Brief history of our activities & future agenda

Our project on the cultural and creative sector of Brussels is still running according to plan! We have started two and a half years ago and are getting a better understanding of this rich and diverse universe of cultural work on an everyday base. Here is a brief overview of our activities of last year and some information about our next steps.

Brussels map designed by Jazzberry Blue.png
Brussels map designed by Jazzberry Blue –

Between our stimulating team meetings and the collective activities we organized – like our participation in the Anticipate Symposium organized by Innoviris (you can see our posters here), or the workshop we organized last December) – each of the researcher have been involved in related activities as well:

Eva Swyngedouw pursues her qualitative study of the working conditions and careers of the cultural and creative workers within the performance arts sector and the sector of architecture.
She is currently organizing a panel on “creative cities and inequality” (with Kobe De Keere (University of Amsterdam)) at “de dag van de sociologie” on the 8th of June 2017 at the VUB. Connected to this event, she is also co-editing a special issue of sociologies with Kobe De Keere entitled “Creatieve steden en ongelijkheid. Het gebruik van cultuur in de stedelijke ontwikkeling van Brussel en Amsterdam.”
In August, Eva will present her paper “researching the ‘backstage’ of the creative industries. The socio-economic polarization within the performance arts of Brussels” at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Montreal.

Jef Vlegels, continues to work on his quantitative analysis, mapping the diversity of work in the cultural and creative industries. In the first phase of the project, he has been collecting data from secondary official datasets, as well as conducting our own quantitative survey in three subsectors of the CCS in Brussels. At the moment, Jef finished, together with his colleague Caterina Mauri, a first report on these secondary datasets focusing on the economic impact of the sector in Brussels (more on this in the next update on our website). Furthermore, he’s been working on a book chapter on describing the cultural and creative workforce of Brussels, an article on the creative trident and an article on the cultural and creative policy of Brussels. He has presented his work recently at the Dag van de Sociologie 2017, and has disseminated our results and conclusions so far at several occasions, i.e. during his activities as a founding member of the Creative and Cultural Think Tank.

François Rinschbergh follows up on his qualitative study of the emerging and informal cultural and creative activities focused on the historically working class and immigrant districts of Brussels and he made different presentations of his research at the University Saint-Louis-Brussels and ULB :
A year ago, he talked about the beginning of his field research and had stimulating discussions at the seminar of the Centre d’Etudes Sociologiques (CES).
As part of the study days organized by IRIB (Institut de Recherches Interdisciplinaires sur Bruxelles) in may 2016, he organized a field visit in Molenbeek to meet an original cultural project run by a company of young theatre comedians. Recently (in may 2017), he presented and discussed his fieldwork with J. Mazzocchetti, an anthropologist from the UCL, at the Midi de l’lRIB organized at the University Saint-Louis.
At ULB, he presented his work to the seminar of his other research centre sASHa. He also has been involved in a project organized in collaboration between ULB and the newspaper “Le Soir” and titled “Carnets d’identités”. You can read online the result of his interview : “Entre-soi: la réponse du secteur culturel”. A few weeks ago, François participated to the study days “Bruxelles en recherches” organized by the LIEU (Laboratoire de Recherche interdisciplinaire en Etudes urbaines), the MSH (Maison des Sciences humaines) and the BSI (Brussels Studies Institute) at the ULB faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta.

Future plans: Our book on the Creative and Cultural sector in Brussels

After the workshop we organized in December 2016, we plan to publish a book (Urban Notebooks, VUB Press). Our ambition is to bring together the results of different ongoing and finished research projects on the Brussels cultural and creative world. Contributions will tackle different issues like the precarious working conditions in the creative industry, the cultural diversity of Brussels, the contemporary art scene in Brussels, the circulation of the idea of “creativity” in town planning, and the link between culture, social cohesion and urban development. The book publication is planned for the end of 2017/early 2018.


