When the park becomes a festival meadow

Core, Couleur Café, Brosella, Arena 5, Atom. The Ossegempark and the Heysel plain are increasingly becoming a permanent music and festival venue. Nice for party people, but sad for local residents, breeding birds and the vulnerable greenery.

“Loud concerts, we’ve had them here before. But this is really driving you crazy! At midnight, more than a kilometer from the event, you can hear the boom boom boom in your guts (with all double-glazed windows closed). (…) Even if you accept that you can’t sleep anyway, the volume is so high that you can’t even concentrate on anything else. Not to mention the catastrophic impact on the wildlife around.”

The tirade on neighborhood app Hoplr is just one of the reactions from residents during and after the first edition of the dance festival Core in Ossegempark last weekend. “There are way too many basses. If it was still good music, but I have the impression that I’m standing next to a washing machine,” testifies another resident. Another commenter wondered how the palliative care patients in the area get through the evening.

“We don’t hear anything at all at the Brosella festival (also in Ossegempark, ed.),” says Jean-Charles Verhaeghe of the Triangel neighborhood committee. “At Couleur Café (also in the park) it is more or less bearable. But this is even louder. Those three festivals each form a privatization of public space, which is then not available to those looking for peace and nature.”

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† Friday 27 May 2022: the first day of the first CORE festival in Ossegempark.

The local residents are not only angry about the nuisance of Core (40,000 visitors over the two days). They also see with concern how the Heysel plain is increasingly developing into a true event zone. While there used to be only the more modest folk and jazz festival Brosella, Couleur Café (up to 70,000 visitors) and Arena 5 (50,000 visitors for the first edition) have recently been added. And the City of Brussels, which manages both the Heysel plain and the Ossegem Park, is adding to this at the end of the summer with the Atom Festival. “Mayor Philippe Close seems to forget that many people also live at the Heysel,” says Verhaeghe.

Balance

For his part, the mayor says that the City supports the restart of the cultural and events sector. “As a result, a large number of people come to Brussels. They keep our hotels and catering industry running. Of course we also look for a balance with the well-being of the residents. As for any of our events, we will also debrief and take residents’ comments into account.”

The local residents are not the only ones who are suffering these days. A festival like Core is also not exactly fun for the fauna and flora in the park. “The impact on nature is enormous,” says biologist Olivier Beck of Brussels Environment, “especially for birds, in full breeding season. Young plants then become trampled again, so that you do not get new seed development. And you get compaction of the soil, while an airy soil is crucial for plants. Anyone who has chickens at home sometimes sees puddles in places where those animals often stand. With tens of thousands in a park is of course a lot worse.”

Friday 27 May 2022: the first day of the first CORE festival in Ossegempark

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† The first day of the first CORE festival in Ossegempark.

Nature lover Bart Hanssens, former chairman of Natuurpunt Brussels, refers to the effect of fireworks on birds on New Year’s Eve: “There are satellite images that show that they then flee to high air layers and dead birds are regularly found after the fireworks. A loud dance festival in the breeding season cannot be good for those animals in that regard.”

Remarkable: the two experts also show some understanding for the park events. “This is simply an urban environment in which you have to find a balance with recreational use,” says Beck. And when we walk through the Ossegempark with Bart Hanssens after the festival, he also notices good things. “I see that sensitive parts of the park are protected. And the lawns where a large part of the festival takes place have hardly any ecological importance anyway.”

Friday 27 May 2022: the first day of the first CORE festival in Ossegempark

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† Philippe Close: “Of course we also look for a balance with the well-being of the residents. As for each of our events, we will also debrief and take into account the residents’ comments.”

When asked for a response, the Core organization also points out that extensive consultations were held with the City’s green department. “We then protected tree trunks, avoided heavy vehicles in sensitive areas…,” says spokeswoman Debby Willems. We have experience with Tomorrowland, which takes place in De Schorre, also a natural environment.”

According to Core, all legal standards regarding noise pollution were respected last weekend. “By the way, we are not aware of any complaints about noise from the police.”

Inquiries show that ‘several’ complaints were indeed received by the police about the sound volume. The Brussels-Capital Ixelles police zone could not say how much on Monday.

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