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Culture beat - March 20

15:35 20/03/2013
There’s no holding back Irish arts, literary events invade the city centre and the worlds of comic strip and jazz notch up birthday celebrations.

Irish cinema is centre stage at Bozar in a continuing focus during the country’s EU presidency. A series of films are running parallel to the art exhibition Changing States that features contemporary Irish art, plus works and objects from Francis Bacon’s studio. The films include Jim Sheridan’s classic My Left Foot (it earned actor Daniel Day-Lewis his first Oscar) on Friday, followed by Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (part of the BIFFF festival) on April 2, Men at Lunch by Seán Ó Cualáin on April 16 and finally the Best of Irish Short Film on April 29 (part of Short Film Festival). The films’ directors are present each time.

Waterstones continues its book presentations, this time both fiction. New York Times bestselling teen fiction author Ruta Sepetys talks about her latest work, Out of the Easy, on March 26. The book promises love, mystery, murder, blackmail and warmth and a girl who wants more. Brussels author Helen Grant returns on March 30 with her new book, Silent Saturday, in which 17-year-old Veerle becomes embroiled in the horrific criminal underworld of suburban Brussels. Free entry but attendance should be confirmed by email

The most significant event in Brussels’ literary calendar is the Passa Porta Festival, at multiple venues until Sunday. One of its major themes is the Arab Spring, with five writers invited from countries undergoing social revolution. The opening event with Algerian author Boualem Sansal is sold out but places remain for other events. ‘Imagine’ is the event’s catchword and dozens of international writers, including Julian Barnes (above), AS Byatt, Lydia Davis and Adam Zagajewski, add their voices to this theme. A literary parcours on Sunday sees numerous readings in cultural venues and cafes around Brussels. 

Brussels may be the capital of Europe, but it doesn’t have a reputation as a centre of conviviality. One initiative aimed at overturning this is Neighbourhoods celebrate, organised by VisitBrussels this weekend. How does it work? More than 200 activities are proposed in all 19 communes with a welcome point and greeters in each. Activities include visiting the RTBF tower, touring city sewers, going backstage at the Théâtre du Parc and exploring secret corners of the Ixelles Museum and the Forest mosque. The idea is to show off the city’s hidden facets and diverse cultural mix. If you’re out-of-towners, take advantage of a promotion in which hotels of all categories offer rooms from €30 to €100 on Saturday night. 

In the illustrious world of Belgian comics, Hergé is not the only name of international repute. Willy Vandersteen, creator of Bob and Bobette and Spike and Suzy, was one of the stars of 20th-century Flemish comics. In tribute to the 100th anniversary of his birth in Antwerp, a major retrospective, Willy Vandersteen Storyteller, is showing at the Belgian Comic Strip Center until September 1. It includes exceptional works, some never shown before in public, from the more than 1,000 albums he created, which sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. 

Another birthday celebration is Brussels Jazz Orchestra’s 20th anniversary mega-concert tour. It kicks off at Flagey on Thursday before continuing at De Singel in Antwerp on Saturday, Kortrijk on March 27 and Hasselt on March 28 before heading abroad. The BJO is still revelling in post-Oscar success following its 2012 original score award (with the Brussels Philharmonic) for the film The Artist. For its anniversary concert, the band has drawn on major figures from the Belgian jazz scene who have collaborated with them over the past 20 years and achieved international fame: Philip Catherine, Tutu Puoane, Bert Joris, David Linx and Michel Herr. 

Outside Brussels

Like to knock on wood? Head to the Salon Bois & Habitat at Namur Expo from Friday until March 25, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary. The fair is the pioneer for wood construction in Belgium and also covers interiors and furniture in wood. It includes exhibitions devoted to design and wood, plus an artisan village. 


Written by Sarah Crew