#SoundOfSilence: Belgian event sector denounces lack of government support

#SoundOfSilence: Belgian event sector denounces lack of government support
Credit: Charlotte De Witte/Instagram

The hashtag #SoundOfSilence went viral on social media as many people in Belgium denounced the lack of support measures for the shut down culture and event sector by changing their profile photos.

On Monday, the Belgian event sector launched a call for people to place an orange cross over their social media profile pictures, with the text "sound of silence" over it, in an effort for the sector to be heard by the government.

The "Sound of Silence" is a reference to the silence of the government as well as to the "SOS" distress signal, the sector explained in an open letter, signed by Belgian festivals, bookers, artist managers, music clubs and cultural centres.

The campaign was launched on Monday, symbolically, at 12:05 PM.

"As it is literally 5 minutes past 12 for this beautiful sector. The sound is extinguishing. Anyone who ever wants to go to a show, concert, festival, company party, wedding or theatre: please update your profile picture with this frame," reads the call, supplemented by the hashtags #SOS #SoundOfSilence #5na12.

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Many people working behind the scenes in the sector are responding to the call, often not only adapting their profile picture but also sharing more details about their own situation.

Belgian DJ Charlotte de Witte also posted a virtual cross on Instagram. "Give us perspective, show respect, and save our cultural sector," she said. Belgian singer Selah Sue showed solidarity on Facebook.

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Give us perspective. Show us respect. Save our culture.

Een bericht gedeeld door Charlotte de Witte (@charlottedewittemusic) op

"We want to unite the sector and give it a voice. To break the silence. In Belgium, we are at the absolute top when it comes to organising events," Katrien Vermeire, who works in the event sector and is one of the initiators of the campaign, said on Radio 1.

"But now our sector has been in lockdown for 150 days. We want to shout again, loudly, because now nothing is happening, and that frustrates us immensely."

According to the sector, it is definitely possible to organise events in such a way that the coronavirus measures can be respected. "We have already shown a lot of initiative to achieve this, but we do not get the chance to show that things can be done differently," Vermeire said.

"We do have the knowledge because we have been doing crowd control, organising crowds and visitor flows for years," she added.

The sector says it is "difficult to understand" that other things such as getting on full plane, are allowed again, but events, even if organised safely, are not. "The lack of perspective is the most difficult," Vermeire said.

In theory, indoor events with a maximum of 100 attendees are allowed, and outdoor ones with 200 people, but many local authorities have decided to ban all events on their territory for a certain period of time.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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