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.

Thomas Van Ostaede

Thomas Van Ostaede

Events and festival organiser; Piknik Musik, ONKRUID, Café Congé and de Melksnor (1982)

Can you describe what you do?

I’m a public events and small-scale festival organiser, as well as a bar manager. I work with talented people across various organisations and networks like Café Congé, de Melksnor and ONKRUID. We founded a small neighbourhood bar, Bar Stan through de Melksnor; and we’re currently working on a new bar concept which will open soon in a different part of the city. The ONKRUID organisation is most known for its HORST arts and music festival, but asides from this project, our overall mission is to shape cities through cultural and architectural interventions in public spaces. Lastly, with Café Congé, we organise Piknik Musik, a small-scale day-festival in Leuven.

How do you perceive Leuven?

Leuven is a small city with provincial features. It has its charm, but to me personally, it’s not actually realising its full potential. The daily functioning of the city is mostly targeted towards its students – a shame, since there are still so many others around. Amongst other things, this was one large incentive for us to start Piknik Musik. And when it comes to nightlife, it was lost when Leuven’s prominent clubs began disappearing over the last decade. There is hardly a scene where new talent can pop up – something which we’re aiming to resolve with ONKRUID.

Having said that however, I also want to emphasize that Leuven succeeds in creating and offering a wide range of cultural performances and activities, which gives its inhabitants the option to explore and experience different creative outlets. Compared to similarly-sized cities, I would even argue that Leuven takes the lead.

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

Leuven has given and provided me with loads of different opportunities along the way; first as a student but also as a dancer at fABULEUS and a musician in Het Depot. I also had the chance to grow with my first job at the art centre STUK as a bar and events manager. Because of the previously mentioned gap in the existing range of activities during the summer season, I went and tried new developing new projects like Piknik Musik, Café Congé, zoMerbar and GUZZ.

What Leuven needs is more freedom. This will give Leuven back the edge it was once famous for.

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

What Leuven needs is more freedom: freedom to create, freedom for its young entrepreneurs, freedom to party. Less control and more space for bottom-up initiatives. And lastly, the freedom to make mistakes. This will give Leuven back the edge it was once famous for.

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

Start with a Sunday brunch at Bar Stan, take a walk by the many historical sights and little parks, sip a coffee at Noir Coffeebar or MOK, and end up at HAL 5 behind the station.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

My local legend is Dirk Leunis, founder of the restaurant Hungaria and all-round creative spirit. He’s a trend-setting, out-of-the box thinker and city-shaker who kept the last fraction of Leuven’s edge. We’re all waiting impatiently for him to launch a new project in Leuven.