The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Simon Clissold

Simon Clissold

Owner and farmer, The Food Hub (1977)

Can you describe what you do?

I own and run a large organic food store based in Leuven Station. I live on the other side of town, so I always start my day with a ride through the city centre, then spend the rest of the day sharing our delicious foods with locals. Our team is very mixed: a couple of Leuvenaars, Brussels locals, French, Dutch and myself, an Ozzie. So we make up quite a cultural team. Thanks to my work with sustainable food projects, I tend to spend a lot of time with local famers in Leuven, of which they are far too few.

How do you perceive Leuven?

Leuven’s a small town that has a lot to offer for its size. The last decade has seen the local cultural life boom, and in effect become more varied and interesting. With 30CC’s expansive program, STUK’s alternative arts scene and Het Depot’s crucial concerts with international names, it feels larger than it actually is. And more than that, there’s still so much more to discover. New neighbourhoods are constantly coming up, like the Vaartkom area or the one behind the station. A quiet and safe town, with plenty of pleasant surprises. Also, Leuven has a young, vibrant energy thanks to its many students. The City’s also making plenty of headway in adding more green spaces and waterways to the its centre as well creating more possibilities for its cyclists.

Leuven gave me the opportunity to realise my dream of creating an organic farmers’ shop, just like those I had seen while living in Italy.

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

Leuven gave me the opportunity to realise my dream of creating an organic farmers’ shop, just like those I had seen while living in Italy. It’s precisely thanks to this experience that my outlook on business – and life in general – was able to develop in the way it has.

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

I would love to see more creative projects, and more young entrepreneurs. The City could help in this by offering subsidised spaces, especially since renting property in Leuven has become so expensive. I would also like to see more done around sustainable food – a real farmers’ market perhaps, or more encouragement and support for urban farming.

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

I’m a big fan of the Parijsstraat and Mechelsestraat area, due to its historic cosiness. A walk through the centre, appreciating the very special Town Hall, the Begijnhoof beguinage, or a visit to the Park Abbey in the suburbs, where you can enjoy a picnic on the lake. In the evening, a drink on M-Museum’s rooftop, catching a film in Cinema ZED, or checking out a gig in Het Depot. There’s always something nice to do.