This weekend in Antwerp: 1st, 2nd & 3rd March

ghostwalkFriday

Take advantage of what should be a dry Friday evening to enjoy an Antwerp ghostwalk in English, which sets off from Steenplein at 8pm. You can order your tickets via the Ghostwalk website.

Meet speakers of other languages and practice your language skills at The Irish Times pub over a pint, with the Swap Language Night from 7.30pm -11pm. The Irish Times is on Grote Markt.

Saturday

The philosophy cafe at Den Hopsack bar is holding another discussion event in English today. It starts at 2pm and is free. No previous academic knowledge of philosophy is required to take part, or just to come along and listen.

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Kavka

There is a stocksale at Kavka on Oudaan, starting at 11 and offering discounted womenswear, menswear, accessories and deco items from a variety of brands (plus the Kavka bar will be open). This event continues on Sunday, also from 11am.

London Calling is holding its annual indie/ britpop birthday night extravaganza at Ampere! There are still a few tickets available for this birthday party, featuring London Calling DJs and a Doors tribute band.

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Sunday

Hip hair salon The Pony Club are also holding a Yardsale from 12am -6pm. TPC are on the Charlottelei.

redstarlineSunday is family Day at one of Antwerp best-loved museums: The Red Star Line, and this Sunday there’s a special activity for kids “Op Reis Met Verhalenvertellers” (A Journey with Story-tellers) with a story being told every half hour from midday, and an activity for the children to enjoy. And if you have very small children, they’re not left out: there’s a buggy tour from 10 -11 (this costs extra after the usual museum entry price)

Temperatures will be lower than the (somewhat alarmingly) warm midweek days of this week, coming down to 11-13 degrees. Friday should be dry, with some showers on Saturday and Sunday

Miscellaneous

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 13.12.10This week I was delighted to showcase the work of three University of Antwerp students in a special blog post  -meet Rani, Lotte and Ellen who made a vodcast all about Le Labo fragrance store on Wapper in Antwerp

This week, many schools celebrated carnaval -you may have seen kids coming out of school on Wednesday all dressed up. Carnaval celebrations continue next Wednesday (during spring break) for kids aged 4-13 at two locations courtesy of District Antwerpen.  for only one euro (no need to pre-register).

JEF2019JEF is an annual film festival for children and young people in Belgium, with events taking place in various locations across the country. There is of course, a JEF program in Antwerp featuring screenings, activities and workshops for all ages. Most of these take place in the Zuiderpershuis, with a few at the Ecohuis too. JEF runs until the 10th March and is well worth looking at if you have kids to entertain during the Spring half-term break (“Krokusvakantie”).

March is Youth Book Month -encourage your young reader by checking out the agenda: there will be lots going on at Bib Permeke.

Are you, or do you know, a young person who has taken part in the Climate Marches recently? If so, he/ she can get a 20% discount on any purchases from any of Antwerp’s eight second hand stores. To get the discount -show a selfie of yourself on the march. It’s available until the 8th March.

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Special post: University of Antwerp students discover a passion for perfume in their vodcast.

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As part of their English Professional Communication course within the University of Antwerp Master in Multilingual Professional Communication, Dutch-speaking students were asked to create a podcast or vodcast explaining how Antwerp entrepreneurs define luxury. Sixteen groups of students took part, and Nessascityblog gets to showcase one chosen vodcast (all about Le Labo Perfume store on Wapper) here! This assignment was set by Prof. Tom Van Hout and assisted by lecturer Stephanie Hughes. Congratulations to Rani, Ellen and Lotte: the students who made the selected vodcast, which you can read about and watch below.

Why did you choose Le Labo?

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perfume ingredients at Le Labo

For our assignment we had to find a venue that defined ‘luxury’. Upon entering the store, we were immediately overwhelmed by the kind of luxury that Le Labo embodies. We chose Le Labo for its simplicity as it is not lavishly decorated. The only element outside the store is a simple sign with Le Labo on. We share the opinion that this is a way of expressing luxury; one you might not expect. For example it does not contain a fancy interior with a lot of drama and champagne at the entrance. Le Labo obtains luxury by creating an experience for their customers, by focussing on what is most important for them: the scent. This focus on the experience is what got us hooked.

