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What’s on this week: 7-13 July

MIMA Brussels exhibition Jean Jullien
13:28 06/07/2023
The holiday season kicks off in Belgium with urban fiestas, music, film and family festivals and a bunch of other fun summer activities

The paintings of French artist, illustrator and graphic designer Jean Jullien entice viewers into his colourful and playful world. For his first solo exhibition at MIMA, Jean Jullien: Studiolo, the London-based artist explores the power of the image intertwined with the written word to luminate the richness and complexity of human experience. On show are paintings, photography, video, costume design, site-specific installations, books, posters and clothing. The central theme is the search for happiness in images of memories of walks and moments when life proves precious. Until 31 December, Quai du Hainaut 39-41 (Molenbeek-Saint-Jean)

Detours Festival

Uran dance festival Detours Festival opens with a Detours Cyphers event (for pros and fans) in Mont des Arts followed by an afterparty in Plein Publiek. The 14th edition of the event exploring an alternative side to hip-hop culture then bubbles along all summer with its multidisciplinary programme of dance, music, performance and street art. Catch the popular Cyphers events every Wednesday evening at Mont des Arts and in cities in Wallonia and abroad. An open stage accessible to all is followed by a street show then a dance ‘battle’ in a different style each week. 12 July to 23 September, multiple locations in the city


Escape the bustle of city life with a brief musical interlude in the city’s museum quarter. Musicorum offers free classical concerts every lunchtime until the end of the summer. It’s a varied and original programme with soloists, orchestras, chamber ensembles, instrumentalists and singers all taking to the stage. Among them are international artists: seasoned and rising talents. Until 31 August 12.15-13.00, Tuesday-Friday, Museum of Fine Arts, Rue de Régence 3

PleinOpenAir (c)Coutresy Cinema Nova

It’s free, it’s funky, and it’s back after a five-year absence. PleinOPENair is Cinema Nova’s outdoor festival, packed with film screenings, talks, walks and concerts. The nomadic affair takes place in locations that are controversial for one reason or another – neglected, say, or under threat of development. So take to the wetland around Wiels and to Park Ouest for activities like a screening of the dark gentrification comedy Next Door, the mesmerising melodies of band Mólo Sâyat and a kite workshop where the western winds blow. 7-12 July, across Brussels


Bursting back onto the capital’s summer cultural scene with some 25 shows is the annual Bruxellons! festival. Proudly presenting some of the best French-language productions of the past season, its big draw is the musical comedy West Side Story. The classic Bernstein and Sondheim drama set in New York in the 1950s, runs from 11 July to 26 August. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the festival is a city summer favourite, offering a perfect evening out, complete with a pre-show buffet to enjoy in a wonderful water-side setting. 10 July-24 September, Château du Karreveld (Molenbeek-Saint-Jean)


An enchanting festival with an exciting international line-up, Brosella is one of Brussels’ most convivial and family-friendly live music events. Set in leafy Théâtre de Verdure, the immersive experience in the wooded location offers a diverse mix of urban ethno (Saturday) and jazz (Sunday). The Unthanks, Alune Wade, Trio Da Kali & North Sea String Quartet and Alune Wade perform world music, while the jazz component is provided by ADJA, Wajdi Riahi trio, Overseas and Bl!ndman playing Moondog, plus international guests Fred Hersch trio, Binker Golding Quintet, Camilla George and Yazz Ahmed, among others. DJ sets, a kids village, workshops and local and sustainable food all add to the festival vibe. Ticketing is based on the ‘pay-what-you-can’ system. 8-9 July, Osseghem Park, Atomium, Brussels

Urban Sessions Brussels

Freestyling it’s way back to Brussels is Urban Sessions with loads of different events and a wild free opening party to kick off the weekend. Expect crazy tricks as performers compete in the UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup that counts towards qualifications for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Other thrills include skateboarding, parkour and street art. Kid Noize, the event’s godfather, performs on 7 July to get everybody in the mood for this celebration of urban sports. 6-9 July, Josaphat Park (Schaerbeek)

Ars in Cathedrali (c)Diego Delso

If you don’t look up, you will miss the grand organ in the St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral. Known as a “swallow’s nest organ”, it is mounted high on the wall in order to optimize the acoustics in the gothic cathedral. The cathedral shows off its organ’s sublime sound during Ars in Cathedrali, a series of eight summer concerts. This year’s theme is Music of Love and kicks off with organist Paul De Mayer’s Endless Love program, dedicated to love of homeland and fellow citizens. 11 July to 29 August, Esplanade de la Sinte-Gudule

