Planning at Thomas More University, Mechelen, Belgium

15 March 2018: Engage Europe colleagues, co-ordinated by Laura and Esther from IHECS (Brussels), met at Thomas More University, Mechelen, Belgium. Report from City, University of London team.

Yarn bombing by old houses along the River Dyle in Mechelen, Belgium (c) Engage London

Q: Where is Mechelen?
Mechelen is in Belgium – quite close! London to Brussels via Eurostar takes just two hours. From Brux Midi station (Brux Midi is the station’s French name; in Flemish it’s Brux Zuid and in English Brussels South) it’s about 20 minutes on another train to Mechelen.

Q: Tell me the basics
Mechelen is midway between Brussels and Antwerp. It’s both a tourist magnet and a university town (a little like York in the UK). The centre boasts the huge 13th century St Rumbold’s cathedral. Facing it is a large city-centre square lined with cafes. At busy commuting times there seems to be an urban ballet performed in the square as bikes weave around pedestrians.

About two years ago Mechelen was traffic-calmed, prioritising people and bikes, over vehicles. As a result us Londoners found it really quiet in the centre. You can actually hear the big Belgian bikes bouncing over the cobbles. Cars can come into the centre in the evening to park in the underground car park beneath the city square. There are buses, but they aren’t red.

Walking and cycling are nice ways to travel around Mechelen to reach Thomas More University. (c) Engage London

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Have you heard of this Belgian city?

  • MECHELEN is where Anne Boleyn (1504-36), who famously lost her head to Henry VIII, spent a part of her childhood.
  • Charles V (1500-1558), known as the Holy Roman Emperor (basically he was King of Spain and Italy and parts of Germany until he abdicated to retire to a monastery in 1556) was brought up in Mechelen until he was 17.
  • Mechelen did have a protective city wall and 12 gates. There’s one still standing, known as The Brusselpoort.
  • In the central square the city palace is still used. It is known as the Hof van Busleyden. Years ago philosophers Erasmus and Thomas More both visited this palace, possibly sharing their ideas.
  • Upsettingly Mechelen’s good train links are why between August 1942 – July 1944 the invading German Nazis chose it as a collecting point for the 25,000 Jews and Roma they sent by train to Auschwitz-Birkeneau. At the end of the war when the concentration camp was liberated only 1,240 were still alive (reference).

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Engage teams from six universities: Laura (IHECS, Belgium), Anne (Belgium), Esther (IHECS, Belgium), Kiron (Germany), Barbara (London), Caroline (London), Charo (Spain), Cristina (Spain, not in pic), Ovidiu (Romania), Alexandra (Romania) and Nicola (not in pic). (c) Engage London

Engage Europe at Mechelen 
Thomas More University, one of Engage Europe project’s academic partner institutions, is on the ring road. At this centre a team from universities in the European towns of Brussels (IHECS, Laura & Esther), Barcelona (Charo & Cristina), Tübingen (Kiron), Cluj (Alexandra and Ovidiu) and our host Mechelen (Anne) provided updates on their Engage work.

Representatives from City, which is based in Islington, London, shared a powerpoint, film and the gallery on our blog to introduce the young people from the Pilion Trust. Our Hear Me Speak film got a round of applause, so thank you again everyone involved in creating it, in front or behind the camera.

To date radio, podcasts and photography have been the most popular ways around Europe to share media skills and give the young people’s perspectives a voice. Find out more by looking at the partner blogs, see here.

Alexandra from Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca shares Engage Romania’s radio work with Roma, young people with disabilities and also Down’s Syndrome. (c) Engage London

Next meetings during 2018 will all involve practical media collaborations (eg, radio, photography and more). Planned activities include a summer school from 25-27 June (Brussels) and workshops in Cluj-Napoca (24 May-1 June), London (date TBC) and Barcelona (date TBC). We’re so excited for London!

Graffiti on the train at Mechlen. In Brussels we saw brilliant designs everywhere. (c) Engage London

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