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Festive inauguration of Annie Cordy tunnel on Sunday 22 May
Belgium is formally leaving behind a small piece of its colonial legacy with the renaming of its Leopold II Tunnel on Sunday 22 May.
The inauguration of the newly-christened Annie Cordy Tunnel will take place in the presence of numerous French and Belgian artists, and will be held in conjunction with a four-kilometre march through the tunnel for breast cancer research.
Born in Brussels, Cordy was a Belgian actress and singer who appeared in over 50 films during the 1950’s, and appeared multiple times at Bruno Coquatrix' famous Paris Olympia.
The renaming of Belgium’s longest tunnel after Cordy has two objectives: increasing the presence of women in public spaces, and minimising the presence of colonial figures like King Leopold II, who initiated the brutal colonisation of the Congo.
The Brussels Region asked citizens in the autumn of 2020 to submit proposals for a new name for the tunnel. A committee of experts then selected their favourite proposals and the public voted in 2021 for Annie Cordy.
“The new name of the tunnel and its scenography are the icing on the cake of a complete renovation, the objective of which was to improve the safety and comfort of users,” said Brussels Mobility.
Among the many works carried out, asbestos has been completely removed from the structure, new emergency exits have been installed and the ventilation systems have been renewed. The ‘scenography’ refers to the installation of frescoes that artist Charlotte Beaudry created in homage to women.
Renaming not without controversy
Though the name received almost a quarter of the 30,715 votes cast, the decision was met with backlash from those who criticised the elevation of an actress over other famous female contenders like scientist Marie Curie, or the favouring of a French-language celebrity whose star has long since faded. Others said that to name a traffic tunnel after her was insulting.
Cordy’s niece, along with numerous Belgian and French artists, will participate in the inauguration ceremony, which will take place at midday.
A concert will be held at 15.00, and activities will take place in the nearby Parc Elisabeth in Koekelberg. Access to the tunnel will be allowed from 13.00 to 17.00.
“It’s very moving to see Annie's friends, who crossed paths with the unforgettable woman and artist, gathered on stage in 'her' Brussels,” said Michèle Lebon-Cooreman, Annie Cordy's niece.
“They were involved without hesitation, with enthusiasm, in the creation of this show, which will be in the image of Annie and which will resonate with this public with whom she shared a wonderful love story for 80 years.”
Fundraiser for breast cancer research
Participation in the march for breast cancer research is free and those who pre-register for the march at www.pink-ribbon.be will receive a collector's T-shirt for the event. For each pre-registration, Equal Brussels will donate €10 to Pink Ribbon, a non-profit organisation fighting breast cancer.
The march takes place in the tunnel itself, providing participants with a tour of the new frescos set to a soundtrack of Annie Cordy’s songs.
The fresco installation, called ‘Stand up,’ presents silhouettes of young women and questions the place of women in the public space. The portraits show the women from the front in the direction of the city entrance towards Midi and from the back in the direction of the city exit towards the Basilica.
The lighting of the tunnel has been completely redesigned in order to highlight the artist's work.