Newspaper brings communities together in Geraardsbergen


Realising that their small city in East Flanders was lagging behind in acknowledging the reality of a superdiverse population, a group of local citizens founded a newspaper to give everyone a voice

The colours of home

Flanders has grown into a superdiverse society, and while larger cities have been working within this new reality for many years, some smaller towns have been more hesitant in embracing the challenges presented by these ever-changing communities.

It was this observation that motivated Wim Schrever, a photo journalist who also works in advertising, to found the Giesbaergske Koleuren Gazette. “Eight years ago, I realised that, although Geraardsbergen has become a very diverse town, very little was done with this evolution,” says Schrever.

Together with a handful of other volunteers, he began publishing a quarterly newspaper to give a face and a voice to this new society. Geraardsbergen is a town of about 33,000 in the far south of East Flanders, on the border with Hainaut. The title of the newspaper is local dialect for Geraardsbergen’s Colourful Newspaper.

“Initially, we went to visit people of different origins and just let them talk about their personal lives,” says Schrever. “The paper was an instant success.”

Over the years the Gazette, which is written in easy-to-read Dutch, has broadened its scope. While diversity remains the primary focus, social and ecological issues have found their way into the paper as well.

International audience

“Sustainably has become a pressing issue,” explains Schrever. “In Geraardsbergen, there has been an emphasis on sustainable mobility. We put our shoulders under the recent campaign Cycling the City.”

The title of the campaign had a double meaning, he says. “It means cycling as an eco-friendly form of transport, but also the cycle that we are going through as a society in the direction of a sustainable world.”

The team gave up producing the costly print version of the paper last year. While all the PDFs of past issues are still online, the paper has now migrated to a new blog site.

We value very much the interaction between newcomers, second-generation residents and long-time locals

- Wim Schrever

“The online edition was always the most successful,” says Schrever. “It has readers all over the world. People we interviewed would share the publication with their relatives in their countries of origin.”

Though it’s a Wordpress blog, the paper continues to publish the same articles that brought them so many loyal readers. “We have a core of some 30 people from very different backgrounds who contribute to the publication,” says Schrever. “The interaction between newcomers, second-generation residents and long-time locals from Geraardsbergen – that’s something we have always valued very much.”

The group is now organising cultural activities, debates and film screenings. Its flagship event is the Koleurenfeest street festival, which takes place every September. Next month, a debate will take place featuring Brussels-based philosopher and author Bleri Lleshi and Ghent-based columnist Warda El-Kaddouri.

“Providing a space where people can meet, get to know each other and exchange opinions, both online and in real life,” says Schrever. “That has always been our ambition.”