Alderman for the arts Philip Heylen: ‘The city at its best’

What does Antwerp Pride mean to you?
For me a pride in a city like Antwerp is evident. When people love each other, than no one has the right to say that this is not possible. It is the most individual thing there is and nobody has the right to form any sort of judgment about that. This is quite recent and I find it important to keep bringing that message in a city like ours. Any form of discrimination, inequality, bashing - call it what you may - for me is not acceptable.

The Antwerp Queer Arts Festival enters its third edition. How can art contribute to equality?
Art can not save the world, but a world without art would be terrible. But for me it is more than this. This years theme about the Middle-East and North-Africa linked with the current refugee crisis is a very courageous message. In the city of the Red Star Line, we have to do this! Not everybody will be happy about it, but still you have to address it. This year we explain to people from the Middle-East and North-Africa that these are our rights and values in our society. But at the same time it is also a message that these subjects are very controversial in the Middle-East and North-Africa. These people also need our understanding. We should be open for their point of view. We open a door so people can walk through it to talk about this. We open a door so we can learn from each other, make step in their world and for them to take a step in ours. In some countries people are thrown of buildings or are hanged because of their sexual identity. Countries with which we have economic ties and dealings. You could say: should we work together with these countries? We all know it doesn’t work that way. I think that to talk about this and to make our point clear is the best way to deal with this in the long run.You can pass this message through a big speech on the Grote Markt and probably a couple of people will boo you for that or you can give this message through Queer Arts Festival. I think it is important that Antwerp Pride is more than just parties. You can do that in Antwerp every weekend any way.

Why is there no rainbow flag on city hall during Antwerp Pride?
I am totally against that. I have nothing against the rainbow flag, mind you. But City Hall is a neutral place. Only official flags are allowed according to protocol. I have a lot of difficulties with say some Americans mayors who are happy to fly the rainbow colors on their city hall while on the other hand the LGBT community have no rights in their city.

Where can Pride tourists enjoy some art this summer apart from Queer Arts Festival.
It will be a great summer. There is a big Luc Tuymans show which you can see in Antwerp first before it transfers to London. There will be a whole new floor in the MAS Museum all about food and drink throughout the history of Antwerp. There are some nice expositions in the Mayer van den Berg museum and we have the Born in Antwerp Program that specifically looks at creative industries.

What do you look forward to?
I think it is incredible that it has a big support among the people. There are a lot of positive vibes in the city during this week. It shows the city at its best. We can party, which is typical of Antwerp. We can make some people frown, which is also typical of Antwerp. And the best thing is: we all have an opinion about it.




Philip Heylen

alderman for culture