Molenbeek and its cultural and creative dynamism – a (small) press review

Photo Thomas Vanden Driessche pour M Le Magazine du Monde, 9 avril 2016
Photo Thomas Vanden Driessche pour M Le Magazine du Monde, 9 avril 2016

Since the attacks in Paris and Brussels, after the “Brussels bashing” and the mediatisation of Molenbeek, national and internantional press published some articles aimed to reveal the “positive side” of this neighborhood. Indeed, for those who didn’t know, there is also people who live, work, create and run cultural projects in Molenbeek !

Several important newspapers and magazines illustrated the “other face” of the neighborhood by describing its alternative art scene, its internationals and “avant-garde” artistic world coming into the neighborhood for the romantic and inspiring atmosphere of this former industrial area, or explaining the attractiveness of the place for “creative workers” (architects, designers, …) because of the available large space, the low price of the real estate and the proximity with the city center.

For our research, these articles are interesting for the informations they provide about what makes the attraction for such a district for those that the theorist Richard Florida calls, controversially, “the creative class” (i.e. artists and bohemians, creative entrepreneurs, intellectuals and professionals active in the cultural sector, …).

However, if that picture of the cultural and creative landscape mainly focused on alternative cultural place, well established artists, professionals of the cultural sector and trendy co-working spaces for creative entrepreneurs coming from elsewhere is definitely part of our research, could we say that it is representative of the cultural and creative diversity of this area of Brussels ? Emerging from the neighborhood, an (other) important associative and artistic dynamism, poorly subsidized by public authorities or few institutionalized, led by a younger part of the population with migration background also exist, live and create in this historically working-class area, and they’re not unsuccessful or marginal, on the contrary! If these people are not (and will never be) assimilated to the trendy “creative class” describes by R. Florida, they might however reflects the existence of a cultural dynamism that challenge the classical representations of this area of Brussels marked by a “globalisation from below” but often characterized, wrongly, by the lack of (all kind of) ressources or the so-called disinterest for culture (except the hip-hop cliché) from those who grew up in this neighborhood.

With our research, we aim to show that something exist beyond the scope of the fuzzy “creative class” and to consider the cultural and creative diversity of Brussels in its richness but also its needs and difficulties.

To be continued…

Press articles mentionned in the text :
F. Gauthier (Le Soir), “Molenbeek montre son autre visage”, 8 février 2016
M. Bertrand (Tram33 (Le Soir)), “Molenbeek: bastion de culture”, 11 mai 2016
R. Azimi (Le Monde), “Molenbeek est (aussi) un repaire d’artistes”, 8 avril 2016
H. Moens (The Word), “Molenbeek, home of the brave, the bold and the beautiful”, 3 mai 2016
J. Ben Yakoub (Rekto Verso n°54),  “Ongezien! Brussels got talent!”, nov.-dec. 2012

Work package 1 : Analytical framework

« Les “industries culturelles et créatives” : Perspective multi-scalaire et état des lieux à Bruxelles »

Ce texte a été rédigé par David Eubelen (ULB/USL-B) et François Rinschbergh (ULB/USL-B) dans le cadre de la première phase du projet de recherche Innoviris « The diversity of work in the cultural and creative industries » (programme Anticipate 2015-2019). Il a pour vocation de présenter un premier défrichage de la littérature portant sur l’économie créative, ses secteurs, ses travailleurs et ses territoires à Bruxelles. En tant que working paper, ce texte sera amené à être modifié, complété, corrigé au fur et à mesure de l’avancement de notre recherche. Toutes remarques de lecteurs extérieurs sont bien entendu les bienvenues.

Supervisée par une équipe interdisciplinaire de 6 professeurs (Jean-Louis Genard (ULB), Judith Le Maire (ULB), Christine Schaut (USL-B), Karel Vanhaesebrouck (ULB), Bas Van Heur (VUB) et Walter Ysebaert (VUB)), notre recherche est désormais entrée dans sa phase d’enquête et est conduite par 3 chercheurs en sociologie (François Rinschbergh (ULB/USL-B), Eva Swyngedouw (VUB/ULB) et Jef Vlegels (VUB)).