In your opinion, what makes Le Labo special?
Le Labo draws attention to their scents. They do not want to use overly-decorated bottles, promotions or advertisements. As they state on their website, they share the opinion that there are too many bottles of perfume, and not enough soulful fragrances. They emphasise the importance of the soul – formed through the intention with which a product is created and the attention with which it is prepared. In other words, Le Labo believes that the main focus should be on the experience. You can choose your own scent and they will hand-blend your bottle on the spot, while you can watch the whole process. The store also stresses their use of natural elements. Le Labo really wants to go back to basics, and they also make sure everyone is able to enjoy their perfumes by taking potential customer allergies into account.

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The team with Marty at Le Labo on Wapper

What advice would you give anyone wanting to make a podcast/ vodcast for the first time?

As a team, we were extremely lucky to find a place that we all really liked. From the beginning, we felt a strong connection with Le Labo. Additionally, Marty (the store supervisor and lab technician) said to us: “all three of you were really open and you could see your interest and excitement from the start. If you did not have that vibe, we, from Le Labo, would not have given you the freedom we gave to you now.” We stumbled upon this place that struck a passion within. Immediately, we wanted to know more. Therefore, we believe that one of the most important things is that you choose a subject that you are actually passionate about. If you are, it will be both a fun and educational process that you are eager to work on. Your passion and interest will also be noticed by people in the end result. Furthermore, it is important when you work in a group to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses. It is important to be able to complement and help each other throughout the process. Each one of us has different specialities and these complemented each other smoothly. As a result, we were able to create this fun group project that we are all very proud of.

Watch the vodcast made by Ellen, Rani & Lotte here:

The three students who created the Le Labo vodcast are:

Ellen Weeremans
Hi, my name is Ellen. Before I started my Masters in Multilingual Professional Communication, I studied an academic bachelor in Linguistics and Literature: English-Theatre, Film and Literature. MPC (Multilingual Professional Communication) sparked my interest as the course expand on concepts such as marketing and communication. For me to turn away from literature and start to learn something new entirely was exciting. I could now deepen my understanding of concepts that I had not heard about in the last three years. This was was both extremely scary and appealing. Right now, we are in the second semester and already I feel that I have learned so much more than I thought I would.

Rani Konings
Hello, my name is Rani. I studied Linguistics and Literature in English and Dutch. I am currently following the Master’s program in Multilingual Professional Communication (MPC) at the University of Antwerp. For me, MPC was a logical choice. I wanted something different and more challenging. The combination of professional communication and marketing gives you a wide range of possibilities. In my opinion, this Masters is an excellent way to direct your language skills to a more professional level. It prepares you well for future job opportunities.

Lotte Van Ende
Hello, my name is Lotte. I have a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Literature (English – Spanish) and am now studying the Master in Multilingual Professional Communication at the University of Antwerp. I chose MPC mostly because I was ready for something new and challenging. I have not regretted this choice for a single moment as MPC offers a very wide range of subjects. I am learning to communicate at a professional level and also get to know more about marketing and management. For me, studying MPC really prepares students for the future and opens the door to many different job opportunities.

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This weekend in Antwerp: 22nd, 23rd & 24th February

theaterplein
Theaterplein

Friday
It’s the last Friday of the months and it’s a special Critical Mass: it’s the sixth birthday of the Antwerp group. Assemble at 17.45 on Theaterplein (look out for The Hangover Bar).

Saturday
JEF is an annual film festival for children and young people in Belgium, with events taking place in various locations across the country. There is of course, a JEF program in Antwerp featuring screenings, activities and workshops for all ages. Most of these take place in the Zuiderpershuis, with a few at the Ecohuis too. JEF runs from today until the 10th March and is well worth looking at if you have kids to entertain during the Spring half-term break (“Krokusvakantie”).

