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What on this week: 4-10 May

18:56 03/05/2018
Our top picks of culture and activities in Brussels

Brace yourself for Brussels’ biggest party of the year. The annual Iris Festival brings even the most stalwart stay-at-homers out to the streets for one of hundreds of (mostly) free activities put on in celebration of the region’s history, community and diversity. Saturday’s unique tours known as Iris Festival in the Communes and the multi-site Food Corner give way to the evening’s rowdy Electro Night on Place des Palais. Head back out on Sunday for a Jacques Brel sing-along, the Party at the Brussels Parliament or to Brussels Park, where themed villages and street theatre await the whole family. 5-6 May, across Brussels

While the extremely prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition takes place annually in Brussels, it hosts just one of a number of classical music elements at a time. One year, young cellists might compete for the grand prize, for instance, while the next year it’s pianists. This year the stage belongs to voice, with 55 sopranos, baritones and tenors descending on Bozar and Flagey for one of the toughest competitions of its kind in the world. The first round has already taken place, with 24 moving on to the semi-final this weekend. Two Belgians are still in the competition – Paris-based Marianne Croux and Charlotte Wajnberg of Antwerp. There are still tickets available to the final of this cultural highlight of Brussels’ calendar, but you’d better snap them up now. Until 12 May, Flagey and Bozar

French photographer Jérémie Lenoir’s first solo show in Belgium is hosted by Galerie Mhaata in the Marolles, a relative newcomer to the area’s burgeoning gallery scene. Lenoir travels the world to shoot landscapes, avoiding clichés for extreme close-ups of the actual textures of geography and geology. Though sometimes he takes to the air to illustrate the patterns and shapes unwittingly created by industrialists, who are changing the very essence of the earth’s surface. Until 19 May, Rue des Capucins 37

Scandinavian literature apparently has more to offer than crime novels. At least according to Brussels’ house of literature Passa Porta, which is hosting Northern Lights, featuring three contemporary authors who will talk about their decidedly non-thriller-oriented work. Gunnhild Oyehaug of Norway has made international waves with the short story collection Knots; her comrade Johan Harstad is responsible for such best-selling (and amusing) titles as Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion and Max, Mischa and the Tet Offensive; and Danish writer Dorthe Nors was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize for Mirror, Shoulder, Signal. The whole discussion is in English. 10 May, 20.00, Passa Porta, Rue Antoine Dansaert 46

Other months must be envious of May. Not only does it bring you the Queen Elisabeth Competition and the Iris Festival (see above), it also includes Kunstenfestivaldesarts, a weeks-long festival of contemporary art and performance, often site-specific. Do yourself a favour and check out the programme, which includes some luminaries like Congolese dancer Faustin Linyekula and Swiss theatre director Milo Rau’s Histoire(s) du théâtre. Fringe activities include a mobile public library, workshops, talks and cinema. Until 26 May, across Brussels

Question: If your country was holding a referendum on whether to leave the European Union, would you know exactly what you were voting for – or against? During the annual Europe Day, EU institutions throw open their doors to show you what they do and how they do it. There are also debates, concerts and kids’ activities. Some local initiatives get in on the action, too, like Think European, Vote Local, an info day co-hosted by Irish in Europe to register non-Belgians to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. It comes complete with an Irish lamb barbecue. Europe Day: 5 May, 10-18, EU Quarter; Think European: Aloft, Place Jean Rey (Etterbeek)

Held during Europe Day (see above), European Opera Days invites visitors to take a peek behind the scenes of opera houses across the continent. Brussels’ La Monnaie hosts special tours, kids’ activities, sing-alongs and a picnic in Brussels Park. 5-6 May, La Monnaie, Rue Léopold

One day only to see what has taken seven months to develop: Les Brigittines presents Vivre en mai, the fruit of a co-operation between a choreographer, a musician and an artist and a group of Brussels citizens. They have created a multi-media piece on the theme of protest – this being the 50th anniversary of May 1968. Come see what your neighbours can get up to when led by three unique talents. 4 May 14.00 & 20.30, Les Brigittines, Petite Rue des Brigittines

Turn off the telly and settle in for some Living Room Music instead. This afternoon event finds 10 residents of Ixelles opening up their homes to musicians. Your ticket lets you into three concerts of about 30-minutes each – and some of them get you dancing, to boot. Meet your neighbours, some local talent and celebrate 15 years of Muziekpublique.  6 May, Solvay quarter (Ixelles)

Remember the big recognition of the work of Victor Horta this year? The reason behind it was because, 70 years after his death, Horta’s work now falls into the public domain. That means you can, say, take pictures of his interiors and share them freely in the media without having to get permission from his estate. Several organisations in Brussels and Mons are collaborating on Month of the Public Domain to recognise this end of copyright for many authors and artists, whose work has become much more accessible in being reprinted, performed and used for a wealth of other inspiration. There are readings, discussions, film screenings, exhibitions and more.

OUTSIDE BRUSSELS

With the ongoing influx of Scandinavian talent, crime thrillers have never been more popular. The Liege International Crime Film Festival is devoted to the genre, with movies from across the globe covering the gritty underworld of political intrigue, crooked cops and loathsome suspects. There are films for kids, too, in the more detective-oriented vein. Related events include galas and family breakfasts. 4-7 May, Palace Cinema and Kinepolis, Liège

Carré Curieux (Strange Square) is one of Belgium’s most celebrated circus troupes. The four performers live the itinerant circus life by traveling with their families in caravans from show to show. This Friday and Sunday, they perform at Latitude50, a highly respected centre for circus and street arts located in one of the most gorgeous parts of the country, the Condroz in Liège province. This new performance bring to life Picasso’s quote: “When I work, I do it as seriously as a child playing,” with amazing technical skills and poetic movements. There is no dialogue, which means no linguistic barriers. 4 & 6 May, 3 Place de Grand Marchin, Marchin

Dinner in the Sky makes its debut in Namur, finding you and your meal hovering high above the imposing citadel. This event, popular in Brussels, where it takes place every June, sees an open-air dining room hoisted 50 metres above the ground. A different celebrated chef is on hand each night for a week to serve multiple courses to 22 guests. A rather unforgettable experience, if you dare. 4-11 May, Esplanade de la Citadelle, Namur

Photo Kunstenfestivaldesarts: Adrian Parvulescu

Written by Lisa Bradshaw, Richard Harris