Elke Neuville, Arnout Hauben, Mik Cops and Harald Hauben

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.

Elke Neuville, Arnout Hauben, Mik Cops and Harald Hauben

Elke Neuville, Arnout Hauben, Mik Cops and Harald Hauben

Founders, De chinezen (1980, 1976, 1975, 1971)

Can you describe what you do?

We are De chinezen, a Leuven-based television production company originally. Due to certain circumstances, we now work out of Mechelen for the time being, although we still regularly touch base with Leuven, and plan to move back to the city in 2018. Our core business is television: since 2011, we create socially aware TV programs, mainly for the Flemish public broadcaster VRT. None of us have the usual nine-to-five, so our office isn’t so mainstream either. We like that it’s a little bit “off”: we love surprises and are most creative when we’re surrounded by others who share the same spirit as us. That’s why we love the Vaartkom neighbourhood in Leuven, an area where creatives from different fields can find each other.

Leuven has always been a university city and over the last few years, a young and creative community with a vision has taken it upon themselves to start a lot of exciting new events.

How do you perceive Leuven?

Leuven has always been a university city and over the last few years, a young and creative community with a vision has taken it upon themselves to start a lot of exciting new events. Since then, Leuven has begun to cater to more than just older tourists, or students who leave the city come summertime. Little by little, new incentives and a more urban feel have emerged, even if there is still a long way to go.

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

Its ability to attract the young: there’s a natural influx of youngsters thanks to the University – but in order to keep them here, there need to be more initiatives tailored to their tastes. That’s what’s slowly happening right now, with the establishment of cool new bars and shops, small festivals like Piknik Musik held every summer, new parks and less cars in the centre.

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

Our link with Leuven is very organic: us four founding members of De chinezen were born and raised in the city of Leuven – so we’re very much excited to be back on our home turf. Many of our friends are still Leuven-based, as are the majority of our business contacts and partners. We even frequently work with people we’ve known since school.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

There’s a lot of good will and intentions, but often it takes a lot of time for anything to really take off. Due to certain large construction companies, a lot of interesting buildings were taken down to make place for luxury apartments instead. A real tragedy for young people on a tight budget, as well as for the beautifully industrial feel of the city. Leuven is also very “white”: there’s not a lot of mixed cultures to be found here unfortunately, aside from the expats or international students who are here only as temporary residents.

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

Oude Markt is still not to be missed: with fifty bars all packed into one square, it remains a sight to be seen.

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