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JEF at Zuiderpershuis

Now that the weather is cheering up, why not head to Plein Publiek and check out the upcoming Circulair Zuid area? There’s a Revive closet sale at Plein Publiek (now at D’Herbouvillekaai 19, 2000) from 10am -4am.

The seed library at the Ecohuis re-opens today, and is a great idea for green-fingered people and gardeners in the city: borrow seeds, and bring back more seeds from your own harvest. Open from 1- 4pm; this is a good time to go along and learn about the work (advice, exhibitions, workshops) of the Ecohuis if you do not already know it (the cafe is really nice too!)

It’s Dag Van De Academies; celebrating the work of those who attend arts academies and follow courses on a part-time basis, with a number of activities, performances and exhibitions in the Antwerp area, including an art trail for children (5-15), starting at Meechelseplein (by the Willem Elsschot statue) at 11am.

Finish your Saturday at BATS Theatre on Paardenmarkt, for a show (in English) from energetic impro group Swaajp, starting at 8pm (and this week hosting “de Boterbrigade“). Tickets here.

Sunday

Cyclists – it’s the Noordkasteel Cross. It’s 10 euros to take part and forms part of the Ronde van District Antwerpen. Register via the email on the link. Men and women ages 15- 95 may take part.

Temperatures will be mild (13- 14 degrees) cooling off on a Sunday to around 10 degrees. It should be a dry weekend, with some sunshine.

Miscellaneous

The last Wednesday of the month means free city museums in Antwerp.

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Colour Collective (photo by Marc Tops)

… and if that doesn’t provide you with enough cultural enrichment, why not check out this musical event in Merksem (also on Wednesday) which I head about this week, and includes a beautiful classical music set based on dance and fantasy. The second part of the evening there will be a guitar & piano duo playing chansons.
The event (pic right) is free entrance and if you would like a meal before the concert starts, there will be a Volxkeuken providing dinner for  just €6.

Next month is Youth Book Month -encourage your young reader by checking out the agenda: there will be lots going on at Bib Permeke.

Are you, or do you know, a young person who has taken part in the Climate Marches recently? If so, he/ she can get a 20% discount on any purchases from any of Antwerp’s eight second hand stores. To get the discount -show a selfie of yourself on the march. It’s available until the 8th March.

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This weekend in Antwerp: 15th, 16th & 17th February

Well, this week the Nessascityblog household has been afflicted by the Great Antwerp Belly Flu of 2019 which seems to be doing the rounds (gentle hugs to you too if your home has been similarly affected). I have not felt much like blogging, so this brief post is the best I can do this week, I’m afraid.

 

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Cuperus Coffee Bar

Saturday

Take a stroll down to Cuperus Coffee Bar on Paardenmarkt for this closet sale, from midday -5pm and grab a bargain – Cuperus is also a really nice coffee bar.

Free film at Het Roze Huis at 8pm (Draakplaats 1). This month it’s Hedwig And The Angry Inch.

 
Sunday

It’s the monthly Strip en Boeken Plein at de Coninckplein for lovers of secondhand books and print.

There’s another closet sale at Lazy Jacks on Kattendijkdok, from midday -5pm

deconinckplein
de Coninckplein

Miscellaneous

Are you, or do you know, a young person who has taken part in the Climate Marches recently? If so, he/ she can get a 20% discount on any purchases from any of Antwerp’s eight second hand stores. To get the discount -show a selfie of yourself on the march. It’s available until the 8th March.

wine-1543170_640Last week I published a special post by Bart Meeus of Fine Wine Junkies -an local start-up, sure to be of interest to readers who enjoy unusual wines, not available from the supermarket.

Legends of Liondance continues until Sunday 17th (it has been extended!) at Permeke library, as part of the Chinese New Year festivities. This is a colourful display of the lions used in Chinese Lion Dances, and is free.

Next month is Youth Book Month -encourage your young reader by checking out the agenda: there will be lots going on at Bib Permeke.

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This weekend in Antwerp: 8th, 9th & 10th February

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“Pateekes [patisserie] Week” is underway in Antwerp already, and continues until the 10th. Pateekes Week is perfect for sweet-toothed Antwerp-dwellers and their guests: you buy your ‘Pateekes Pass’ at the tourist info on Grote Markt, for a tenner and the 10 vouchers enable you to get a patisserie and/ or a drink at participating bakeries and cafés, which are listed here.

