Antwerp’s Boskamp festival: Not just for tree-huggers


Youth hangout and arts centre Het Bos launches its own festival next month, with a diverse line-up of events, from poetry to death metal

A breath of fresh air

If you stroll past Ankerrui 5 in the north of Antwerp on any given night, you’re bound to witness a lively scene. The old warehouse at this address is home to Het Bos (“the forest”), an underground hangout for youngsters of all ages and the successor to legendary cultural hub Scheld’Apen.

A year after opening, the new arts centre-meets-bar-meets-club hosts its own festival for the first time. The month-long programme is called Boskamp, and the line-up is as diverse as the colours of the leaves in Stadspark. It includes music, movies and performances, or, as the announcement reads: 11x concert, 4x theatre, 5x euthanasia, 6x soap, 26x soup, 4x breakfast, 8x film, 5x children’s workshops, 1x garden visit, 4x forest kitchen, 1x triadic ballet.

The festival is meant to draw attention to the year-round activities of Het Bos – officially a youth centre and arts workshop – and is curated by a group of local artists-in-residence. These artists will be staging their own co-ordinated chaos as well as inviting like-minded creatives. Het Bos and sister organisation De Bomen are throwing in some extra events to add to the fun.

Euthanasia and late-night cinema

“Every night will be interesting,” says Lotte Brown of Het Bos, “but of course there are several highlights.” She mentions sisters Barbara and Stefanie Claes, who will open a debate on euthanasia by means of theatre, poetry and discussion, and the midnight cinema of filmmaker Maxim Hectors, for which he used 300 metres of mattresses. 

We’re underground, but we still want to speak to as many people as possible

- Lotte Brown

“And then there’s the music,” Brown adds. “We have legendary names in store such as American punk band Poison Idea and garage rockers The Gories.”

The line-up may seem wild, but there’s nothing random about it. Boskamp aims to showcase art that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. “We’re underground, but we still want to speak to as many people as possible. Theatre lovers might come here for a performance and end up at a heavy metal concert.”

Connecting arts enthusiasts from all walks of life is the Bosbar. It serves coffee, soup and cake in exchange for a donation, as well as organic beer. On Thursdays, Het Bos is open for dinner, and on Sundays, there’s breakfast and a kids’ programme.

The organisation calls Het Bos a permanent experiment, and the same goes for Boskamp. The festival is a breath of fresh air in a city that’s infamous for its fine dust levels. And it’s not just for tree-huggers. There’s loud music, too.

1-31 May, Het Bos, Ankerrui 5-7, Antwerp 

Photo: Philadelphia's Hallowed Bells will be performing at Boskamp