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.

Fatiha Lamara

Fatiha Lamara

Youth worker at ROJM (1998)

Can you describe what you do?

I am a youth worker at the Regional Open Youth Center Mechelen (ROJM). Together with an agreeable and driven team, we offer assistance and guidance to young ladies. Our pedagogical work is based on interpersonal relationships with the girls that we forge through relaxation exercises. We try to support young people in their personal development, emotional, artistic… whatever they want. We offer homework assistance, sports activities and much more. Two years ago, I also started my own organisation F! T Style out of a love for sports. We offer football, aerobics and zumba, and we efficiently teach young people to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I live in Vennekant, a flourishing district where different nationalities live together. Once every year, we organise a neighbourhood party to bring the local residents closer together.

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?

In recent years, Mechelen has blossomed into a sparkling, cultural city that has something to offer for every age. It is safe, beautiful and there are plenty of parks built. Car traffic is diverted to the ring in order to provide more space and safety for the cyclist, pedestrians and children playing. Mechelen is rightly considered as one of the most beautiful cities in Flanders.

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

The drive of the Mechlinians, the many activities throughout the whole year, the commonality – every inhabitant is proud of the city, and has sufficient say in how to achieve this. For example, you can submit a “citizen’s proposal”.

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

I was born and raised in Mechelen, and I went to school here. At a young age, I joined the local youth house, where I got involved in my current occupation of youth work. In this city, every individual, regardless of gender, nature or origin, gets the chance to make a difference if they’re willing to put in the required effort.

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

I’d like to see even more girls being active in youth work. After all women can help a society evolve, so more involvement of this target group can be a positive evolution in society as a whole. I would also like more diversity in the city’s workplaces and more for more sport fields to become available.

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

The city centre with the Bruul is an ideal place for a two-day shopping spree. There, you have the opportunity to relax with a nice drink or snack in one of the eateries on the central square in the historic centre, the “Grote Markt”. Mechelen is also officially named “Kinderstad”, as it is a perfect paradise for children.There’s a lot of entertainment that is aimed at or suitable for the youngsters: the technology education centre Technopolis, Planckendael zoo, Nekker recreational park and much more.

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

The story behind the name “Maneblussers”: in the 17th century, one night a drunk man saw that the Sint-Rombouts Tower had caught on fire. He immediately sounded an alarm and people came running with buckets of water. Then suddenly the moon shines through the mist, and to their embarrassment, they realise that this was the source of the red glow. Hence, the nickname “Maneblussers” was born.