Can you describe what you do?
I’m an urban beekeeper. I’ve installed around 200 beehives on rooftops in Antwerp’s city centre and its surrounding districts. The bees are able to gather their nectar in the different parks and gardens of the city to make the “Antwerpse Honing” (Antwerp Honey) I sell. It’s actually a hobby that got a bit out of hand, which I combine with my job as a Dutch teacher for newcomers and people aiming to get their high school degree at an unconventional age.
Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to?
I live in Wilrijk, but my working area is spread out across Antwerp, and the language courses take place at different locations as well. Thanks to my bees I regularly get to visit a variety of old and new places.
How do you perceive Antwerp? 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?
Antwerp gives me the impression of being a city where everything is possible, while at the same time having a critical point of view. The strangest start-ups and business ideas come and go in Antwerp. Whenever I’m visiting other cities I often get the feeling: been there done that.
How would you say Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
At the start of my beekeeping career I was one of the first to do this and people thought it was a crazy idea, but ideas in Antwerp get the chance to grow, so our bees and their honey were warmly welcomed. I also noticed this with my job as a teacher. Antwerp has an attractive nature to newcomers and, related to that, the school I work at has the freedom to develop and test new methods of education.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
That’s a difficult question. I’d take the people to some of the roofs where my beehives are located, from here they would have a different perspective of the city, from this ‘bee-perspective’ you can see how the city has grown very organically, you see the chaotic patterns drawn up by the streets, you see all the little gardens, the wild growth of renovation add-on spaces and you can see the river flowing trough the city. After that I would take them to one of the many restaurants located in Antwerp.
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?
The Story of ‘Lange Wapper’, in Antwerp a haunting ghost but in Wilrijk a protective entity.facebook.com/Antwerpse-Honing Photography Thomas Ost