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Culture beat – July 18
It’s fireworks and fiesta as Belgium celebrates its national day on Monday. Now a firm fixture in Brussels, the Bal National on Sunday evening is an old-fashioned knees-up in the lively Marolles district. Even the royal family, including Philippe and Mathilde, have promised to drop in. Opening the festivities in the flea market with an invitation to hit the dance floor, is Unik Party at 19.00. A host of Belgian singers and bands follow: Belle Perez, Jos Mommen, Sttellla (Jean-Luc Fonck), and the Kings of Pop at 22.00. DJ Vivian Tramasure and bilingual presenters Swa & Berre promise to keep the party swinging.
Festivities the following day kick-off at 10.00 in Place Royale, Royal Park and other city-centre haunts. All museums in the capital are open and charging €1 entrance fee. Members of the Belgian armed forces and the civil defence service are laying on diverse entertainment. The traditional military and civil parade (led by a Royal Army Museum 1914 detachment) is in Place des Palais between 17.00 and 18.00. It includes for the first time 50 giant figures from Belgium, France and the Netherlands (starting from Place Poelaert at 15.00). In tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Great War and 70th anniversary of the liberation, the Royal Park is hosting a 14-18 Avenue. A special Liberation Parade is staged by the US 101st Airborne and a A F16 fighter jet is on show in Place des Palais. For the adventurous there’s a climbing wall in Rue Montagne du Parc and a death ride starting from the roof of the Labour Court. The annual firework display starts from here at 23.00; expect a 25-minute spectacular show, accompanied by music. STIB have reinforced public transport for the evening.
This being Belgium, there’s a national dish on the menu on Monday evening. From 18.00 in Place du Jeu de Balle join fellow diners for a giant mussels and chips at the third edition of the Resto National.
Roll up, roll up, it’s all the fun of the fair as the 134th edition of Brussels Midi Fair opens on Saturday. Taking over a 2km corner of the city, from Porte de Hal to Porte d’Anderlecht, the fairground continues until August 24. From traditional rides, to shooting ranges and roller coasters, there’s 130 different attractions. Among the new rides are a Terror Factory train, Challenger rockets and Rio water rapids. Equally, if not even more appealing, is the merry-go-round of tantalising bites: candy floss, toffee apples, deep-fried sweet beignets and many other Belgian specialities. There’s parking (500 places) at Porte de Hal, but public transport is recommended.
Gentse Feesten, July 18 to 27, is renowned for all-night partying and merry making. For the first time a curfew of 2.30 in the morning has been imposed in many squares of the medieval centre. Bars will now close at 3.00, but there are exceptions: Sint-Jacobs (5.00) and Vlasmarkt (8.00). With international street theatre, music, theatre, kids’ activities and more. One of the peculiarities of the Ghent event is that there are hundreds of organisers, creating a rich and diverse programme. On the musical front: Gorki, Marie Warnant, Jo Lemaire, MLCD, Amortski, Girls in Hawai. Access free in the squares, but tickets necessary for some activities. Public transport advisable.
Already underway is Francofolies, Spa, which opened with a sell-out concert by Stromae on Wendesday. Continuing until July 21, the 21st edition includes the usual mix of familiar French names: Patrick Bruel, Julien Doré, Saint-André, Renan Luce, Grand Corps Malade, BB Brunes, Bernard Lavillier, and Belgians: Hooverphonic, MLCD, Franco regulars Suarez, Sttellla and Gauff. The charm and appeal of Francofolies is also due to its setting in the beautiful Ardennes town of Spa. There are decent restaurants and pretty terraces offering alternative festival fare.