 

Saturday

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The Chinese New Year is already underway, but do not worry if you missed out on celebrating: here it Antwerp there will be a celebration in the streets of Chinatown on Saturday, with a program of events to for all ages, and including the colourful and exciting dragon parade which takes place every year (Van Wesenbekestraat).  If you have kids, they can be kept busy in the Permeke Library from 11am, where the film ‘Mulan’ is being shown (at 11). This film is free, but you need to register your child(ren) here beforehand.

There will also be a New Year’s Market with food stands from 11.30am.

Legends of Liondance continues until Sunday 17th (it has been extended!) at Permeke library, as part of the Chinese New Year festivities. This is a colourful display of the lions used in Chinese Lion Dances, and is free. The New Year Parade features both dragons and lions (but mostly lions).

It’s the Year of The Pig this year and we wish a very Happy New Year to all  of those celebrating!

Sunday

Cafe Kamiel is holding a Winterfeest   from 3-8pm. Get your gluhwein, hot chocolate and warming soup. This is a nice café, and in good weather is very kid-friendly as there is a leafy park and playground (Hof van Leysen) in front of the café’s terrace.

hearts-37308_640At Rivierenhof, there is a Valentine’s run  which starts at 11am  on Rivierenhof Parkweg / Ruggeveldlaan in 2100 Deurne (facilities open from 9.30am at Sportpark Ruggeveld, Ruggeveldlaan 480 in 2100 Deurne). You can register in advance here, and run for free, or turn up on the day itself and join in for 5 euros.

Also with an outdoorsy theme there is this tree walk at 2pm starting at the Panamarenko statue on Sint Jansplein at 2pm. You can register in advance here: wandeling@natuurpuntantwerpenstad.be
The walk ends with drinks and a Q&A about plants and trees.

Temperatures this weekend will reach a blistering 8 -9 degrees. It should be mostly dry, but there is a chance of showers on Saturday around midday, and Sunday afternoon.

Miscellaneous

wine-1543170_640This week I published a special post by Bart Meeus of Fine Wine Junkies -an local start-up, sure to be of interest to readers who enjoy unusual wines, not available from the supermarket.

 

Strikes are set  to affect transport on 13th February (also some flights at Brussels Airport) so check your travel plans in advance.

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Special post: Fine Wine Junkies -An Antwerp Start-Up

By Bart Meeus, founder of Fine Wine Junkies

bartmf
Bart Meeus

If you love Antwerp and you love wine, then we have good news for you!

At the end of last year I launched a new wine concept called “Fine Wine Junkies” which could become a new standard for how to consume and experience wine in the Antwerp region.

Fine Wine Junkies is a start-up which saw the light after I experienced that acquiring the right wine at the right moment was not always easy. As a matter of fact, the lack of services enabling enjoyment of a fine wine, stylishly presented and brought to your home (or other location) at the right temperature, made it clear that there was a gap to fill in Antwerp: bringing fine wine to fine people’s homes!

finewinebagsFine Wine Junkies aims to stand out by offering clients a wine list which is far from what they may have previously experienced: no big classic vineyards or big names; a very limited French range of wines; a focus on new world wine countries and last -but not least – competitive pricing form the core values of FineWineJunkies. The wines offered originate from countries like Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and of course Belgium. Belgians -due to their modesty- often overlook the fact that that we ourselves can and do make great wines, right here in Belgium .

genoelselderen
Genoels-Elderen

Fine Wine Junkies is above all an Antwerp brand, but also a proud Belgian company, and thus offers some of these fine Belgian wines. At this moment we partner with Genoels -Elderen, one of the better-known wineries here in Belgium. We offer their complete range of white, red and bubbles. But there will be more: as we speak, we are working out new partnerships with a range of smaller and less well- known wineries in Belgium. We expect to offer some very exclusive and difficult-to-obtain Belgian wines in the near future. As the seasons change throughout the year, so the menu will also change in order to offer wines appropriate to each season.