(c)Courtesy Brussel Danst (2)

In 1302, a citizen’s army defeated French knights in the fields surrounding Kortrijk, and this Battle of the Golden Spurs has gone down in history as a symbol of Flemish independence. Every year Flemish Community Day is celebrated on 11 July with loads of events and activities across the region and in the capital. Brussel Danst features sing-alongs on the Grand Place and in parliament, discussions on diversity and the darker side of art nouveau, guided walks, cycle rides, a big dance battle and more. Everything is free, but some events require registration. (In Dutch) 11 July, across Brussels and Flanders


Book Tickets Macy Gray is set to perform at La Madeleine concert hall as part of her new album tour The Reset with band The California Jet Club. The American Grammy-winning songstress lends her unmistakeable vocals to this first studio effort in five years. Tickets on sale from 7 July at 10.00. 8 November, Rue de la Madeleine 11


(c)Courtesy OLT Rivierenhof

Move fast to get tickets to see the phenomenal Coely, one of the hottest festival acts this summer, at the Rivierenhof amphitheatre in Antwerp. The series of open-air concerts that last all summer is tucked away in the absolutely lovely Rivierenhof castle estate. The oldest provincial domain in Belgium, it is celebrating its 100th birthday this year with all kinds of activities, so you can make a day of it. Until 9 September, Turnhoutsebaan 246, Deurne (Antwerp)

(c) Alexandra Dementieva

The Watou Arts Festival is in a far-flung corner of West Flanders but worth the trip. The annual event combines visual arts with poetry in offbeat locations like abandoned houses, old farms or brewery cellars. Besides the walking art trail, there is a poetry cycle route where you can hear contemporary poetry inspired by the region’s wartime history (in Dutch). The walking trail can be done in one long day, but spending the night in this cute district of Poperinge surrounding by rolling hills is no bad thing. Until 3 September, across Watou (Poperinge)

(c)Courtesy Jurassic-Adventure

Dinosaurs roam Antwerp during Jurassic Adventure, a major exposition dedicated to these 200 million year-old beasts. Animatronic dinosaurs move and roar in scenes straight from the Mesozoic, providing edutainment for the whole family. The indoor-outdoor event also includes games and play structures for kids – and the chance to pose for a pic in a giant dino egg. Until 31 August, Waagnatie, Rijnkaai 150, Antwerp


Some 80 beers from regional breweries will be on tap at the Barnabeer Estival at Namur citadel over the weekend. From this lofty perch, the Namur brasserie stages concerts, folklore activities and entertainment for kids as well as the sampling of Belgian ales. Food trucks are onsite to keep visitors fuelled for the duration of the festival. The Esplanade location is accessible via a breathtaking cable car ride that runs from the city-centre (close to the Sambre river). Entrance €5 (inc deposit for beaker). 7-9 July, Esplanade, Namur citadel

banner_event medieval fair

Immerse yourself in medieval life at the annual Fil  de l’épée in Verviers this weekend. Sword fights, armoury shows, fire eaters, archery demonstrations, an artisan market and dance and song by minstrels and troubadours all await at the historic celebration. A cast of some 150 reenactors and a dozen companies take visitors on this journey into the Middle Ages. Entrance €5; free for under-12s.  8-9 July, Petit-Rechain, Domaine des Tourelles, Route de Grand-Rechain 65 (Liège province)

Gaulois village Visit Wallonia

Experience the famed conviviality of the ardent city at the 28th edition of Liège’s Village Gaulois. This traditional event in the city centre opens the holiday season with its colourful collection of chalets offering activities and some excellent gastronomic specialities. Until 16 July, Place Saint-Paul


Smoky songbird Norah Jones (pictured) is one of the highlights of Ghent’s big jazz festival this year. Others include the legendary Herbie Hancock and Nils Frahm, whose neoclassical piano infused with electronic beats is a big crowd pleaser for good reason. Gent Jazz’s two stages are in the garden of the historical Bijloke campus, just a 15-minute walk from the train station. Until 15 July, Godshuizenlaan 2, Ghent


