People of the Mechelsepleinfeesten
Last weekend, I was thrilled to be invited to the Mechelsepleinfeesten. Not only because it is a part of our Antwerp history, but more importantly because I’ve gotten the chance to chat with all the creative geniuses that performed this year. I was mesmerized by the sweet tunes of Moyson-In-Spee’s spoken word act, I was hypnotized by Peter Holvoet’s and Jempie Vermeulen’s poetic stroll through the botanical garden, I was enlightened about the Mechelseplein’s history by one of the original organizers, Optician Sels and fascinated by the extraordinary performance of Geruis en Weergalm in the Sint-joris church.
I wish I could have split myself into several entities in order to be able to see everything and experience it all. Nevertheless I am very satisfied that I was able to see most of the acts that I wanted to see. I started out on Friday with the beautiful poetic walk by Peter Holvoet and Jempie Vermeulen in the botanical garden. Who knew that this garden has been around since 1825? And that the greenhouse inside was designed by the famous architect Bourla? Well, Peter knew and enlightened us with this information while reciting poems that brought us back to the days of yore. Jempie Vermeulen’s nostalgic accordion sounds helped create that vibe like nothing else could. After this trek next to prehistorical plants and fish that housed the souls of dead city poets, I had the opportunity to talk to these city icons.
Peter and Jempie loved that they could be part of the Mechelsepleinfeesten since it’s part of our city history. Peter was the official city poet in 2010 but has been the unofficial one ever since. Together with Jempie, He organizes several city tours with a poetic touch. Jempie might be blind but uses this to his advantage because he thinks that people are always biased by what they see and he doesn’t. Also, his hearing is extraordinary which makes him and exquisite musician. They both see Antwerp as the only true city in Belgium and believe that more people should be aware of its rich history.
After this meet and greet I went for a Countreau fizz at the Hendrick’s bar that was mixed together perfectly by the handsome bartender. Perks of the job! The beats at the mainstage drew me towards it and I danced the night away to the retro beats of the Small Penguin Trio.
Hidden gems, spoken word and Charlie Chaplin
On Saturday it was time to explore some more hidden gems. I strolled towards the Sint Joris church and was taken aback by the sincerity of the performance by Geruis & Weergalm by Thomas Jillings , Daan Janssens, Tiemen Hiemstra and Arno Moens. It felt like a true Sunday preach where sinners are being reminded to be good Christians and that there's a divine entity that watches down upon all of us. The fact that the church itself is an ancient piece of Antwerp history (it was built in 1201, destroyed in 1566 and renovated in 1871) created an extra heavy atmosphere. Luckily the poets of Geruis & Weergalm lightened up the mood with some entertaining remarks.
To lighten up my (inner sinner’s) mood I walked over to the pub Hypothalamus, where Moyson-in Spee were performing their spoken word act. Yannick Moyson and his girlfriend Marlijn Spee are the perfect example of how two creative masterminds are the best combination a spoken word act can have. Not only is the mixture between spoken word, music and singing always very fascinating, it also establishes this art form at its best. These two performers used to have their own solo acts but when their relationship started, they decided to combine their talents, of which I’m glad they did! For over two years they have been performing together all over the city and across borders. They were honored to play at the Mechelsepleinfeesten and would love to see how it evolves the coming years. Especially the involvement of all the different stores and bars around the square with respective performances, was something unique which they hope will be repeated the coming years.
After talking to these poetic lovebirds, I was in the perfect mood to go and watch Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ with live music by Wim De Busser and Simon Lenski. These two musicians poured out their entire soul during the screening of the movie.
To summarize this amazing weekend I chatted with Optician Sels who was one of the original founders of the Mechelsepleinfeesten. About twenty years ago and together with a group of local shop owners, they decided that they had to put the square on the map. Apparently back in the day, people didn’t even know this square and were always confused about its whereabouts. So they started with a city festival that lasted for 7 days, with different target groups. During the week they attracted the people working in offices on the square and during the weekends they tried to draw out the city locals. After ten years of organizing, lots of shop owners moved or didn’t have time anymore for the organization of this festival but Optician Sels is still very happy to be part of the festival. Especially this year, since it felt like a discover-the-neighborhood-tour, although he hopes that more shop owners will be able to partake in the festival the following years.
I had a blast and I must honestly say that event organization Stalker did a marvelous job in hosting this event. The true spirit of the Mechelsepleinfeesten was more present than ever and the entire festival felt like a magical poetic tour through the neighborhood. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!
Text by Cleo Klapholz
Pics by Cleo Klapholz & Alyssa Laura Mertens