The next question is: how do we bring fine wine to fine people’s home?

Fine Wine Junkies is available via both UberEats and Deliveroo, and customers will have their fine selection delivered to their door in under thirty minutes.

Alongside the direct-delivery service,  Fine Wine Junkies runs a regular webshop: www.finewinejunkies.com, where larger quantities can be ordered and delivered within three days.

In 2019 Fine Wine Junkies will further explore B2B concepts on which we are presently working. Those new concepts will offer a diverse range of services perfectly fitted for B2B purposes to companies.

Broadening our market with direct-delivery, regular e-commerce activities, B2B concepts and even a wine tasting bar, should mean that Fine Wine Junkies becomes a byword for fine wine in Antwerp.

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Find Fine Wine Junkies on Facebook and Instagram
(Images for this post provided by Fine Wine Junkies)

 

Starting up in Antwerp?

Well, naturally, you will need an idea: a product, a service or a combination of both; a financial plan to cover the start-up phase; a marketing plan (most probably based on market research you did) and a commercial plan regarding how to sell your products or services to your clients.

Cities like Antwerp are happy with people who want to translate their creative ideas into businesses. It’s good for the image and the well-being of the city. If you are interested, begin your start-up journey at Ondernemen in Antwerpen.


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This weekend in Antwerp: 1st, 2nd & 3rd February

Friday

ghostwalkThank you, Antwerp Ghostwalk, for getting in touch this week with the following information about two special walks for English speakers, one of which is happening this Friday:

We have a new storyteller:  Lieven is a true fan of Anglosaxon ghostwalk traditions and has toured the U.K. to experience many different urban ghost tours.  We combined his passion with our longstanding expertise in providing entertaining English language ghostwalks, balancing ghostly atmosphere with some typical Antwerp flair and peculiar local folk stories. This brings the original “Antwerp Ghostwalk” to a new level.
we have sessions planned at 
– Friday February 1st at 8PM (this Friday)

– Friday March 1st at 8PM  

Visit the website for more information and tickets, or check out the Ghostwalk Facebook page.

Saturday

Another event of interest to English speakers is the Philosophy Café in Den Hopsack bar, between 2pm and 5pm –  it’s a discussion group: no previous experience necessary, just order a beer and join in, or listen.

In Koning Albertpark there’s a free Winter Lights Festival festival from 3pm until 11.30pm with performances, music, DJs and games. Children may bring lanterns, and the park will be illuminated with lights as it gets darker.

Sunday

It’s the first Sunday of the month so shops in and around the centre town will be open for “Winkel Zondag”. NB. many shops open a little later on Shopping Sunday; usually at midday.

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There’s music in the cathedral on the first Sunday of each month too, in the Sacraments’ Chapel at 4pm. This is free to residents of Antwerp (on provision of proof that you’re a local). I believe an ID card counts as evidence if the place of issue is Antwerp. Otherwise it is 6 euros to go in (indeed the Cathedral is always free to Antwerp residents).

Rugby Fans!  Come and enjoy the first Antwerp Derby of 2019, as Antwerp RC host local rivals, RC Schilde to Wilrijkse Plenin!

The 2nd XV will kick off the afternoon with a 1pm kick off before the 1st XV face each other at 3pm.

Sadly the weather outlook is not great and there is the chance of rain on all days this weekend. Temps are around 6 degrees.
Miscellaneous

Legends of Liondance continues at Permeke library as part of the approaching Chinese New Year festivities. This is a colourful display of the lions which lasts until 10th February, and is free.

cork-738603_640How do you make it as a new business in Antwerp? Check back into Nessascityblog again on Monday for a special post about a unique Antwerp start-up (also a must for any readers who like wine …)

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This weekend in Antwerp: 25th, 26th & 27th January

Friday

critical massIf you are feeling in need of a bracing cycle ride to round off your week, join Critical Mass: assembling at 6pm on Theaterplein for an hour’s cycling en masse through the city (pic right, from Critical Mass Facebook page).

