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.

Felice Dekens

Felice Dekens

TV and radio host (1986)

Can you describe what you do?

I host TV and radio programmes and all different kind of events. I work for regional tv-channels such as RingTV and RTV. On Sunday, I have my own radio show on Qmusic (‘De Favoriete 40’). But you may also recognise my voice from commercials, corporate movies, apps, cartoons on Nick Jr. and much more. Depending on the client’s preference, I record voice-overs in my home-studio, at the client’s office or in an external studio. So basically, I have a very varied job. As a freelancer, not one day is the same, but I love what I’m doing, it gives me so much freedom and energy. And I couldn’t pick a better city to live in than Mechelen, because its location means I can easily combine all these jobs spread all over Flanders!

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?

Mechelen has all the advantages of a big city: lots of shops, restaurants, hotels, historical buildings, etc. You can play a game of minigolf, go paddle-surfing (‘supping’) on the Dyle, visit Planckendael zoo or Technopolis activity centre, or just go for a walk in het Vrijbroekpark. In Mechelen, there is always something to see, do and discover.

On the other hand, it’s not the size of Brussels or even Ghent. So it also has the advantages of a small town as well. It never gets too hectic or too crowded, you‘ll always meet someone you know when you go for a walk, and the small streets are nice and cosy.

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

Even though Mechelen is a really old city with many historical buildings, to me it feels like a very young place. When I was a teenager, it wasn’t a very nice or safe place, but it’s amazing how it has taken a turn for the better in the last fifteen years. The Dyle river is exposed in the city centre after running underground for many years. There are plenty of new shops, restaurants, bars with new places popping up constantly. The council pays a lot of attention to ensure safety and dedicated facilities for children, which of course makes living in Mechelen very attractive for young families. Ten years ago, I always had to go to Leuven or Antwerp to have fun with my friends. Now they are all moving closer to Mechelen because it’s the place to be!

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

I always thought that I wouldn’t be able to live in a city, because it would be too hectic for me. But honestly? I have been here for three years and I never want to leave. It’s great to walk out of my door and have so many options of what to do: have a chat with the neighbours, go for a run, do some quick shopping, go get a drink, … My social life has become a lot more exciting and this gives me a lot of energy, which of course is reflected in my job.

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

I’d love to see more green in the city. Not just big parks like Vrijbroekpark, but more patches of green spread throughout the streets, between the cars and the pedestrians, outside of shops on the terraces of restaurants, etc.

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

Of course you have to visit the St. Rumbold’s Cathedral, and not only because it has been declared a Unesco’s World Heritage site. Make the effort to walk all 538 steps to the top. It’s a good workout and you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful view!

When the sun is out, I’d suggest to visit Benny’s SUP school. You can discover the city by stand-up paddling on the Dyle, which is really cool.