebration of her 80th birthday, she brings that message to Brussels. Goodall is scheduled to begin the day at the European Parliament, followed by a visit to the Youth Foyer of Molenbeek. The day ends with a festive programme at Théâtre National, including concerts, exhibitions and a lecture by the birthday girl herself. GV
28 APR 20.00 at Bozar, Ravensteinstraat 23
OFF Art Fair: Third annual contemporary art fair with an alternative edge, featuring young artists and more than 45 galleries 25-28 APR at Tour & Taxis, Havenlaan
Film Berlinale in Brussels: Exclusive selection of films from the Forum section of the Berlin International Film Festival, the festival’s most daring section featuring experimental works and films that straddle the line between art and cinema 24-25 APR & 6-7 MAY at Bozar and Goethe Institute
It took two years of hard work, but Meise’s Botanic Garden has finally brought the tropical rainforest up north. Two of the park’s 13 greenhouses have been transformed into miniature rainforests, complete with monstrous banana trees, wild ferns and fast-growing umbrella trees. This is in fact only the first phase of a much more ambitious project. Ultimately, the Botanic Garden plans to convert a full five greenhouses into tropical habitat. Visitors young and old are invited to discover the most bio-diverse of all the world’s biomes, to learn how the rainforest’s flora sustains its own complex ecosystem and regulates climate patterns all around the world. GV
Event Brussels Bozar Night: Late night opening at Brussels’ Centre for Fine Arts, featuring concerts by Actress, Kangding Ray and Evian Christ, among others, plus DJ sets, electronica and exhibitions, including Flemish artist Michaël Borremans and ancient and modern Greek art 30 APR 20.00-3.00 at Bozar, Ravensteinstraat 23
Activity get tic
Jane Goodall 7 May, 20.15
© Kristof Kintera/DT Project Gallery
Now in its 32nd edition, Art Brussels has earned its place in the top tier of international art fairs. Indeed, the event is so prestigious that there’s only room for half of the 400 galleries from all over the world that applied for their small plot of expo. The international selection committee made sure to include the full spectrum of contemporary arts nonetheless. Galleries are organised in different sections showcasing young artists, established names and a brand-new Curator’s View selection, hand-picked by the fair’s artistic director Katerina Gregos. International though it may be, Art Brussels also pays tribute to Belgian collectors with the special exhibition Portrait of the Collector as a Work of Art. Georgio Valentino
Botanic Garden, Meise
Francesco Piemontesi: The young Swiss pianist who launched an international career after a noted performance at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2007 performs Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart
visual arts 25-27 April
LITERATURE Bozar Book Club 29 April, 20.00
Every month Brussels’ Centre for Fine Arts hosts an internationaloriented literary salon where readers gather to discuss a selected title. Languages alter, and this month English takes over with a discussion of American author
Rachel Kushner’s 2013 novel The Flamethrowers, a trans-Atlantic tale of love and political ferment set in the turbulent 1970s. Young Flemish novelist Roderik Six (pictured) will lead the discussion. GV
ZoniënmarsZoniënklanken: Discover Brussels’ 4,000-hectare Sonian Forest on a hike of 5, 10, 15 or 25 km, with exotic musical interludes along the way, from Latin percussion to Middle Eastern songs 27 APR 8.00-15.00 start at GC WaBo, Delleurlaan 39-43
Food & drink West Flanders Rondje Roodbruin: Second annual cycling and beer event, featuring a route that takes cyclists for free visits to breweries known for their Flemish red ale 27 APR 10.00-18.00 at breweries Bockor (Bellegem), De Brabandere (Bavikhove), Rodenbach (Roeselare) and Verhaeghe (Vichte)
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Talking Dutch Has Ypres gone over the top? Derek Blyth
s the anniversary of the First World War approaches, Ypres is getting ready for the biggest invasion in 100 years. Tourists are expected to come in unprecedented numbers over the next four years, and the town wants to be ready for them. The museums have been renovated, the gravestones scrubbed clean and a shop has sprung up offering Over the Top Tours. But some of it is a bit dubious, according to De Morgen journalist Rik Van Puymbroeck. Schuimwijn met een smaakje van klaprozen: in Ieper kun je het kopen – sparkling wine with a hint of poppies: You can buy it in Ypres. Shops like Minneke Poes are doing a brisk sale in war souvenirs – uurwerken van poppy’s, paraplu’s met poppy’s en oorbellen van klaprozen – poppy clocks, poppy umbrellas and poppy earrings. Het heeft ook
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Remembrance Beer – it also has Remembrance Beer. Another shop stocks gift packs of Passchendaele beer (pictured) brewed specially for the war anniversary by Van Honsebrouck brewery in Ingelmunster. Kijk eens naar de slogan op de doos – take a look at the slogan on the box. It is in English, of course – “One minute of silence. 50cl of respect,” it suggests. Zelfs op de fles staat het – it even says this on the bottle: “Before opening a bottle of Passchendaele, please hold a minute of silence to commemorate those who fell in the battlefield.” There seems to be no end to the souvenirs aimed at tourists who have come to visit battlefields and war cemeteries. Verder op de rekken zie je Flanders Paté, Flanders Bolle Beef, Wipers
Poppy Wine en in een stenen kruikje Poppies Gin – further along the shelves, you see Flanders paté, Flanders bully beef, Wipers poppy wine and Poppies gin in an earthenware bottle. You might begin to ask if this is all too much. In de Colruyt kun je sinds kort zelf deurmatten kopen met daarop soldaten en poppy’s – Colruyt recently introduced doormats with soldiers and poppies on them. Alsof je voeten veegt aan de oorlog – as if you are wiping your feet on the war. But it has been like that in this region for the past 100 years. Back in January, Puymbroeck reported that an old advertising sign had been uncovered on the side of a house. Rijd je in Ieper de Poperingseweg op, dan roept een wit-blauwgele reclame van het British Legion om ‘Haig House Ypres’ te bezoeken – if you drive into Ypres on Poperingseweg, you see a white, blue and yellow sign from the British Legion encouraging you to visit Haig House Ypres. “For information and poppy wreaths,” it reads. It dates from a time when war tourism was a serious business, and no one would have dreamed of selling sparkling wine with a hint of poppies.