For those who prefer a stroll, explore the Borgerhout area through the lens of its art works: Borger #15 is an art event where participating galleries, within walking or cycling distance of one another open for the evening. The galleries open for Borger #15 are: Zeno X Gallery (Godtsstraat 15); DMW Art Space (Koolstraat 15) ;The Arts Institute (Kattenberg 93); Base-Alpha Gallery, Antwerp (Kattenberg 12); Eva Steynen.Deviations (Zurenborgstraat 28) and they are open between 6pm and 9pm.

Saturday

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MAS

Avoid the cold by heading to MAS museum  for an afternoon of social  game and game-playing. This a free event, aimed at families and kids, and it’s on from 10am -5pm.

Monthly show Swaajp Invites is on at BATS Little Theatre on Paardenmarkt. Beata Rozalska from Poland is the impro group’s guest performer this week. Tickets available here.

Sunday

There’s a mega indoor rommelmarkt at Kinepolis Event centre, from 10am -6pm. 3 euros entry

After the snow this week, it’s going to continue to be cold, with the possibility of snow and showers over Saturday and Sunday

Miscellaneous

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Exhibit from Wonderkamer at DIVA museum

I recently went to DIVA Diamond Museum for the first time to catch the Axel Verwoordt exhibition:  WonderKamer. It’s magical, so if you want to stay out of the cold and see some beautiful, eccentric, curious and elegant objects and art works, I thoroughly recommend it.

Next Wednesday is the last Wednesday of the month, meaning these Antwerp city museums are free.

Last week I published a special post by Daniel McBrearty. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is a lively and fascinating account of the history, ideas and current expo behind the Plantin Moretus museum on the Vrijdag Markt: How An Antwerp Immigrant Changed The World In 1550.

Legends of Liondance continues at Permeke library as part of the approaching Chinese New Year festivities. This is a colourful display of the lions which lasts until 10th February, and is free.

BATS panto is now virtually sold out! … apart from Sunday EVENING (17:30pm) performance at Theater ‘t Eilandje. Tickets are available via the BATS VZW website.
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This weekend in Antwerp: 18th, 19th & 20th January

Friday

lolfLegends of Liondance begins at Permeke library today as part of the approaching Chinese New Year festivities. This is a colourful display of the lions which lasts until 10th February, and is free.

And if you fancy an old-school date, classic film The Italian job is on at Cinema Zuid. This is such a nice venue to watch classic movies, and -at 5 euros – much cheaper than the corporate cinema multiplexes. I recommend checking out the cinema, and their program. Cinema Zuid is in FOMU (the photography museum).

Saturday

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Eilandje

On Saturday afternoon, from 1pm the Astridplein (next to central station) will be transformed into a tulip field containing tens of thousands of tulips from Flanders: you can come and pick some for free, until 4.30pm.

Similar to the Leopold Sundays (see below), Artland sees galleries around the Eilandje area open their doors and also offer a New Year’s drink to visitors, as well as a chance to see the works on display in the art-spaces around MAS. Free, from 1pm -6pm

 

Sunday

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It’s the first Boeken Plein of 2019 at de Coninckplein in front of Permeke Library: second hand books, magazines, postcards and graphic novels for sale from 10am -4pm. This event takes place monthly on the third Sunday of every month.

Not far away around the Leopoldplaats area, it’s another Leopold Sunday: seven galleries open their doors simultaneously enabling you to enjoy for free a variety of local art exhibitions between 2 and 6pm.

The weather will feel pretty cold, but Friday and Sunday should have some periods of brightness. Possibility of showers.

Miscellaneous

This week I published a special post by Daniel McBrearty. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is a lively and fascinating account of the history, ideas and current expo behind the Plantin Moretus museum on the Vrijdag markt: How An Antwerp Immigrant Changed The World In 1550.

January in Antwerp wouldn’t be complete without the BATS panto! This year it’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (oh, yes it is!)  at Theater ‘t Eilandje, and tickets are available via the BATS VZW website.

bats-sw2018

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Special post: How An Antwerp Immigrant Changed The World In 1550

NEW EXHIBITION AT PLANTIN- MORETUS SHOWS THE CITY’S IMPORTANT ROLE IN PAVING THE WAY FOR THE ENLIGHTENMENT.

