10,000 join 12-hour marathon for peace in Ypres


Large crowds sang and danced for peace in the Westhoek on Saturday, as GoneWest’s last hurrah saw a 12-hour marathon on Ypres’ Grote Markt

‘I want to belong to the other side’

About 10,000 people attended some part of Peace to the World, the final large-scale event in Ypres produced by GoneWest, West Flanders’ cultural agenda in support of the centenary of the First World War. GoneWest has been organising events and activities related to the centenary since it began in August of 2014.

Peace to the World, which took place on Saturday, was a 12-hour marathon of music and spoken word dedicated to remembrance and peace for the future. Local and international bands and musicians such as Raymond van het Groenewoud, Donovan and Arsenal took to the stage, interspersed with addresses by famous Flemish writers such as Tom Lanoye and Saskia De Coster.

The Last Post was played as usual at 20.00 under the Menin Gate, just steps away from the city’s Grote Markt, where Peace to the World took place. “We think of the word ‘peace’ as a utopia,” musician and actor Wim Opbrouck, the event’s curator, told VRT. “Since humans have walked the earth, they have been fighting each other – first with a club, then with a spear and on and on. That is a shame, and I want to belong to the other side of this.”

Give peace a chance

Opbrouck at one point brought 100 young people onstage for a rendition of “Give Peace A Chance” (pictured above). The youth were from more than 20 different countries. One young man said that he was from India “where there is always fighting with Pakistan. So we want to send this peace message from here to there”.

Also at the event were stands for peace and war remembrance organisations, as well as food trucks. The evening ended at 2.00, with Opbrouck leading the crowd in a rendition of “We Shall Overcome”.

GoneWest will continue with exhibitions and concerts until the end of the centenary on 11 November.

Photo: Peace to the World host Wim Opbrouck leads 100 young people in Give Peace a Chance