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‘Charleroi is a city in the middle of the process of being culturally reborn. It’d be interesting to make another scene report in a few years, to see what the fruits of our labour will look like.’ These were the words we heard during our first trip to Charleroi three years ago. As we like to keep our promises, we contacted Camille Loiseau from Le Vecteur, and started roaming the streets of le Pays Noir once again.
Text by Camille Loiseau
Photos shot by Sasha Vernaeve
The trip was pretty much the same, passing through a few cities including Nivelles, Luttre and a few others that you wouldn’t necessarily wander around in, then getting off the train at Charleroi Sud. To be honest, a few years back I wouldn’t have thought of Charleroi as my dream destination either. Charleroi was a bit like this odd kid sitting at the back of the classroom whom no one wanted to talk to. But, when I mention my job now, reactions have changed.
Working in the city shifted from ‘hard’ to ‘cool’ and the city itself from the ‘ugliest’ to the ‘hypest’ and even from ‘Charleroi’ to ‘new Berlin/Manchester…’ No need to say how little people who experience the city everyday care about all this fuss.
Back to the lower part of town. Instead of a huge chasm, there’s now a shopping mall. It’s called Rive Gauche and it’s really not what we’re gonna talk about here. Walking along the canal (la Sambre), you’ll soon be facing Quai 10, the brand new place when it comes to cinema and gaming. Every day a new word gets revealed by the light tubes placed on top of it (check out the 365 project by Lab[Au]).
Cross the canal. The next street on your left is where La Manufacture Urbaine settled down. Right now the site is still under construction but soon you’ll be able to walk in and taste amazing microbrewed beers and killer bread made on the spot a few minutes earlier.
On this same creative diagonal and just two streets away is where le Vecteur stands. Don’t rely on its bunkery looks; le Vecteur has never been as open as it is now. And yes, we’re very proud of it. Alongside the (not-so) usual gigs, exhibitions, screenings and tastings, the place now welcomes more and more artists (visual, plastic, musicians) for residencies. It allows us to throw workshops for the neighbours and whoever wants to join. One of the things we do best is getting people to move slightly out of their comfort zone.
In the meantime, we also opened le Rayon, our new library filled with tons of good comics, books and even some tapes and vinyls that you can borrow. Simply put: le Vecteur is much more than a place where we throw gigs on the weekends.
Luckily, there are a lot of other people putting every fibre of their being into making the Charleroi scene vibrant, innovative and meaningful. Eden is one of them. From initiating a cycle of conferences that will rack your brain to orchestrating the biggest party in the city with the Carnaval, the people of Eden never run out of ideas or energy. If you’re in need of some ear candy, check out one of their gigs. If you’re looking for a crazy walk, pick up one of their maps for Boucle Noire, a path that goes through the Terrils (our Carolo mountains). If you’re more in a chilling mood, take a seat and have a drink in their beautiful bar.
In the upper part of town, you’ll find BPS22, the contemporary art museum for Hainault province. It was renovated in 2015 and even though the space could be a work of art in itself, what it shows is even more striking. Their well-considered exhibitions break down walls between ages and styles. Don’t worry if you’re not a museum geek, BPS22 has an awesome team of guides that will make contemporary art both fun and understandable.
Last but not least, there is Rockerill. If you’ve already set foot in Charleroi (well, actually in Marchienne-au-Pont), that’s probably where you went. It was my first stop too. The reputation of Rockerill’s crazy parties and beautiful scenery has, rightly so, expanded far beyond the limits of the city. Whereas Globul and the DJs he books make thousands of people dance until the end of the night, Mika is this relentless independent punk rocker with the most badass musical taste I know. It’s an explosive cocktail that will surely make you book a day off on the Friday following les Apéros Industriels.
We cannot decently leave without giving a word for our friends at Charleroi Danses, l’Ancre, Incise and all the others and can’t promise that you’ll be able to do all of this in one day or even in one weekend. The truth is that, in the end, it’s by talking to the people here, ordering a ‘lisse’ at La Quille while listening to the boss’s jokes, walking up and down the rue de la Montagne until sweat starts rolling down your temples and pushing the doors to all these places that you’ll discover what makes Charleroi so special. You might find out that the odd kid at the back of the class is actually a cool lad.
Essential spots: Vecteur, Rockerill, Eden, BPS22, Charleroi Danses, Manufacture Urbaine, Quai 10, Bar des Anges, La Quille, Galerie Incise, l’Ancre, West Station skatepark.
Essential musicians & artists: Spaghetta Orghasmmond, Jérôme Considérant, Laurent Molet, Philippe Reale, Jean Delacoste, Sébastien Biset, Olivier Cornil, Etienne Beck, 6001, Run(sofa), Jean Jass, Sebastien Lacomblez, Axel Delepinne, la Marbrée, La Jungle, Mont-Doré, Dirty Fingers, Ozzie Ozwald, Miss Tétanos Gang, les Têtes de l’Art, Vladimir Platine, Thierry Tillier.