Can you describe what you do? How did you end up in Antwerp?
I’m editor-in-chief of This Is Antwerp. Which mostly means managing the editorial process which proceeds the magazine, social media, the website and the mobile app. I coordinate with the locals who write for us, and help them get into parties and exhibitions they’d like to write about. Apart from the magazine’s colophon, I actually write very little content. I also plan This Is Antwerp’s strategic path and set up creative collaborations. I grew up in Mortsel, just outside Antwerp, to a true born-and-bread Antwerp father. Even as a child I had the feeling that, while my home was in Mortsel, I was living in Antwerp. Every free moment I had was spent in this city’s streets. Moving to the city was an obvious choice.
How do you perceive Antwerp? What is it about the city that attracts you?
Firstly, I believe my roots have a lot to do with it. My father is a butcher’s son, whose parents always had a butcher shop in town. Like any true Antwerpian, he’s incessantly proud of his city, and I do feel like this is something that was passed on through the generations. On the other hand, I must also say that I am a true city-dweller. Whenever I go camping, two days already seem like eternity. And I love Antwerp specifically, because I don’t feel as though I live in an incredibly enormous city like Brussels, Berlin or Paris. By footprint, the city is small, but it still breathes the atmosphere of a metropolis. There’s so much to see and do here, whether it’s art, fashion or nightlife – the possibilities are endless.
Our current creative climate is, I believe, a logical consequence of our history.
What gives the city its edge and makes it appealing for creatives?
I suspect that it has something to do with the city’s history. Antwerp has always been a city by the stream, next to the River Scheldt. And in the old days, our harbour stretched all the way into town. Antwerp was a real global commerce hub. People from all over the world have been congregating here for centuries. Even Napoleon thought it important to exercise his power here. Our current creative climate is, I believe, a logical consequence of our history. Although, people do go around saying that there’s something in Antwerp’s water that turns its people into creative innovators. So maybe we just drink a lot of tap water.
Where would you take out-of-towners spending the weekend in Antwerp?
That strongly depends on who’s visiting. I’d take my maternal grandparents, who aren’t from around here, to the historical centre. They’re quite fond of it. With people of the same age I’d just dwell around the city’s many different districts and neighbourhoods. Check out Park Spoor Noord in summer, stroll through Het Zuid, pass by Noordkasteel. Then head to Zurenborg and its Dageraadplaats, where cosy restaurants and bars are aplenty. I wouldn’t skip Borgerhout, either. Then I’d end the evening at Bagger or De Studio for some fancy footwork.
A neighbourhood anecdote, local hero or urban myth you like?
A true local hero, in my opinion, is Wannes Van De Velde, who unfortunately passed away in 2008. He truly symbolises the city. A more contemporary example would be Tourist LeMC, who’s often called today’s Wannes Van De Velde.thisisantwerp.be Photography Thomas Ost