Can you describe what you do?
I’m currently chairman of Boondoggle, a creative agency I co-founded in 2000 and which was sold to Havas twelve years later. Since then, between 2015 and 2016, I lived in South Africa and set up a new digital agency for Havas in Cape Town. I’m also chairman of Het Depot in Leuven, Flanders’ best concert venue in my humble opinion. We founded Het Depot more than ten years ago now and it easily became one of Leuven’s hot-spots. Overall, we host over 150 concerts per year. In 2012, a group of eight of us purchased the abandoned Stella Artois brewery, De Hoorn, and renovated it completely. Today, it’s a vibrant 5,000m² building with over fifteen creative companies, a restaurant, café, and event space, amongst many other facilities. Additionally, I’m also a co-founder and co-owner of Matchbox Live: a music and live entertainment company based in South Africa. Finally, I’m currently also curating a new and ambitious initiative founded by Leuven MindGate, called the and& summit & festival: Shaping Future City Life. It’s a four-day cross-disciplinary event found at the intersection of health, high-tech and creativity; and all that it can bring to a city and the urban life of the future. So my life today consists of a number of jobs and projects – but most of them are very rooted in Leuven. I love working on all these different things because I get to interact and collaborate with great talents of very different backgrounds, and help make these projects come true.
How do you perceive Leuven? In your view, what kind of city is it?
Leuven’s a very interesting place: it’s small, yet acts like a big(ger) city. There are tons of (international) talent to be found here – like with the University or Imec R&D –, as well as a lot of ambition – think Het Depot, M-Museum, STUK – and creativity in the broadest sense of the word. And all ready to be used to start new projects. Leuven has great food, bars, and a very vibrant cultural life; and it’s safe, green and ambitious. Bottom line, it has a rather outspoken international profile for a mid-sized city.
It has a nice mix of talent, history, creativity, innovation and coolness.
What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?
Its cultural and innovative scene. It has a nice mix of talent, history, creativity, innovation and coolness. The collaborations and cooperative relationships between its many players and disciplines, people, organisations, policy makers, entrepreneurs and academics is absolutely unique.
How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
As I explained at the start, a lot of my projects are related to Leuven, or are at least located in Leuven. The city’s given me a lot of opportunities; while other opportunities were also created for and by us, allowing us to give back to the city. So you could argue that it works in both ways. There’s also a positive attitude towards change, innovation and evolution in the city these days. The city is finally willing to show its potential.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
The city could do with a little bit more of a rebellious attitude. A more prominent, creative underground scene. Sometimes it’s too “perfect”, and could really use some unexpectedness.
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Leuven?
De Hoorn! It has a cool restaurant, the best terrace next to the brand-new park Sluispark, and captures the history of Leuven and its brewery Stella Artois – all in this original and classified building. And we’re celebrating its fifth anniversary this year!
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?
Once I discussed with former Leuven Mayor Tobback about potentially moving my advertising company to Brussels. He told me, “Goiris, you have to stay in Leuven,” and helped me find a new location. In the end, this was the start of the purchase and renovation of De Hoorn.boondoggle.eu hetdepot.be