FLY-OVER: a block party on the freeway

Pictures by Wouter Maeckelberghe

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Each year, in September, the European Mobility Week takes place to focus on alternative means of transport. On September 17, aka Car Free Sunday, all cars are being banned from a lot of city centres and several events are organized throughout Belgium. In Ghent, the guys from Springstof (the organisation behind KERK) and Treehouse are joining forces to take over the famous fly-over at 'the South' and throw a block party (free admission). Their aim is to set up an unforeseen event in a not so obvious location. And in doing so, to make citizens reflect on public spaces and their effect on themselves and surrounding residential areas. We met up with Jules Gahide from Springstof to discuss their plans and vision behind the event.

How did the idea for FLY-OVER come about?

"Well I didn’t have to look too far for the idea, as I live right across from the fly-over! When I look outside my window, I can basically smell the exhaust gases. Ghent has a bit of an unusual state when it comes to accessibility, because you can reach the city centre coming directly from the motorway. It’s a situation that has many advocates, but equally as many opponents. The quick accessibility can be an advantage, but it remains quite bizarre that the extension of a motorway is situated in a residential area. More and more studies are taking place on the phenomenon and it’s also becoming increasingly popular in the press. A while ago I had an epiphany when visiting Singapore. There was this kind of block party taking place on the paved part of a motorway, which I’ve never seen before. We wanted to implement the same sort of vibe, but on Ghent's fly-over. As there is only one day a year when no cars can be found in the city, it soon became clear we had to organize it on Car-Free Sunday. And so, the idea began to take shape. We tried to make it happen last year, but it was a bit short notice. However, we were already in talks with the city’s mobility service and we put up a small event at KERK during the Mobility Week. It was a music festival, but with a lot of attention for alternative means of transport. And so, wheels were set in motion to do something bigger on the fly-over this year."

Organizing an event on a motorway is not an obvious task. How are you going to deal with the site?

"The zone will be car-free from eleven in the morning till six in the evening and we’ll be occupying the site during that time span. We have two hours to build the site and only one hour to break down, so we're going to work with mobile bars, a mobile stage, and so on. It's going to be a physical build-up, but that's part of the challenge. The entire area of the bridge will serve as a festival site containing a stage and food stands, but there will also be a lot of activities with which we want to promote the bicycle. The climbing of the bridge will be an activity in itself. We want people to reflect on the sense of freedom, on the feeling of openness in a place that is never actually open. We want the event to be more than just a party, to create a sense of how people deal with public space and its intake."

Springstof won’t be the only partner participating in FLY-OVER we presume?

"Correct. The people behind Treehouse will be joining too. Both organisations have a close link and we’ve always talked about how we could work together. They have their own one-day festival in May and they’re also keen on thinking how to integrate an event or party within a city context. They were immediately interested in working together on this project and it has grown very organically since. And finally, there is also a third partner, Vooruit. They have a supportive role in this story and will help in logistic and practical matters."

Music is a big part of all three organizations their identity. How will that be reflected at FLY-OVER?

"We are aiming for a strong selection of DJs, bringing a housy and sunshine filled vibe. It's an event for everyone, but we also want to guarantee it has a quality stamp on a musical level. We can already give away that our headliner will be DJ Katapila, from South Africa. More artists will be revealed soon!"

FLY-OVER will take place on Sunday, September 17, in Ghent. More info on the Facebook event page