The city of Antwerp goes to great lengths to publicise its port, and with good reason: It’s Europe’s second-largest port, and one of the world’s most important for container traffic. It’s also a crucial factor in the economic life of Flanders; the region’s gateway to the whole wide world, and vice versa. And not just Flanders: Freight entering the port of Antwerp goes on to make its way to the whole of the continent.
The rector of Saint Peter’s parish in East Blatchington, a coastal village in England, must have been surprised earlier this year when he heard that the first release of the CD The Sound of Silence had quickly sold out. After a short introduction, the album is filled with 30 minutes of ambient sounds, recorded in the 12th-century church.
For the electronic music festival, German techno festival Time Warp teamed up with Brussels best-loved club Fuse for a night “focusing on the essence of underground electronic music”. Time Warp has been hosting such parties for nearly 20 years now, with festivals across the border in Italy and The Netherlands.
With the Fade In Festival, they’re looking for some Belgian attention, too. One glance at the line-up, and it’s more than clear that they’re trying their very best to make a good first impression.
Brussels and Flanders have teamed up for this year’s Erfgoeddag, or Heritage Day, so they are both on the same day. The slogan of this 13th edition is Stop de tijd!, or Stop Time!, which is “more than ever an invitation,” according to Flemish culture minister Joke Schauvliege. “It’s an invitation to step outside the daily race against time, stand still and enjoy the work of the many thousands of heritage workers, both volunteers and professionals, who fight that fight against time day after day,” she says.
On a tour of the RivierPark Maasvallei (Maas Valley River Park), project leader Lambert Schoenmaekers points out how the area has been redeveloped in the last five years. Negotiations with farmers and gravel companies have already led to a park of 650 hectares in Flanders, and the goal is to return an area of about 1,100 hectares on this side of the border to nature.
Whether it happens early or late in the month depends on many factors – principally the temperature in March. And, well, we all know what that was like. So a sensible guess would be to make your trip later rather than sooner.
The duration of the blossoms is also weather-dependent. A cold, windy spell can bring the spectacle to a sad, early end, but so too can extremely hot weather. On average, a fruit tree flowers for around 12 days. However, your window of opportunity is much wider: Cherries bloom first, followed by pear, then apple.
As a result of Antwerp’s title this year of European Capital of Sport, neighbourhoods may apply to become a “sports street”. They receive equipment from the city for all ages and even a visit from dance, fitness and martial arts instructors. The Sporting A initiative is working with Opsinjoren, an organisation that helps residents close their street for community events and provides financial support and assistance.
But I’m getting carried away with the old version of the Babel story as it appears in the Book of Genesis. This goes as follows: After the Flood, the survivors decided to build a city with a tower high enough to reach the heavens. They spoke a single language and worked effectively together, so God punished their presumption by mixing up their languages and scattering them across the face of the Earth.
Every year, The Night of History is organised around a different theme, and this year it’s Craftsmanship. Craftspeople, historians and storytellers will give lectures and demonstrations on a rich array of trades practised in bygone times and today. Glass blowers, chocolatiers, bookbinders, auto mechanics, luthiers, stone carvers, master brewers, cheese makers, surveyors, blacksmiths, art restorers, puppeteers ... a dizzying array of experts wax poetic about their vocations.
So impressive that the Fashion Museum in Hasselt (where Red is from) dedicated an entire exhibition to her clothes, including both her stage outfits and daily wear.
Red was born Fabienne Demal in 1968 and earned a law degree in Brussels in 1993, the same year she released her first album. She’s been on stage for more than 20 years now, and besides a record collection to be proud of, she’s gathered a wardrobe that would be envied by many, too.