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The former farmhouse that has become a unique music venue

10:01 04/12/2018
La Ferme du Biéreau attracts names large and small

With its name thought to come from the old Walloon word for ‘nice view’, Ferme du Biéreau started life as a barn and has become an intimate, iconic venue that’s hosted some of the biggest names in Belgian music.

Opened 13 years ago, it was in 2008, under the directorship of Gabriel Alloing, that the venue really started to flourish. It was one of seven farms on land bought by the Université Catholique de Louvain in the early 1970s; the university decided to dedicate some of the buildings to art, and the Ferme du Biéreau was born.

The result is a main hall that can hold 400 people sitting, or more than 600 standing. “It has very nice old beams. It’s warm, it’s comfortable and cosy. And it’s listed,” says Alloing. Funding comes by way of Wallonia’s culture ministry and the city council, combined with ticket sales, and there is strong collaboration with both the university and the city council.

All genres are embraced at the Ferme de Biéreau, from jazz, rock and pop to classical and world. It welcomes up-and-coming artists from across Belgium and has hosted big names such as Hooverphonic, Arnaud and Puggy over the years. “That’s our motto, that we are open to any kind of music – as long as it’s good, of course!” says Alloing. “There are not many other places like ours. It’s a unique experience. It’s outside the city, it’s quieter; the fact that it’s an old farm makes it different. That’s the added value of the place.”

Artists also enjoy its uniqueness. “The musicians love it because we really do insist on the quality of the sound and making it welcoming and professional. They really like it. The contact between the musicians and the audience is really easy and cool, and it has a family dimension that you probably don’t get in other venues,” he says.

One of their most famous acts was on the cusp of stardom when he played at the farm in 2009; he’s since gone on to dominate the Belgian pop scene. For RTBF show D6bels on Stage, recorded at the farm, Stromae was called on to replace an ill Milow. “The presenter of the show had told us, ‘There’s a new guy, he’s cool, he’s getting a bit more famous on the internet’,” recalls Alloing. “The producer of the show said, ‘Come on, we have no time for that – we need famous people’.” But when Milow cancelled, it was at very short notice. “The producer went back to the presenter, asking, ‘Who’s this guy you’re talking about? Stromae? Can you get his phone number?’ They called Stromae, and less than three months later he was a star.”

New projects and collaborations are always in the works at Ferme du Biéreau. Its newest venture, a Nina Simone musical, is being co-produced with other partners and will be exported beyond the farm in January. With the yard and stables also due to be renovated next year, the farm continues to draw from its roots to go from strength to strength.

This article first appeared in WAB (Wallonia and Brussels) magazine

Written by Karen McHugh