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A trip to the Plantin Moretus museum (left) provided the inspiration for this guest post by Daniel McBrearty.

Are you deluged by data, fazed by fake news, or stressed out from trying to find a teaspoon of facts in a sea of information? What you need is some historical perspective, and Antwerp’s Plantin Moretus Museum is the perfect place to find it …

Christophe Plantin, a native Frenchman and Humanist who became a powerful Antwerp businessman, could reasonably be called the Steve Jobs of the 16th century. He founded one of the three most important printing presses in Europe, and by 1550 he was one of the biggest publishers in the world, with sixteen operational presses and employing fifty people. The technology he used, along with much of his considerable wealth and countless books, are lovingly preserved in the Plantin Moretus Museum, on the Vrijdagmaarkt.

As well as physical artefacts, the Museum has done a wonderful (and timely, given the impact of the internet on our own times) job of placing Moretus’s considerable influence in a historical context. Their current exhibition, “Baroque Book Design”, fuses the work of Rubens and others -as part of the city’s the publishing industry- with insightful observation on social conditions of the time.

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Antwerp was at the centre of an information revolution

After Plantin’s death, the business was taken over by Jan Moretus, his son-in-law, and the family continued to dominate European publishing for the next 150 years. The printing press was a real challenge to the Catholic church, which had relied on the inability of an illiterate public to interpret the Bible without the help of priests. Gutenberg’s invention broke forever that monopoly of belief.

Books – now twenty times faster to produce, and much cheaper- became more widely available. An information revolution as big as our own, was underway. Schools of language, medicine, science and religion serviced a knowledge-hungry public, and created huge demand, which the Plantin-Moretus family was more than willing to supply. With a technology based on pouring lead into stamped copper moulds to make type, which was then manually assembled into pages, their team of craftsmen produced, over several years, a staggering 500,000 copies of one small book of language exercises – this being just one of countless volumes from the house.

Revolutions of belief soon led to violence, followed by a formidable backlash from the Vatican. Europe was beset by rebellion and repression. Catholic Spain and the Protestant Netherlands went to war, and Antwerp caught right between them. As well as Bibles in many languages, The Plantin Press had been publishing translations of Latin and Greek philosophers, and works which spread new scientific research. But a crackdown from the church forced an end to the dissemination of such dangerous ideas. The Plantin-Moretus family, however, were clearly astute diplomats as well as businesspeople, managers, and technicians. Not only did they survive, they became at various times, official printers and typographers to the Dutch, the Spanish and the Church.

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The museum is also a favourite of my daughter

Then, as now, the real benefits of the new technology were not immediately felt by common people. In fact it took several hundred years, and much argument and bloodshed, before they led to real improvement in living conditions.

As well as his beautiful drawings and engraved copper plates, the Museum possesses many paintings by Rubens, who was one of the favourite illustrators used by the Moretus family. Everywhere you feel his portraits gazing at you. His subjects included (as well as the nobility and the clergy) workers at the house. For me, they show an honest astuteness which lesser artists lack – rather like a modern artist such as Milo Manara, he has the rare ability to capture something of the soul of his subjects.

Entrance to the Museum is inexpensive (6€ or 8€ depending on age), or free with an A-kaart. Staff are friendly and helpful, and on a weekday the space is fairly uncrowded. You can take refreshment in one of Vrijdaagmaarkt’s excellent cafes and restaurants and then stroll back in with no problem. Photography is permitted without flash.

So, if the internet revolution has left you dazed and confused, or if you simply fancy an entertaining, thought-provoking few hours, I highly recommend Plantin-Moretus Museum. After all, we’ve been here before, and it helps to be reminded of that.

Daniel McBrearty is a father, jazz clarinet and sax player, singer-songwriter and electronics whiz who has made his home in Antwerp since 2001.

Music website :  www.danmcb.com

Audio electronics : www.mcbeeaudiolabs.com

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