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a. , I buy almost exclusively organic food at bio shops and supermarkets
25% b. Not often, though I would if it were less expensive
c. No, research shows there’s no nutritional difference between organic and other foods
13% priorities in terms of how you spend your money. On that point, a small minority of you are unbelievers. This could have something to do with recent research that claimed there was no advantage to eating organic food. That finding was what is called a meta-analysis of nearly 250 published studies, and its conclusions were allegedly reported
in very broad terms in most media. Nevertheless, our poll does reinforce the main point of the latest annual report from the sector: interest is growing steadily, and there is plenty of room for expansion. Now to tackle the price differential – something the government's strategic plan, with its target of shortening the food chain, is hoping to achieve.
Next week's question:
The alternative taxi service Uber has been ordered by the court to stop operating in Brussels (see p6). What do you think? Go to the Flanders Today website to register your vote! www.flanderstoday.eu
Miranda Martin in response to “Positive reactions to idea of covering Antwerp Ring” The same should happen in Brussels to the sections of motorway that were carved through the Foret de Soignes in the 1960s. It is scandalous it ever happened and anything that could be done to reintegrate this important ecosystem would be an important restitution. Neelie Kroes @NeelieKroesEU I’d like to know more re @Airbnb @Couchsurfing in Flanders – I understand not banned but hosts being asked to register/meet standards – yes? Karen Vandevelde @KarenVandevelde @tcoenye @jasonpriem @PostDoCUGent @JasmienVanDaele 7 years average time to degree for US biology PhD? 5,4 years in Flanders :-) Anne Billson @AnneBillson Save the ABC cinema! If you live in or visit Brussels, please consider a small donation. http://www.abc-cinema.be/?page_ id=198 pic.twitter.com/TBVLGNqqaO Dusan Jakovljevic @DJakovljevic Brussels Minister @BGrouwels makes world news with #Uber ban – Uber Ride-Sharing Service Banned in Brussels #airbnb http://www.businessweek.com/videos/2014-04-16/uber-ridesharing-service-banned-in-brussels Georg Viktor Emmanuel Right now I’m at an open mic session in Brussels. Guys from Russia, America, Belgium, Austria, Lebanon, UK, and other countries are on stage. Politics knows borders. Music doesn’t! Piet Swerts Today first rehearsal of my ‘Etoiles’ by Symphony Orchestra Flanders: it sounds beyond all expectations! For performing schedule see www.symfonieorkest.be
the last word
Organic farming is growing in popularity, but remains a tiny part of the market. Do you buy organic products?
Not surprisingly, price is a big deal when deciding what food to buy. Although an impressive one in four of you sticks to buying organic food almost exclusively, more than half of you would do so more often if the price was lower. An understandable position, certainly for those on very tight budgets. For those with the funds, it remains a matter of
VoiceS of flanders today
Show me the money
“It could be that in the next few years Dexia has to ask for one or two billion more.”
“We need a much broader sort of sexual education that also focuses on a healthy body image, that lets young people see what ordinary people look like.”
The CEO of the state-owned bank warned the government that the turbulent years are not yet over
Question of taste “You could call it the difference between a sweet and a bitter generation. And the gap is getting wider.”
Veggie cook Frank Fol on a survey of 5,000 families that revealed that young people under 40 prefer sweet vegetables, like cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, while their elders go for celery and witloof
A survey by the current affairs programme Koppen revealed that one in five girls aged 15-18 had already considered plastic surgery
Pas de dough “Every year our dancers go through between 3,000 and 4,000 pairs of ballet shoes. Ideally, we’d have a budget of €180,000, but we have to make do with a little more than half of that.” Tom De Jager of the Royal Ballet of Flanders, which is looking for sponsors for its shoe purchases