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Gentse Feesten: Embrace the chaos

17:08 15/07/2015
The festival that never sleeps starts in Ghent next week

Check out the young woman in the photo above. What is she doing? She is at the Gentse Feesten, so the possibilities are many. Is she drunk? Is she engaged in performance art? Has she has eaten too much fried food? Or is she just a typical tree-hugging hippie Gentenaar?

During the Gentse Feesten – the largest combo music and street theatre festival in the world – all of Ghent comes together. While you normally might not strike up a conversation with strangers on the streets, during the Gentse Feesten, you will. Whether you like it or not.

The Gentse Feesten is full, full, full of things to do and see. But one of the nicest experiences is just wandering around, happening upon things. Spread throughout the entire city centre, the bulk of “the Feesten” is free and accessible – day and night. There is no entrance or exit, there is no ticket or openingsuren. It doesn’t matter when you go. It’s a 10-day open-air party. It is – with apologies to New York – the festival that never sleeps. 

You’ll find that different types of people have vastly different stories about the Gentse Feesten. Conversations can lead you to believe that it’s a gentle puppet buskers festival or a big folky picnic of African dance and mint tea or a beer guzzling all-night brawl of bawdy behaviour. Yes, it is.

Should you need a goal, however, to get you started, there are some highlights in a programme that includes about 1,000 entries. You can pick up a concert programme at the Feesten for €2; the street theatre programme is free.

You can’t go wrong with the toe-tapping pop songs of Belgian musician Marco Z in the beautiful spiegeltent in Baudelopark on 17 June. As for the organised street theatre (as opposed to the loads of performers who just show up and grab a piece of street), the boys of Bevis are a hoot with their manipulations of everyday objects employing the laws of chemistry and physics. They perform every day from 18 to 21 July.

And see if you can’t locate the little car driving about the Feesten full of swimming goldfish and a driver you should avoid eye contact with if you don’t want to become part of his show. \ Lisa Bradshaw

Goodbye Ten Days Off, hello Klankfest

The king is dead, long live the king! Ten Days Off, the trailblazing festival that showcased electronic music in all its varieties during the Gentse Feesten, is no more. Klankfest, a collaboration of local party organisers, will fill in the gap at Vooruit. We asked organiser Myrthe Holvoet for Klankfest’s story. 

How does Klankfest differ from its illustrious predecessor?

Myrthe Holvoet: Just like Ten Days Off, we emphasise variety. There’s a tech-house night set up by Decadance, a disco night organised by Democrazy, a true techno night by Kozzmozz and even a rock night by Hindu Nights. The rock night is new, by the way. The difference is that these nights are all organised by different promoters, while Ten Days Off had a more centrist approach. But these collaborations are a true testament to the free-thinking Ghent spirit and suit the Feesten just perfectly.

Was it really necessary to separate the music genres like that?

We have to remember it’s only the first edition of this event, and it might not be such a bad thing to accustom people to it by actually naming what every night stands for. 

One thing Ten Days Off was well known for was its large number of electronic live acts. Not many of those here.
That’s true. We do have a few live acts on the rock night though, but the programming of electronic music is more focused on DJ sets. Those DJs are still the crème de la crème of the scene, though. I mean: Luke Slater, Deetron, Locked Groove, Cassy Britton, Prins Thomas, Optimo, Sven Van Hees… These aren’t exactly rookies. Better to err on the side of caution at first and maybe look for evolution next year. / Laurens Bouckaert

17-26 July
Gentse Feesten: across Ghent
Klankfest: Vooruit, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 23, Ghent

Written by Lisa Bradshaw and Laurens Bouckaert