Neighbourhood Communities: Molenbeek

Meet the active citizens media never told you about

Allee du Kaai


MON 30.05.16 | 15:15 > 16:45

Pakhuis de Zwijger, Piet Heinkade 179, 1019 HC Amsterdam, Netherlands

In English

This programme is a part of the City Makers Summit, itself part of Europe by people, the official cultural programme of the Dutch EU presidency.

Molenbeek. Since the terror attacks on Paris in November 2015, The media generally painted a picture of a dangerous city district where anarchy rules and the, mostly immigrant and muslim inhabitants, form an island of their own, refusing to take part in Belgian society. High time to set the record straight. Molenbeek certainly has its socio-economic problems, but at the same the district is bristling with activity and involvement. A highly diverse community where a large number of people and organisations are working on bottom-up initiatives to improve life in the city and their neighbourhood, sometimes with the involvement of municipal or other institutions, but very often it starts with citizen initiative. Today you will meet people who are very much involved in their community, working on inclusion through dialogue, (cultural) creation and action. The presentation of their projects will be followed by a dialogue. We invite you to join us, because we also want to learn from your community experiences.

Moderator of this programme: Redouane Amine

Circus zonder handen

34% percent of the Brussels population lives in poverty, 67,9 % of its inhabitants is of foreign origin. Participating in leisure activities can be an important factor in breaking the vicious cycle of social exclusion that poverty often leads to. However: participating in meaningful leasure activities is too expensive for people under the poverty line. Circus Zonder Handen (roughly translates as ‘Circus Without Hands') is a socially inclusive circus school that offers circus activities and courses for everyone over the age of 4. The circus school is active in 10 disadvantaged areas of Brussels and is based in Molenbeek. 45% of the 1.000 weekly participants in its activities are living in poverty. CZH founder Veelre Bryon and sveenteen year old teacher Mohamed will present the organisation.

Veerle Bryon
Veerle Bryon founded the Circus Zonder Handen thirteen years ago. Having observed the various communities of Brussels drifting apart and getting more and more isolated from one another, she thought of the circus as an ideal means to bring people together. Together with local partners such as schools, community centres and youth organisations, she developed a strategy customised for every Brussels citizen, with a special focus on the disadvantaged part of the population. In doing so, Circus Zonder Handen was able to develop into an inclusive, high-quality circus school. Anyone, regardless of financial, cultural or religious background, can get the opportunity to expand their social environment and work on personal development.

Mohamed El Mokhtar belongs to the first generation of young students of Circus Zonder Handen. As a six year old, het started visiting weekly lessons in a community centre in Molenbeek, one of the partners of CZH. He was immediatly fascinated by the so called diabolo (spinner). During the courses he learned to express himself more clearly, he started to feel better about himself and learned to communicate more openly. Today, Mohamed is seventeen years old and himself a volunteer teacher on the CZH team. He greatly enjoys passing on his knowledge of circus techniques.

More info: (in Dutch and French)

Ras El Hanout & L'Epicerie

The foundation Ras El Hanout takes its name from the mixture of spices that is typically used in Moroccan cuisine. The spices included in it come from all over the world, as do the people living in Brussels, both adding flavour to everyday life. Ras El Hanout was founded in 2010 by a group of young people of Arabo-Islamic culture. Its goal is to promote cultural exchange within the city and to improve the position of disadvantaged minorities by involving them in the process of artistic creation, thus helping them to learn overcome obstacles in everyday life. Ras El Hanout organises a wide range of cultural courses and activities and is active in the fields of for example theatre, poetry, music and photography. Its volunteers are active in schools, in neighbourhoods, at festivals in the city etc, in collaboration with various partners. Recently Ras El Hanout has bought an old warehouse in Molenbeek, in view of opening its own Cultural Centre and Theatre School called L'Epicerie. Part of the project will be crowdfunded.

Ismaïl Akhlal (29) was born and raised in Brussels. He is co-founder of Ras El Hanout and he is working as an actor, director, writer and organiser of theatre workshops and courses for that organisation.

More info (French): and

Allee du Kaai, Toestand & Collect'actif

Allee du Kaai is a project aimed at the temporary reactivation of a vacant plot in the Brussels' canal zone, on the edge of Molenbeek and the city centre of Brussels. The site is managed by Toestand for the Brussels Capital Region's environmental administration, prior to its redevelopment as a park. Toestand is a foundation working on the reactivation of forgotten or abandoned buildings, terrains and (public) spaces by means of temporary and autonomous socio-cultural centres. Numerous local groups are using the Allee du Kaai site for activities such as artistic creation, sports, repair workshops and cooking classes. Felix Aerts of Toestand will present the project, together with a representant of Collect'actif, a group of people who organise cooking sessions with waste food, involving people from the neighborhood, with and without a legal status.

Felix Aerts was born and raised in Brussels. He studied graphic design and socio-cultural studies. In 2012 he was the founder of Toestand. He now coordinates the project Allee Du Kaai.
More info: en

Giovanna Piazza is a student at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) where she is finishing a master in Political Science and International Relations. She works as a volunteer for a number of organisations in te field of immigrants rights, in Italy and in Belgium. She is a member of the Brussels-based social action group Collect'actif and responsible for its communications.

Organised by deBuren in collaboration with Pakhuis de Zwijger

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