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Culture beat: 27 February
Belgium’s love affair with home building and renovation reaches its apex with Batibouw, the annual fair which opens to the public from Saturday until 8 March at Brussels Expo in Heysel. This year’s theme ‘Start to renovate’ reflects the increasing trend for home extension and refurbishment. This show is massive, incorporating all the latest technology in the building and home decoration industry, plus practical advice, from financing your renovation projects to receiving regional subsidies for energy-saving installations.
Rock climbers can hang up their crampons during the month of March and get their adrenalin fix at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The prestigious Canadian extreme sport event is on its world tour and in venues across Belgium and Luxembourg from 3 to 24 March. Tickets are almost sold out at Brussels screenings (at Wolubilis) but there are places remaining in provinces, including Braine L’Alleud, Mons, Antwerp, Ghent and Namur. Films include mountain bike adventures The Ridge and Sufferfest 2: Desert Alpine (pictured), nature-challenging Wild Women and The Unrideables, in which paragliders land and take-off in the remote snow-decked mountains of Alaska. Extracts from all the films are shown in one long evening. Hang onto your bootstraps for the ride of your life!
This being Belgium, fans of the silver screen are spoilt for choice when it comes to film festivals. Cinema Nova hosts the indie and cult film focus Offscreen from 4 to 22 March which offers a selection of unusual and unreleased movies. This year’s guest is American director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Poltergeist…). Screenings also at Bozar, Cinematek and Cinema Rits. The influential director presents a master-class at Cintematek on 7 March. The festival opens at Nova with Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, awarded the Golden Lion in Venice.
Nigerian author Ben Okri discusses 'Can art save the world?' at KVS on March 5 followed by an interview with Stefan Anrys (in English). The Booker-prize winning writer (The Famished Road) is a versatile writer and outspoken commentator. His latest book is The Age of Magic. Registration necessary.
London comic Arthur Smith headlines Stand Up Brussels at Théâtre 140 in Schaerbeek on Saturday 7 March. He is joined by French stand-up Marcel Lucont and fellow Brit Tom Allen. Smith (pictured) is best known for his stand-up work, in addition to his impersonation/singing of Leonard Cohen songs and his Mayor of Balham show on BBC Radio 4. Lucont is UK-based and performs in English, while Tom Allen is a charming raconteur, renowned for his chat and camp comedy. As ever, a pre-show Indian meal is available for €12.
Counting down to the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, tickets are selling fast for the various commemorative events. The opening ceremony, a magical sound and light show entitled Inferno, will be staged near the Lion’s Mound at 22.30 (pictured). Directed by Luc Petit, it is a poetic interpretation of the historical battle. If you live in the communes of Waterloo, Lasne, Genappe and Braine L’Alleud, you can buy pre-sale tickets from March 1 to 15, priced at €20 and €25. There is terraced seating for an audience of 12,000. The commemorative programme includes two re-enactments, expected to be the biggest in Europe. A new subterranean visitor’s centre is due to open at the end of May.
You can already immerse yourself in the atmosphere of 1815 by joining a torch-lit nocturnal walk in the nearby Villers-la-Ville Abbey on Saturday evening. La nuit des sentiers is an annual event, which in honour of the famous battle, shows life in the Cistercian abbey during the Napoleonic period. Groups leave from the Synidicat d’initiative every 20 minutes from 18.30. The abbey ruins are a magical backdrop to numerous cultural events throughout the year.