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.

Frank Telli

Frank Telli

Hip-hop video director (1991)

Can you describe what you do?

I’ve lived in Mechelen for more than 15 years, and nowadays I live right in the middle of the city, near the Dyle. My family fled from Chechnya when I was 9, during the war.

In Mechelen, I started making short movies and videoclips with my friends, and by doing so and educating myself through the internet, I soon picked up on the tricks of the trade. I increasingly started making videoclips for hiphop artists, primarily in the Netherlands.

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 is the perfect home base for me. I often have to travel quite a lot for my work, sometimes as far as the States and Asia. When I land at Zaventem airport, it only takes me 15 minutes to get back home to Mechelen by train. I like the life on the road, but it’s always a relief to return here, where everything is clean and tidy, all the people are friendly, and I have my family close by.

It’s a small place, but I like the intense concentration of different cultures here. I have seen that change happen even while I was still in school. It’s definitely a change that took place gradually and naturally, somehow it doesn’t feel forced.

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

I think it’s the open-minded mentality of the people here, especially young people. There is also a great drive to work together. The small scale of the city allows these collaborations to happen in a more flexible and efficient way. The yearly spring fair is a good example of this. In a bigger city like Antwerp, a large event like that would take months to prepare. Over here, it comes together a lot easier.

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

As a youngster, the city provided me with a lot of chances to express and develop my creativity. I went to art school and music academy, and I was a member of several sport clubs.

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

This city’s council is very good at communicating with the population, so I can support a democratic decision even when I personally don’t always agree with it. For example, the decision to keep cars out of the city centre is not very practical for me since I use my car quite a lot. But if it proves to be a change for the better, I can put aside my personal opinion.

If there’s one thing I want to suggest, it is that I think we could do more for the student population specifically.

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

Have a drink on the Grote Markt, IJzerenleen or the Vismarkt. New places are constantly popping up, so make sure you check those out too. Only yesterday, I passed by the Kruidtuin and noticed a new open air bar I hadn’t seen before that looked super cosy. I would also recommend Akira, they serve great sushi!