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.

Jasper Benn

Jasper Benn

Owner of event bar KUUB (1987)

Can you describe what you do?

Together with Koen Verdonck and Jasper Meysmans, I run KUUB, an event bar and youth centre in Mechelen. I’ve lived here my whole life, mostly in the city centre. Recently, I moved to Gentbrugge (the things a man does for love!) and commuting is one of the only constants in my daily routine. Six days out of seven I am in meetings, working bar shifts at KUUB, enjoying the city with family and/or friends, or working and brainstorming at my co-working desk in ARTENOVA.

Whenever possible I try to help cultural and economic endeavours, which is one of the reasons I am a member of Mechelen’s Culture Advisory Counsel.

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

Mechelen has a very rich basis for initiative, and many things are possible here. In my opinion, Mechelen has the potential to be an extremely innovative place, and luckily I’m not the only one.

Mechlinians are very eager to see change. Some people talk about it, some think about it – and if you want to do something about it, Mechelen is the place to be. We’re evolving from a provincial town into a blooming city. This give us an unique advantage. We have the opportunity to start from scratch, exploring other cities for ideas and experiences, and learning by these examples.

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

For me, Mechelen is a place to connect with people. There is a wide variety of local scenes and it’s hard to take a pick. But why choose? It is exactly this diversity that keeps me up-to-date, that makes me reflect about myself, our city and its mechanisms.

I learn so much from every encounter and so many people here have helped me to become the person I am today. I’m a firm believer in ‘giving and giving back’ instead of ‘giving and taking’. I can only hope I can keep on giving something back to the city. With this idea in mind, I helped organise the first poetry festival in Mechelen, I became a part of the crew that organises the Dijlefeesten, and I have had many other amazing experiences.

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

There needs to be a better dynamic between innovative, social and cultural entrepreneurship, cooperations, artists and the city administration. Pieter Steyaert and myself are in the very early stages of making this a possibility.

The city could also use more affordable housing. Due to Mechelen’s rising popularity we attract elderly people with more purchasing power than the average young family or single person. As a result, housing projects are getting bigger and more expensive.

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

Every weekend I spend in Mechelen is different. Nothing is too far away so I can easily do what I want to do at any time. If you’re an out-of-towner, just go drink a nice beer at one of the many cosy bars in Mechelen and ask the bartender what’s going on at the moment. Stroll and look around, you will always find something to do!

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

For me, the late Bodo Van De Voorde can be classified as a local legend. He was the founder of Dijlefeesten, an artist, bar-owner and godfather of the alternative ‘Vismarkt generation’. He inspired and empowered those around him, always stood up for his beliefs and was someone who brought people together.