While the coronavirus pandemic has made traveling abroad difficult, there’s plenty of fun to be had right here in Brussels. Brussels Staycation, or StaycationBXL, is a series of initiatives designed to help Brussels residents make the most of their summer in the city.
Art, live music, stand-up comedy and plenty of food and drink can be found in the canal zone at Sainctelette Square until mid-September as part of the project, which hopes to change how people think about the way public spaces are used in Brussels.
“A lot of us in Brussels, and especially those of us staying in the city this summer, noticed that the public spaces are really underdeveloped,” Tristan Gielen, who helped with the infrastructure and design of the bar and terrace, told The Brussels Times.
Gielen is a full-time architecture student who saw a hidden gem in Sainctelette Square.
“There wasn’t a lot going on at Sainctelette Square at night, apart from crime. It’s a place with a lot of potential that doesn’t get used anymore.”
The Saintklet collective used to have a pop-up venue on the corner of the square, but with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, they decided to move into an outdoor space.
“Part of the idea was to reappropriate that public space, within the Covid guidelines, so that people could come in and bring their own drinks and make a little park out of it instead,” said Gielen.
It ended up being much more than that: with the Saintklet Summer, people can drop by the square to find food, drink and plenty to do.
“We have a big range of activities,” Gielen explained. “The other night we did a standup comedy show. There’s live music everyday either from deejays or live performances. We also have workshops, including deejay and scratching, and animation for children.”
“It’s an exploration of some great Brussels artists, creators and promoters. We try to focus on the local. We do that in everything from our menus to our bookings.”
There’s something going on in the space on the Quai des Péniches from Thursday to Sunday every week.
Gielen hopes the project will prove the potential of neglected public spaces, and prompt people to rethink the way they handle urbanism in Brussels – an issue made all the more pressing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of our public spaces aren’t suited to the needs of the people in the area – the kind of modular public space that we needed during the pandemic,” Gielen said.
“The parks were closed because there was no way to keep people from being near each other. There’s no way we can keep abusing our public space in a way that it becomes unusable. That shouldn’t be allowed.”
There is no admission price and all the events are free.
“It’s about the power of the collective,” said Gielen.
“You feel that, and the rest of the public kind of feeds off of that. And that’s what makes our events feel really cosy and special. We’ve never attended events before that feel the way these ones feel.”