The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Ben and Bert Verstreken

Ben and Bert Verstreken

DJs & radio hosts (1989 & 1983)

Can you describe what you do?

We both collect and spin music on the daily – this includes our weekly radio show Mind Warp, on Radio Scorpio since 2009, and now alongside Bjeor for over a year now. Radio Scorpio is Belgium’s longest-standing independent station, based in STUK. Additionally, we host a monthly soirée at Café AperO. Always strictly vinyl – some might consider that as limiting ourselves, but that’s precisely the point, in a way. When doing a gig, your music selection is already half the work done (or rather, fun). It makes you more aware of the selective work involved as a DJ. And beyond that, we just find it much more enjoyable to spin vinyl.

In your view, what kind of city is Leuven? How does it compare to other, similar-sized cities?

Leuven’s a small town, resulting in a different atmosphere, compared to “another” city district. Unlike other cities, the multicultural influences are mainly provided by the University. Weekends tend to be quieter, with hordes of students returning home, but thankfully the multitude of Erasmus and international students that stay behind, keeps the city breathing and alive all year round. The fact that the city is quite small simply means everyone knows each other – there’s a certain coherence to be found here. Both among the residents as well as the promoters, DJ’s and artists, specifically within the local music scene.

For gig-lovers, there’s not only quaint café concerts throughout the city, but also your big-shot venues like STUK, 30CC and Het Depot doing their bit. For electronic music aficionados, the scene is slightly more limited – but in recent years we’ve seen a positive evolution thanks to initiatives like ONKRUID’s HORST and Habitat. The overall party scene is now finally beginning to expand and come out of their niche corners, with promoters and organisers becoming more open to different genres and styles.

What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

Stella Artois: on a serious note, you’ll always run into a familiar place – any place, any time. It’s super cosy – especially with a pint in hand.

Scorpio goes against the norm, significantly broadening Leuven’s cultural landscape.

How would you say Leuven has contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

It’s all thanks to Radio Scorpio that we’re able to fully grasp our musical qualities and tastes, with our selection of not-so-commercial music. Scorpio goes against the norm, significantly broadening Leuven’s cultural landscape.  Besides the station, Café AperO is another key point in our mind: they offer all-night spots to DJ’s – something we strongly recommend for all jockeys.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?

The unfortunate disappearance of the iconic club Silo has left an obvious, gaping hole behind. The City was more interested in “upgrading” the neighbouring Vaartkom area than in investing in its local cultural scene. There’s a dire need for the establishment of a small and/or medium-sized club here, where parties could be thrown.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Leuven?

We’d start off with sight-seeing during the day, simply because Leuven is full of old buildings in and around the University campuses – the Sint-Maartensdal residential complex with its distinctive hexagonal tower blocks really stands out. The buildings were built in the 1960s, based on designs by leading Antwerpian architect Renaat Braem. For greener sights, there’s an abundant choice of parks available – think Park Abbey or Keizersberg Abbey. The former offers some absolutely beautiful views over the city – weather permitting, of course. And last but definitely not least, vinyl-digging is to be done on Saturdays at De Lange Trappen on Mathieu De Layensplein, or chez Jos at De Sax.

In the evening, we often stop by one of Leuven’s many friteries – our go-to spot is Parkske, but if we ever get an itching for nostalgia, Oomske is the place to be. Otherwise, L’inizio offers excellent pasta dishes, as well as a prime location for people-watching. Afterwards, a dive into Café AperO to finish off the night.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

The Italo-Reus, or Italo-Giant: legend says that whoever offers him a Chimay Blue will be granted seven years of happiness and prosperity.