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MolenCanal: varied waterside fun and festivities

 - ©ADT-ATO(P.Sa.)

On Saturday, ‘Molenbeek, Capital of Culture 2014’ held Canal-side festivities with its third major event, MolenCanal, organised with the support of the Urban Development Agency (ADT-ATO). Those in the mood for some fun, extended families, local associations and politicians, passers-by and walkers all came together on the quays of the left bank to dance, eat, visit, chat… and even make music together. Molenbeek again displayed its charms and showed what it was made of.

2014-04-27 – Molenbeek-by-the-waterside was definitely the place to be on Saturday 27 April, and more specifically the Quai du Hainaut and Quai des Charbonnages, between the Porte de Ninove and Sainctelette. All the movers and shakers in the municipality – and there are no fewer than 200 local clubs and associations – showed up to celebrate the theme of ‘encounters’ in this third major event in ‘Molenbeek, Capital of Culture in 2014’.

Festive music…

Throughout the day, the local streets moved and swayed to the sound of Balkan Traffic, MolemCapitale and Jour de Fête – light-hearted bands who gave it all they had from a stand on the Pont de Flandres.

For visitors who felt thirsty or hungry after all of this, there were plenty of catering vans with specialities such as savoury pancakes, meatballs in numerous different sauces, organic products and Latvian dried meats, cheeses and other delicacies – because Riga, European Capital of Culture this year, was associated with the event.

There were plenty of other festive touches too. Children handed out thousands of windmills. Visitors could have a go on a Segway – those mini-platforms with two big wheels and a joystick that you can use to move quickly and easily through the streets. On one street corner there was a reconstruction of Chefchaouen, the blue city of northern Morocco that is classified as a Unesco world heritage site, and you could have your hands decorated with henna or drink a mint tea, have a chat and put the world to rights.

A little further down, kneeling on mats, members of the biodiversity unit demonstrated how you can create a hanging garden in all conditions and all environments: old bags and old shoes with a bit of soil in them make an original and inexpensive place to plant your geraniums, pansies or herbs.

In a completely different vein, the iMAL centre exhibited digital sculptures, in which changing combinations of figures are used to create futuristic beauty.

…and special events

Some exciting things were happening too, such as an attempt to break the world tightrope-walking record. Five cables were stretched over the Canal, and students of the Circus School of Brussels and members of the European Tightrope-Walking Centre danced back and forth repeatedly, thus linking the left and right banks.

And then there was the giant marionette, ‘La Fleur d’Eau’ that surged 20 metres up into the air from a barge, with a dancer in the heart of the flower, which opened and closed repeatedly, gracefully symbolising the fluid and dynamic links between air, water and earth.

Other attractions

Those who were keen on culture rather than just soaking up the festive vibes could learn about various aspects of Molenbeek. The ‘urban regeneration’ tour traced the link between past and present. Those who enjoy a good behind-the-scenes story or two could listen to the Greeters, who in ‘Tales of Molenbeek’ relished sharing insiders’ tips and interesting anecdotes. In the historical centre, an ‘urban safari’ showed how nature stakes its rightful claim everywhere.

An unusual spectacle was presented by the ‘Soumonces’ with a parade on the theme of temptation as a prelude to the Zinneke Parade on 10 May. In Bonnevie Park, the Z'arbs offered a dreamlike spectacle on the journey of our planet’s lungs between forest and city.

Another resounding success (literally) was the MolenBloco 1080 brass band, which filled the streets with the compulsive rhythms of the samba gnawa. Later on, the day was brought to a close on the esplanade of the Rue Sainte-Marie by Sysmo Game, which gave a collective urban performance that brought everyone together – musicians and members of the public alike – in a participatory concert of orchestrated drumming, stamping and clapping!

Upcoming events

The morning began with a press conference at the premises of the Meininger Hotel, which has occupied the renovated Bellevue brewery building since last year. The Molenbeek 2014 team presented upcoming events on the programme, from the Budding Reporters, who will publish their newspaperQuoi de 9? to the Living Expo which has just started, and offers an architectural kaleidoscope and trompe-l’œil, and also including Neighbours Day on 16 May and Route 1080, showcasing all kinds of creativity in Molenbeek: visual arts, video, dance, ceramics and installations are invited to dialogue with photography and performance in a comprehensive panorama of contemporary art.

Another major event, scheduled for late June, is MolenZik, featuring the simultaneous celebration of the Music Festival, the ‘Ô de Molenbeek’ Street Theatre Festival and the ‘Musical Hour’. Andthat is not all…but more news on this in due course.

Dynamic change

During the same press conference, Luc Maufroy, the director of the Urban Development Agency of the Region of Brussels-Capital (ADT-ATO) emphasised that the agency’s support for initiatives such as MolenDance, MolenCanal and MolenZik is set within a wider context.

The objective is to encourage the participation of people living in the central districts of Brussels located in what is commonly known as the ‘Canal Area’.

Alongside its conventional work on urban development, the ADT-ATO is running projects such as FotoKanal 2010 and 2012, as a showcase for the youth, creativity and dynamism of the fast-changing city centre. It is in this spirit that the Agency has co-organised the world record tightrope walking event, La Fleur d’Eau and the Sysmo Game at MolenCanal.

Véronique Kirszbaum