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Brussels venue to reopen regardless of restrictions

Brussels venue Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS) plans to open its doors on 26 April, defying current restrictions, in a bid to increase pressure on the Belgian government to reopen the cultural sector.

The country’s strict lockdown measures are set to ease on 25 April but venues may not be permitted to welcome audiences until 1 May at the earliest, after the government withdrew its decision to allow outside performances of up to 50 people during April.

The venue’s operators want to demonstrate that it is possible to organise events safely and plans to host 50 people in a 500-capacity room on five consecutive nights for a theatre performance.

According to organisers, the performance will take place under strict precautions concerning ventilation, measuring CO2, guiding and controlling public flows, registering visitors, keeping a safe distance, mandatory mouth mask and disinfection gel.

“This is a signal to the government to finally take our industry and our efforts seriously,” KVS says in a statement on the venue’s website.

“This is a signal to the government to finally take our industry and our efforts seriously”

In the statement, KVS refers to crowded parks, squares and trains: “It is revengeful: after a year of pandemic, we as a society have still not succeeded in organizing what can be organized safely. Culture can be part of the solution. And there are indeed alternatives. And there is indeed a great social need for safe encounters and culture.

“To prevent public support from completely eroding, to prevent dangerous, badly organised gatherings from occurring too often, there is a need for safe ways to enjoy culture.”

Opposition party Groen has called on the minister of culture Jan Jambon to turn the performances into a test event, according to De Tidj.

“By turning KVS’s plans into a test event, people are not forced to take the risk of prosecution just because they want to do their job in complete safety. It is also a constructive signal to the cultural sector and we can use the information later. This could well be a win-win,” says Groen MP Elisabeth Meuleman.

Jonathan will play from 26–30 April at 8 pm in KVS. Tickets, which are priced at €25, have sold out for all five nights.

 


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Belgium’s festival summer hinges on April test event

Belgium’s 2021 festival season hangs in the balance of the results from a test event planned for the spring, says Flemish prime minister Jan Jambon.

Jambon had originally promised to deliver a decision by mid-March on whether this year’s festival summer could take place but now wants to wait for the results of a test event planned for late April, as well as the results from the Netherlands’ Back to Live test events.

“The festival organisers tell me they can wait a while for advice. We want to avoid a negative decision, so we’re postponing the decision. We will know more in a few weeks, that’s why we are not making a decision today,” Jambon told Terzake.

“We will receive the Dutch test results next week. We are planning a test event with more people, with a thousand people in Hasselt in April. That will yield new insights and we will also share them with the Dutch.”

“Something will certainly be possible this summer but let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he concludes.

“Something will certainly be possible this summer but let’s not get ahead of ourselves”

The April tests, announced by Flemish ministers last week, will involve 1,000 students and young people attending an event at the Grenslandhallen (Park H) in Hasselt.

The experiment will focus on the efficacy and reliability of rapid tests and home testing kits, which culture minister Zuhal Demir says could be “the key to a fun-filled summer”.

Elsewhere, Charles Gardier, director of Belgian festival Francofolies de Spa and deputy of political party Reform Movement, along with the Cultural Centre of Spa and rock group Ykons, are planning Wallonia’s first pilot concert with 400 people for late March.

Though a decision on Belgium’s 2021 festival season is still a while off, the Flemish government recently designated a total of €60 million to help the region’s organisers kickstart preparations for the summer.

However, the announcement of the fund didn’t provide enough assurance for metal festival Graspop, which became the first major Belgian festival to cancel its 2021 edition, citing ‘uncertainty surrounding the summer’.

Other major festivals in Flanders, including Rock Werchter, Tomorrowland, and Pukkelpop, are still scheduled to go ahead at the time of writing.

 


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Sportpaleis plans non-stop 24-hour livestream concert

Antwerp Sportpaleis is organising a 24-hour non-stop livestream concert to mark exactly one year since concert halls closed due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

More than 100 Belgian artists, across all genres, will perform original and cover songs in the empty 18,400-seat arena to show that they are ‘ready to storm stages again’.

The ’24 Hours Live’ event, co-produced by Les Flamands, Sportpaleis Group and Live Nation, will kick off at 6 pm on 12 March and will be streamed in its entirety via hln.be.

Miguel Wiels is part of talent and production agency Les Flamands and one of the artists who will perform on the night: “After a year, the jitters can no longer be kept. Everyone in the industry wants to make music, well, we’re going to do that with my band.

“We have a setlist of more than 400 songs available”

“It’s heartwarming how many artists have voluntarily agreed to play with us. We have a setlist of more than 400 songs available. It’s going to be a long marathon and we probably won’t have enough of it after 24 hours. On the contrary: it is an advance when we will also be able to stand in front of a live audience. That moment is getting closer, we have every confidence in it. This stunt is a good dress rehearsal for that.”

Prime minister Jan Jambon, says: “We have had the most disastrous year in the history of our culture and events sector. I am very happy to contribute to 24 Hours Live. Because that’s what we have to do: let the music go on, no matter how difficult the circumstances. I hope that we will soon be able to resume our normal life.”

Sportpaleis recently raised €50,000 for Belgium’s live music industry through its Lights for Live fundraising initiative.

 


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