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Summer festivals in danger as municipalities announce cancellations

17:30 08/04/2020

The first municipalities have announced the cancellation of all events within their borders long after the current measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus have passed. The current measures are in effect until 19 April, though in all likelihood they will be extended in full or in part.

Saint-Josse in Brussels has announced that all public events scheduled to take place in the municipality are cancelled until the end of June. Some events will be postponed if other dates can be found.

“This was a painful decision to take,” Saint-Josse mayor Emir Kir (PS) told La Dernière. “But according to our city council, the crisis is going to go on for some time. We have analysed the public health situation on the basis of information we have received from the federal government, and we know full well that the crisis will last past 19 April.”

This is bad news, for instance, for the Street Arts Festival meant to take place on 6-7 June. All braderie street fairs are also cancelled, as well as sports events and art exhibitions. “Service providers and municipal services at this point don’t know what to expect, so with this date we are giving them a clear message,” said Kir.

‘Our greatest weapon’

Another municipality has also cancelled all public events, and for a much longer period: Houthalen-Helchteren in Limburg will host no city-sponsored events until October, the city council has announced.

“We need to scale down the measures very gradually,” said mayor Alain Yzermans (SP.A), “and we have to prevent large groups from coming together.” He realises that cancelling events until the autumn seems extreme, but the mayor said that “preventing the spread of the virus is the greatest weapon we’ve got”.

Whether private events can take place – such as the Extrema Outdoor dance festival, scheduled for next month – is unclear. “When it comes to our own events, we are setting an example,” said Yzermans. “The Federal Crisis Centre will have to decide if the big festivals can take place. I am assuming that this festival, scheduled for the end of May, will not happen. But they are holding their hearts waiting – just like festivals like Rock Werchter and Tomorrowland – for the Crisis Centre’s verdict.”

Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close has similar misgivings for the summer festivals in his municipality. “It is likely that Couleur Café will not be able to take place between 26 and 28 June,” a spokesperson from his cabinet announced this week. “We are keeping a close watch on the situation, but it’s too soon to take a final decision. But for the festivals that take place earlier in the summer, it doesn’t look good.”

For its part, Couleur Café has launched the hashtag #SavetheSummer, advising everyone to stay home now so we can come out then.

Photo ©Hatim Kaghat/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw