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Ieva Epnere

Buurtfeest


I arrived in Belgium two years ago, I came here for my postgraduate studies. First six month me and my family were sharing a house with one Flemish family, that was quite an interesting experience. Later we moved to our own apartment in a very nice neighborhood and on a third day in our new aparment we got an invitation to Buurtfeest, of course I did not know what it is, but I was curious, I took my camera and together with my daughter we went to have a walk in our neighborhood. I was surprised - I saw almost all my neighbors were on the street, they were sitting infront of their houses and were selling things, later there was concert and other activities. This year I was already waiting for this event and then I met my neighbor, a very interesting men, he is the one who started to organize Buurtfeest activity in our neighborhood. He was very kind and wrote me a short history about how it started. The idea of organizing festivities, including a flea market, a music square and a barbecue, came while chatting away at the local grocery shop with some people from the neighborhood. It helps of course if the city council stimulates such initiatives with money and logistic help. So we (some 7-8 people) set it up, asking people from the surrounding streets to help as volunteers on the day itself...and it worked. Tina (from the shop) and I went door-to-door to ask people what they thought of the idea; they all seem to welcome the initiative, so that was a good start! The date was set as the last weekend of September, so the students would be back and the date wouldn’t intervene with other cultural activities. All went relatively smooth, being it the first time we did it ...but some people had it harder because they had a little too much to do, it needed some brainstorming afterwards. Some re-adjusting of the responsibilities... The weather was excellent and the wild Balkan style-fanfare was a huge success, the barbecue also. So we decided to carry on and learn from our mistakes... We are 5 years further now, and people are still satisfied with it. But if you look closely how much energy it costs to put this thing together, and what’s the response, it is just a minority that comes to our little initiative. It is SO HARD to get people out of their homes, from their TV’s and computers, to this event. Since the arrival of the TV, the social network, with cafés, neighborhood shops and markets has dwindled down, everywhere in Europe, I suppose. It all depends on handful individuals to get something of a “LIFE” back again in the community. The city of Ghent recognizes this and helps the best they can...but it’s a long way (the same goes with the car problems in cities...). It also depends on the quarters, how much is left of the social cohesion, what’s the education level, how much pubs or events in halls or in the open there are, what’s the influx of the students doing and so on... Somebody must make a study one day how to improve or influence these positive initiatives... So people feel at home in their own city, or at least their own quarter. It’s a balance between too much and not enough social control, I guess. Geert Deschuyter, Ghent October 2012


Š Ieva Epnere, 2012



Buurtfeest