If you thought that the festival season in Ghent finishes with the close of summer, you have obviously not been living here for long. Gentenaars do not let the seasons define their festival plans. Bridging the gap between the summer festive feeling and the usually rainy Film Fest Gent is the Flanders Festival Gent, running from 15th September until 6th October, 2018.
This international musical festival, which has been going on since 1958, focuses on classical music, but welcomes world music and offbeat performances, combining different styles of artistic expression.
The most famous part of the festival is its kick-off weekend, also known as OdeGand. You might have heard rave reviews from your friends about it and it’s definitely an event not to be missed.
On Saturday, 15th September, music will take over Ghent on and along the water (yes, once again!): for less than 30 euro you can see 60 musical concerts and performances at over 15 open-air and indoor venues. This year the programme is truly global and diverse: from an enthusiastic Austrian string duet to the voices of South Africa. Stop by the Minard theatre for a dose of Japanese drums. Soak up some fado from Coimbra at Vooruit. Be inspired by the song of the desert sands from around the world.
Each of the concerts will be performed three times during the day, with the main programme starting at 1.30pm and finishing around 6.30pm.Or just pop in at one of the three OdeGand Villages where you can enjoy some free music. The full-day event closes off with two free concerts at the Gras- and Korenlei at 9pm, followed by colourful fireworks at 11pm!
The OdeGand pass costs 28 euro (2 euro for under-14’s) and gives you access to all the day-time concerts and free rides with the boats between the different locations.
Head out of town on Sunday, 23rd September, for the family-friendly Parklife festival which has become one of the September highlights since the opening of the Parkbos a few years ago. Situated a bit out of the centre, in Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Parkbos is one of the large green areas that are slowly forming the green belt around Ghent.
Go for a self-guided walk along the many marked routes and then enjoy the open-air music festival on the main meadow. The entrance to the Park Village, where you will find the main stage and the food stalls, is free. Children will love Kidsvillage where they can try to get in touch with their inner musician by testing their fingers at guitar play or blowing a trumpet – all in the ear-friendly outdoor environment.
Or take the Park Route (Muzikaal Parcours), a music route through the park, where you can listen to several concerts in natural surroundings of this lovely green corner of the city. The tickets for adults cost 7 euro, while kids (under 12yo) can enter for free.
The Parklife festival is taking place at the Grand Noble entrance to the Parkbos, on the Kortrijksesteenweg 1177 in Sint-Denijs-Westrem. You can reach it by bicycle, or buses nr 76, 78 (bus stop Drie Sleutels) and bus 77 (bus stop Grand Noble). If you are coming by car, it might be easiest to leave it in the large car park in front of the Carrefour/Brico (park in front of Brico to be closest to the Parkbos) and walk the last 500m to the festival.
The theme of this year’s festival is Power, so it comes as no surprise that the majestic opera Don Carlos: Corridors of Power is part of the programme. Staged in the industrial space of the Floralien Hall, it will definitely be a treat for the eyes and ears.
Requiem pour L. looks like an interesting interpretation of Mozart’s Requiem, blended with the African musical styles, and put into motion by Alain Platel’s dance troupe Ballets C de la B. Or perhaps you’d prefer the more soothing atmosphere of the closing concert by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra with young piano genius Jan Lisiecki. Under the title Romanticism’s Top 3 you can expect a rich performance of works by Chopin, Brahms and Schumann.
The full programme leaflet is available online in English and you can buy the tickets online or in person at the Ticket Ghent office at Sint-Baafsplein. Discounts are available for over-65’s, under-26’s, differently-abled, job seekers and groups. The tickets for the visually impaired cost 5 euro (plus a free ticket for a companion) and can be ordered through firstname.lastname@example.org.
The festival is not limited to Ghent only, and more than 25 concerts will be organised under the festival umbrella across the whole of East Flanders. See the full programme of the ‘festival in the province’, as well as ticketing details, here.
Festival for everyone
One of the nicest aspects of the festival is that it tries to be accessible to as many people as possible. This means bringing music to people who for different reasons cannot leave their home, do not have enough means to afford the tickets, or find it physically challenging to attend concerts.
The different initiatives, under the umbrella project of We share music, take music to hospitals and residential centres (Festival@Home), offer special assistance for the blind and visually impaired (Blind Dates and for children, The Butterfly Story), as well as provide introduction to music for children through Studio Story.
If you have a special Uitpas card that gives you access to reduced prices, use it to get a ticket discount. Standard Uitpas cards can be used to collect points at the events.
Contact the We share music coordinator for more details.