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.

Sara Feskens

Sara Feskens

Entrepreneur at Wagenoord

Can you describe what you do?

I’m a creative mind with a soft spot for almost everything. Together with my partner in life, Thomas, I run WILD: a small creative office. As entrepreneurs and people we aspire to positively impact the lives we touch, without causing unnecessary harm. Our tools to do so are concept thinking, branding, interior, communication and connecting the dots.

Our playground is Wagenoord, an old place packed with new ideas. Wagenoord is the initiative of a bunch of like-minded people. The site combines a co-workspace, a restaurant, an event venue, a creative atelier and an open space for opportunities yet to be unveiled. We work in the city and live in the green. Mechelen is the common ground from which has all been created.

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?

Mechelen is home for us. It is where we grew from kids to baby-entrepreneurs to whatever it is we are today. Mechelen is just like the village you were born – but with both a historical heart AND a HEMA!

Mechelen is big enough to keep you interested yet small enough to get something done. It is a safe haven with a gazillion opportunities on the horizon.

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

Mechelen has the vibe of a city and the level-headed mentality of a small town. We feel the people here are hungry and ready for edgy projects. The city hall supports entrepreneurs, but still seems a little afraid of anything that’s outside the box. We still miss some balls, a sense of bravery to support edgy projects that bring art, vibrancy and creativity to our streets. Mechelen has been cleaned up beautifully during the last decade, but every flower needs a little dirt…

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

We know Mechelen, Mechelen knows us and we know each other. I am always stunned by the amount of support we get when we try to get something done. Whether it is a restaurant, a workspace, farmer’s market or Beyonce’s birthday party – everyone is always up for fun initiatives. We embrace this mentality and are determined to give back.

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

We definitely need more places that inspire creativity. And a cocktail bar. And a lot more restaurants. And a fish bar. And a club (should we open one at Wagenoord?). And oh, can someone please start a rooftop bar? Thanks!

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

On Saturday: start the day with a coffee at Kaffeeine, go for a stroll through the city and visit the local market in the morning. Have lunch at Zapoi, then go for a long apero at Unwined or check out Tîles Malines in the summertime. If Wagenoord Eetbar would be open on Saturday I definitely would have dinner there.

On Sunday: wake up with a good breakfast at home, then go for a walk in one of the protected nature areas: Mechels Broek, Baarbeekvallei, or Robbroek. We end up in Zennegat for a specialty dish of ‘ballekes in tomatensaus’ and a beer. Finally, a movie at Filmhuis Mechelen would be the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

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’ll go with David Jackson, the owner of the Garage where we opened Wagenoord. Born in Britain, he’s not a full-blooded Mechelaar but there’s plenty of reasons why I name him my Local Legend:

Because of his stories about doing business in Mechelen for years and years at Garage Festraets.
Because of his ability to put things in perspective.
Because of his sense of humor, patience, loyalty and support.
Because of his unshakable values that became the foundation of Wagenoord. Actually, the man deserves a statue at the Grote Markt!