With Full Circle, nightlife is central this week in Antwerp. That is why the city’s youth service organized a debate on Monday evening with competent alderman Koen Kennis (N-VA). Everyone under the age of 30 was welcome at ‘t Schoon Verdiep to talk about ideas, challenges and issues within Antwerp’s nightlife. Afterwards there was a party in the town hall.
The debate is part of the Take Over initiative of the city of Antwerp. “A fifth of the Antwerp population are young people. A large proportion are still too young to vote. But during Take Over’s conversations they can share their life experiences directly with policymakers,” says Roel Camps of the city’s youth work.
One of the most pressing issues that emerged was the lack of space to organize events. “There are fewer and fewer options in the city center for students. We have to go further and further outside the city. As a result, fewer people come to our parties,” says Olivier Klijn of student association Klio. “Antwerp student life is nothing compared to that of cities such as Leuven or Ghent.”
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According to Kennis, the closure of some typical Antwerp student cafés is partly due to the students themselves. “As a student, I often went to a café. Now I notice that young people go to the café less and often pre-drink at home. That is why it has become a challenge for café owners to stay open. We also carried out a location survey. But the big challenge is to find new places in the student neighborhood where noise pollution remains limited.”
The organizers of Soulful Sessions also experience problems finding places. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to organize festivals in open spaces in the city,” notes co-organizer Emilia De la Paz Vega. “In addition, there is often the ‘power of complaint’, which means that the city no longer wants to release certain locations due to complaints about noise pollution. The board will then try to look for solutions or new places together with us.”
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Safety and substance use were the other themes that were discussed extensively. “The city has a repressive drug policy. For example, there are few options to have your drugs tested. Moreover, people who become one bad trip have often been immediately kicked out by security and left to their own devices,” said several young people.
“Drug use is a difficult issue,” Kennis admits. “We strongly discourage drug use. That is why we are not going to help organize test centers. By the way, no club owner wants drug use in his club. What we do do is organize prevention campaigns together with the clubs. This way they know how to best deal with drug use.”
The organization behind Take Over will digitize all discussion points. In addition, there will be a feedback moment where solutions and possibilities within Antwerp’s nightlife will be looked at together with policy makers.
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