If you thought that the music 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 14th September until 5th October, 2019.
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, 14th September, music will take over Ghent on and along the water (yes, once again!): for less than 30 euro you can choose between a total of 60 musical concerts and performances at over 15 open-air and indoor venues. This year the programme is truly global and diverse: from a Middle Eastern band of multiple origins to the music from Southern India with a modern touch. Stop by Saint-Bavo’s cathedral for a dose of Latin American spiritual music. Listen to Arabic poetry with music on Eastern oud and Western lute at Bijloke. Or listen how the Flemish Masters would sound like in music at one of the three Flemish Masters in Situ concerts.
Each of the concerts will be performed three times during the day, with the main programme starting at 2pm and finishing around 7pm. If you don’t feel like investing into the tickets, you can just pop in to several different free concerts around the city – check the list at the bottom of the programme for full details. The full-day event closes off with two free concerts at the Gras- and Korenlei at 9.30pm, followed by colourful fireworks at 11pm!
The OdeGand ticket costs 29 euro (2 euro for under-14’s) and gives you (realistically) access to three concerts and free rides with the boats and taxi bikes between different locations. This year the organisers tried to solve the problem of long queues at the events by suggesting routes which you can book in advance.
Head out of town on Sunday, 22nd 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 (Parkours), 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 8 euro, while kids (under 5yo) 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 music festival is Imagination, so it comes as no surprise that the highlight of the programme is the Night of the imagination, when the magnificent Citadelpark and its many venues will become the stage for numerous events. Full programme is on the event website.
This year’s programme has several special evenings, for example the Mediterra-Nuit, where you can choose to see 2 concerts of Mediterranean music: fado, flamenco and Sardinian and Greek music. Yes, I know that you and I know that Portugal is not a Mediterranean country, but let’s forget this for an evening of beautiful music, shall we?
The full programme 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 hearing and visually impaired cost 6.5 euro (plus a free ticket for a companion for the visually impaired) 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), 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.