Antwerp and Belgium have been often overlooked by culture hungry travellers over the years, often in favour of other European hot spots such as Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin or Warsaw. But, like other ports including Hamburg, Liverpool, Dublin, Cardiff or Helsinki, Antwerp remains a crossroad on the creative map of Europe. The city has produced the like of fashion designer Raf Simons and alternative rock band dEUS, with a thriving well-cultivated nightlife notable for its uniquely well organised and civil approach to encouraging youth culture, not to mention a respected jazz scene. We take a look at Antwerp's best subcultural hang-outs.
Antwerp, like almost every European city, has a history that saw it connected to the rest of Europe by rail, so, it's no surprise that there are railway arches, and where there are arches there are clubs underneath them. Antwerp's Ampere is one of those places, utilising the central location and subterranean space, Ampere aims to be a platform allowing young people to realise their creative potential. Besides its straight dance and music based programming, Ampere also boasts a co-working space and regularly hosts workshops teaching production skills and even provides after-school clubs, with plans to add a record shop and other uses in the near future.
"Ampere club... It’s Antwerpen’s diamond" - Gabriella Vergilov, resident artist at Ampere
A converted 16th Century Church, Cafe d'Anvers was the place where Acid House landed in Antwerp when it opened in 1989, claiming to be one of the oldest remaining clubs from that period still operating in Europe.
Comprising three converted shipping containers set within Antwerp's docklands, Flat A is not a live venue as such, rather a live streaming platform for DJs and promoters, similar in its set up to the more globally well known Boiler Room.
A dark, intense warehousey space with a powerful Soundsystem, Haar has established itself as a reaction to sterile corporate clubs.
As its carnivorous name suggests, Meatpack is a converted meatpacking factory, which is now home to a creative village, housing a street art museum, gallery space and mixed-use maker space alongside a club. Higher concept than the average dancefloor and described as a box within a box, the club space is located at the centre of the gallery space and accessed via the exhibits.
Kavka started out in 2004 as a project for young people based in an old primary school gym. By 2009 the project had taken over the whole school building. Kavka is run by over 200 young volunteers, overseen by a team 15 professional managers. Describing itself as a low-threshold centre for young people, Kavka aims to make creative spaces easily available to those eager to use them. From its locker rooms to its performance spaces, Kavka is an inspiring example of cooperation and community.
A club and workshop for alternative pop music - yet another example of an Antwerp cooperative youth-driven project. With an ambitious manifesto listing aims as broad as ethical financial entrepreneurship and ecological responsibility, TRIX's central ethos is stated on their website as:
"We believe in pop music as the most important contemporary and most socially supported art form of the 21st century at the intersection between art, creative entrepreneurship, entertainment and youth culture. And we believe in alternative pop music as the most artistically relevant and innovative branch of it."
Overall, Antwerp shows a refreshing predilection for embracing and encouraging youth culture and music therein, where many other cities have earned themselves a reputation for shutting down venues with a noise complaint then turning the site into extortionate apartments. While many will argue that Antwerps immaculate club cloakrooms and integrated multi-function spaces are a long way away from the likes of Brixton Windmill or CBGB, there's a lot to be seen here, and it might be the shape of things to come for other cities across the world.