The number one rendezvous for fans of rap and hip-hop, Les Ardentes boasts an impressive line-up at its Meuse river site. Delivering the beats are Absolem, Alkapote, Alonzo (pictured), Aya Nakamura, Booba, Benjamin Epps, Central Cee, DJ Snake, Dinos, Franglish, Gazo, Hamza, Ice Spice, Josman, Kendrick Lamar, Le Juiice, Naza, Niska, Rema, SCH, Soolking and ZKR. Also setting crowds alight are a bevy of DJs, including rap artist TARMAC. A large campsite awaits festivalgoers, sanitation has been improved, and public transport links have been stepped up for this edition. 6-9 July, Rue de l’Arbre Courte-Joie, Rocourt (Liège)


The Stroom Festival gets you out of the city and into the lovely countryside of the Scheldt Valley between Antwerp and Ghent. There are boat trips, bike rides, classical concerts along river banks and a jazz concert on the moat of a castle. During Dender Discover, a cycle route along the Dender river takes you to interesting places in and around Dendermonde, with musical interludes. It kicks off with a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring well-known actors like Koen De Graeve. Be aware that events involving language are in Dutch. Until 14 July, across Antwerp province and East Flanders

vv_intotheopen_abcdannywillems_monsAn iconic summer event in the Hainaut capital of Mons, Festival au Carré boasts a packed programme of not only concerts, dance, theatre and circus, but also vibrant performances, musical cinema, talks and walks. After celebrating its 20th anniversary a couple of years ago, the festival returns with plenty of surprise events in store. One such highlight is Into the Open (Voetvolk; pictured), which combines rock and dance for a wild collective leap into trance limbo on 1 July at Grand Manège. Until 8 July, venues across Mons 


Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the Amazing Asia Festival, which brings together music, dance, a market, workshops, Thai massage, street food and tropical drinks designed to inspire you to travel to one of many eastern destinations. This lively traveling festival lands in several cities this summer and continues into September. Don’t be afraid to click on “tickets”; it’s super cheap. Until 24 September, across Belgium


Enghien castle and its park are the setting for the annual LaSemo festival. In additional to a quality musical line-up: Selah Sue, Typh Barrow, Balthazar, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, among others, there’s plenty of street theatre, kids’ activities and other events to keep everyone happy. The site is divided into 12 zones to help festivalgoers create their own programme for the day or duration of the event. Different campsites also cater for different audiences: family, festive, quiet, etc.  7-9 July, Parc d’Enghien, entrance via Avenue Elisabeth or Chaussée Brunehault (Hainaut province)

stavelot_fritland-c-debbie-termonia (1)

The eastern Belgium town of Stavelot has been hosting the street-theatre festival VTS (Vacances Théâtre Stavelot) for more than 50 years. Housed in the outstanding heritage site, Stavelot Abbey, it offers an eclectic programme for all ages. Among the highlights are Froufrou, une vie sauvage by Caroline Lamarche, Dominique Rongvaux in Heureux qui comme Ulysse and Fritland (pictured), a festive show by and with Zenel Laci & Denis Laujol. Visitors can also catch musician Karine Clercq in concert. 7-16 July, Stavelot Abbey (Liège province)


This epic musical adventure – spanning the 17th to 20th centuries – boasts a picturesque backdrop with beautiful old stone churches, priories and fortresses along the Meuse river serving as concert venues. Festival de l’Été Mosan offers an eclectic programme, from classical, early and chamber music to world sounds and jazz. Each concert is unique and chosen for the quality of its performers (pictured: Voce quartet). The festival starts in Dinant with Belgian violinists, the Huang sisters (of Queen Elisabeth competition fame), accompanied by the Young Belgian Strings and a repertoire that heads north to Sweden, Norway and Lithuania. 9 July to 2 September, Meuse valley (Wallonia) 

Don't miss our full guides to music festivals and arts and family festivals this summer!

Photos: (main image) Installation view of Jean Jullien, STUDIOLO at MIMA, photo ©Philippe de Gobert; PleinOpenAir ©Coutresy Cinema Nova; Ars in Cathedrali ©Diego Delso; ©Courtesy Brussel Danst; Greenhouse Talent Macy Gray; ©Courtesy OLT Rivierenhof; Watou ©Alexandra Dementieva, Westhoek; ©Courtesy Jurassic-Adventure; Gaulois village ©Visit Wallonia; Gent Jazz Norah Jones ©Shervin Lainez; Stavelot Fritland ©Debbie Termonia 

Written by Sarah Crew and Lisa Bradshaw