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and&: Leuven's brand-new summit and festival looks into the future
Austin, Texas has South by Southwest. Berlin embraces new trends with its Tech Open Air festival. Now Leuven is making its mark with a brand-new multidisciplinary festival over four days and nights, encompassing everything from future technology to new music.
More than 8,000 people will be descending on the city this week for the inaugural edition of the and& summit and festival, which will mix inspiring daytime conference sessions from leading thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs with a night-time programme packed with entertainment.
"The goal is to put Leuven on the international map as an innovative city, focusing on three pillars: health, high-tech and creativity," festival curator Pieter Goiris tells The Bulletin. "The idea is that you discover Leuven and get inspired. We want to show the world what Leuven has to offer - and also bring the world to Leuven."
In a programme "curated for the curious", about 140 speakers will take to the stage (in English) to share their vision of the future of city life - including international experts who are flying in from Japan, the US, Switzerland and Korea among others.
The musical strand to the festival is also future-oriented, offering an opportunity to discover emerging avant-garde artists who are innovating and crossing genres.
"It's a modern version of conferences," Goiris says. "We've programmed it to be broad: everything from start-up events to a music festival."
The opening night on Wednesday includes a keynote from European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič, who will also be discovering the city of Leuven in a self-driving car to explore the future of sustainable mobility. The cream of the crop of Belgian startups will also be presenting their business - with the audience deciding who wins the €50,000 of prizes on offer.
In the music programme, one highlight is an artificial intelligence opera based on the legend of Faust - classical music performed with a contemporary digital twist.
Throughout the festival, five containers parked outside Leuven station offer the opportunity to discover the technology of the future, from virtual reality and 3D printers to drones and robots and the nearby International House is also putting on a range of activities.
And on Saturday, the festival opens up to the wider city with a broad range of free public activities (mostly in Dutch) - including a children's university where 200 youngsters can learn more about the future of our cities and take part in hands-on workshops.
The inaugural and& summit and festival in Leuven
Wednesday 2 - Saturday 5 May
10 venues around the city
Full festival pass (all conferences and events) €250, individual day access €150, Saturday activities free