Can you describe what you do?
I’m a musician, the singer and frontman of the band Yevgueni. I moved to Mechelen ten years ago, and since then I’ve been living in Nekkerspoel, a place just outside the city centre. I immediately felt at home in the local music scene, not just thanks to the other musicians, but also because of the warm welcome I received from the people behind the city’s festival Maanrock and a few other local events. I’m also a member of the Green Party (Groen), who have been part of the political majority here for a long time. I am just a volunteer, so it’s not my main focus in life, but it feels right to give back to the community, to try and make this city an (even) better place.
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?
The first thing you notice when you move to Mechelen is its unique combination between pride and modesty. We know we are not the biggest city in Belgium, but we are also very aware of our strengths. Mechelen has a great history, but there’s also a very modern vibe to it.
Mechelen is the perfect size for me. It has all the characteristics and practical advantages of a city, combined with the atmosphere of a small town. When you walk around town, it really feels like you’re in a small village where everyone knows everyone, but you can also mind your own business. I like that combination.
How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Moving to Mechelen coincided with a few major milestones in my life: I just got married, we bought our first house… I really finally became an adult here. Actually, we moved here out of necessity, because we were in search of an affordable home. But I never felt like I was settling and wasn’t where I wanted to be, at least not for more than a few days. As a musician, my career is it pretty clear that I will never be located in one place, but will always have to travel around to other cities. But the uncertainty and chaos of my professional life makes it all the more important to have a place to come home to. I feel really blessed to have found it here.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?
During the day, you won’t find an empty chair on the terraces of our cafés. As soon as the sun comes out, people will come out – literally everyone! But on a week night, it tends to be quite calm. So, in my opinion, it would be good if we could improve our nightlife, of course that’s easier said than done, and it may take some time. But it’s something to keep in mind.
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Mechelen?
Our band exclusively sings in Dutch, so we haven’t really got a fanbase abroad. But there is this one English couple who accidentally planned a weekend in Mechelen during Maanrock and stumbled into a Yevgueni gig. They have been fans ever since and have planned three more city trips in combination with one of our gigs. So firstly, I would tell everyone to come over during Maanrock at the end of August (unless you like peace and quiet, of course).
During any other weekend, I would tell you to climb the stairs of our world famous St. Rumbold’s Tower. It’s a historic classic for sure, but it also truly symbolises the city and gives you an incredible view, and on a clear day you can see all the way to Antwerp and Brussels.
Make sure to come during a weekend when our local football club KV Mechelen plays a home game, so you get to experience how we celebrate their victory in one of our many great pubs. Ask for a Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor, and if you like it you can visit the brewery Het Anker the next day. On a more serious note: Kazerne Dossin is a must-see, an impressive memorial and museum that shines a light on the dark side of our city’s history.
Can you talk to us about a local legend, a neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?
I would have to refer to our soccer team again. They won the Europacup II in 1988. There’s a million stories about that time, but here’s one that always stuck with me. During warmup, one of the players had to go to the bathroom so desperately that he took a leak in the penalty area of the pitch. The team proceeded to win the game, and for the rest of the season, the coach made that player do the same thing before each game.yevgueni.be