What’s on: Let there be light


The first weekend of December means the holidays have begun, and China Light Zoo is an early entry in fairy-tale light installations

China Light Zoo

In case you haven’t been in a supermarket lately, let us be the first to tell you: Christmas has arrived. Sure, it comes around earlier every year, but at least you have plenty of time to fit in the fun stuff that comes along with it.

One of these is China Light Zoo, a dazzling festival of lights that uses its massive installations to tell the story of a lotus princess and her beloved. With research carried out in China itself – from the lantern city Zigong to a mountain-top monastery, visiting light festivals in-between – the zoo is able to lend a whiff of authenticity to this magical spectacle. While there, gather around a fire basket and knock back a little glühwein or hot chocolate. 30 November to 13 January, Antwerp Zoo, Koningin Astridplein 20 (next to the train station)

Leuven Short Film Festival

Sit down to some of the globe’s best short films during this annual event in Leuven. With several films shown in 90-minute sessions, you’ll enter a number of different worlds in every screening. Choose a screening by category, such as European Competition, Animation Nations or Land in Focus (which is Poland). There are also several screenings devoted to Flemish short films, including fiction, animation and documentary. Quality is guaranteed in the Oscar Shorts compilation, the five short fiction films nominated for an Academy Award this year. The festival also includes parties, concerts and closing day brunch. 1-8 December, Stuk, Naamsestraat 96, Leuven

December Dance

With the tagline ‘dancing down under’, Bruges stages its 12th edition of the annual holiday-season festival of dance. Every year December Dance puts contemporary dance from a specific country or region in the spotlight, and this year features (you probably guessed) Australia and New Zealand. Internationally renowned choreographers mix with new innovators to put the rich and textured dance landscape of two large countries into perspective. Check out Attractor, where dance meets heavy metal, and the Australian Dance Theatre’s The Beginning of Nature, with a gorgeous set and an electronic beat. 6-16 December, across Bruges

Free the Word!

What’s it like to go to prison for something you have written? Several international writers gather in Antwerp this week for the first edition of Free the Word! to talk about their experiences living in dictatorial regimes. The multi-lingual event is hosted by foreign writers-in-residence programme Pen Flanders. Among the featured writers are Kurdish cartoonist Zehra Dogan (pictured), who used bits of food to draw from her cell, and Cameroon poet and essayist Enoh Meyomesse, who spent four years in prison when he tried to run for president in 2011. 3 December 20.00, Arenberg, Arenbergstraat 28, Antwerp

Photos: China Light/Jonas Verhulst/Antwerp Zoo, Leuven Festival/Bloeistraat 11 by Nienke Deutz