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What’s on this week: 17-23 September

15:12 16/09/2021
Our top picks of events and activities in Brussels and beyond

European Mobility Week kicked off on 16 September, and the big event is, of course, Car-Free Sunday. It’s the one day a year when the entire Brussels-Capital Region is closed to motorised vehicles. This also includes all electrically powered transport with two or more wheels, so take to the streets on foot, roller skates or by normal bike or scooter to enjoy the loads of events. These are unfortunately not brought together on one website, but Brussels-City at least does an excellent job of telling you what’s happening in its borders. This includes the Folklorissimo folk festival, the opening of the fully renovated old Laeken train station (now a hub for creative projects) and special activities at Beursschouwburg. Car-Free Sunday, 19 September 9.30-19.00, across Brussels

The Phoenix Festival is three evenings of classical music performed by members of Brussels Muzieque. It is an organisation that brings together hand-selected musicians from some of Belgium’s – and Europe’s – most prestigious orchestras, such as Brussels Philharmonic, the Belgian National Orchestra and the La Monnaie orchestra. They team up to create wholly originally ensembles and for the Phoenix Festival will present quartets from the classical period for bassoon and strings, a string trio performing Bach and Shubert and Stravinsky’s Historie du Soldat.
24-26 September, Full Circle, Chaussée de Vleurgat 89 (Ixelles).

A scene from Hamlet by TNT Theatre

British touring company TNT Theatre presents its award-winning version of Hamlet on the magnificent grounds of Groot-Bijgaarden Castle. Joining the actors are life-size puppets and ghosts who mix comedy with the inevitable tragedy of a family brought down by a thirst for power, lies and revenge. 23 September 14.00 & 18.00, Isidoor Van Beverenstraat 5, Groot-Bijgaarden (Brussels periphery)

Forced to skip a year, the Affordable Art Fair is happily back at Tour & Taxis. Thousands of visitors troop through every year to check out what 70 Belgian and international galleries have to offer, from paintings to photographs to sculpture. While prices tend to start around €100, anyone who’s shopped the art market knows that’s pretty unrealistic, so do expect to see most prices above the €500 mark. 22-26 September, Avenue du Port 86

A still from the film Dancing Mary

It’s the first edition of the Japan Film Festival in Brussels, with a selection of both recent and classic films from the country. Japan has a rich film history, which is evidenced here in a variety of genres that also serve to introduce audiences to a very specific artistic and social culture. 17-24 September, Espace Lumen and Tour & Taxis

Choose from 140 locations and hundreds of activities during Heritage Days. Under the theme Meeting Points, places where people gather are at the heart of this year’s programme. This means tours of historical spaces that may not be open to the public now but once were, as well as stories behind places you likely know quite well. Consider a tour of Bains de Bruxelles in the Marolles, for instance, or a travelling theatre show at Baudouin Park in Jette. Activities that require a registration are filling up fast, so get on it. 18-19 September, across Brussels

A photograph of seagulls feasting on chips by Martin Parr

Martin Parr is one of the world’s greatest photographers, and the exhibition Martin Parr: Parrathon at Hangar shows you why. He started in the 1970s, shooting series of his fellow British citizens, from their small town lives to their reactions to inclement weather. He moved on to more worldly themes like mass travel, overconsumption and the inimitable series ‘Think of England’. His photos are funny, revealing and sharply political, sometimes all at once. 17 September to 18 December, Place du Châtelain (Ixelles)

Full Circle international club invites everyone to tune into the e-seminar The Next-Gen Social Network with Mark Weinstein. He’s the Californian who founded MeWe, the social network that promises no ads and no censorship but has since become a bastion of conspiracy theories and fake news. Hear what he has to say about the good and bad of social networks. 23 September 18.30-20.30

The tram of the Tram Experience

Dine in style during the Tram Experience, kicking off this week. The popular event sees menus prepared by star chefs served to diners aboard a special tram that trundles through Brussels. There’s a new look this year, as the tram has been full renovated and refurbished. Visit Brussels has extended the dates of this twice now, so you can still book a place. But you might want to act fast. 18 September to 30 December

See Belgian theatre productions during your (long) lunch hour for the next month at Bozar. Coming up are Ma Andi Mangoul, about the 1980s experiment to teach the federal police Arabic, and Lubricant for Life, the first production by the new company Woodman, wherein they offer the perfect recipe for never-ending happiness. (In French or Dutch) Until 19 October, Rue Ravenstein 23

A photograph of shadowy people on the shorline by Richard Petit


The coast’s biggest city presents the first edition of the Ostend International Photo Biennial, a major show of 30 contemporary  photographers from Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Spread across several locations, indoor and out, the event took the city’s two most famous artists – James Ensor and Leon Spilliaert – as the starting point in curating photographs that are infused with a sense of mystery or threat. The biennial is a great way to explore the seaside resort as well as the work of some master European photographers. Until 24 October, across Ostend

The Ypres city museum hosts Puss, a major exhibition devoted to our feline friend. It examines our enduring relationship with these idiosyncratic animals throughout history. How did the simple cat go from getting tossed off towers to being the star of social media? Texts are in multiple languages, including English. A ticket includes a visit to the Yper Museum. Until 16 January, Grote Markt 34, Ypres

Photos, from top: ©Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga; courtesy ArtEdNet; courtesy Windows on Worlds; Dorset, England, UK, 1996 ©Martin Parr/Magnum; ©E Danhier/Visit Brussels; ©Richard Petit/ Ostend Int'l Photo oBiennial. Sorry! Our Phoenix Festival prize giveaway has now closed and the winners have been notified.

Written by Lisa Bradshaw