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

Voices of culture report


In February 2016, researcher Jef Vlegels was invited to participate in the ‘Voices of Culture‘ structured dialogue between the European Commission and the Cultural sector on developing the entrepreneurial and innovation potential of the cultural and creative sectors.

This process provides a framework for discussions between EU civil society stakeholders and the European Commission with regard to culture. Its main objective is to provide a channel for the voice of the cultural sector in Europe to be heard by EU policy-makers. In addition, it aims to strengthen the advocacy capacity of the cultural sector in policy debates on culture at a European level, while encouraging it to work in a more collaborative way.

The session on “developing the entrepreneurial and innovation potential of the cultural and creative sectors”, held on 25-26 February 2016 in Berlin, has provided a space for exchange and discussion between around 35 participants representing the cultural sectors from the EU Member States.

This document is a report of the meeting. It is also presented to the European Commission, DG Education and Culture at a Dialogue Meeting on 26 April 2016 in Brussels.