The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Claire Leclef

Claire Leclef

Woman of the house at Het Anker

Can you describe what you do?

I am the wife of Charles Leclef, who runs the brewery Het Anker, which has been the family business for five generations. After a difficult period, he was able to turn it into an internationally successful enterprise by completely modernising the company culture.

Although I was trained as a nurse, over the years I’ve helped out in the daily operation of the brewery, taking care of group visits, doing a bit of administration and so forth. At one point in 2005, I even assisted in the production of a limited edition brew called Margriet for a local cultural event.

I haven’t been active in the brewery for about ten years now. With a family of five kids and a husband who is a jack-of-all-trades, I think I already have a pretty full life!

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

I came to Mechelen after marrying a ‘Mecheleir’, before meeting him I lived in Antwerp. This city was completely unknown to me when I moved here, but it turns out I like Mechelen a great deal better. I prefer small places and small crowds. For the past twenty years we have lived here in the brewery building, in a cosy and quiet part of town.

It surely helps that the city has been cleaned up to such an extent. I can remember a time when there were parts where you didn’t feel very safe at night. The Mechlinians have really made a concerted effort to transform their city into a pleasant and lively place where a lot of exciting things are happening.

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

I think you can say that the city has benefited from the success of the brewery, and vice versa. Part of the new direction for the enterprise was an opening of the brewery to the city’s inhabitants. They are more involved and we can tell they are proud of it. On the other hand, we are proud that our brewery is considered to be part of Mechelen’s success story. And of course, I am proud of my husband for what he has accomplished.

If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what/where would it be?

I often go for a walk on the Dijlepad, a wooden walkway that was constructed on top of the water. I also very much enjoy the Vrijbroekspark. I have heard many good things of the Hof Van Busleyden museum and the Kazerne Dossin, but I haven’t been there myself yet.

Can you talk to us about a local legend, a neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

On November 11, we celebrate a tradition for children that is very particular to this region: Sinte-Mette (Saint-Martin). The children go from door to door, singing songs for some candy or money.