By Federica Fusi.

One of the most exciting experiences I had in Brussels has been the Zinneke Parade, an incredibly urban event that takes place every two years: I have been lucky to be there!

Born in 2000, as part of the Brussels European Capital of Culture program, the Zinneke Parade is more than a traditional festival: it is a successful – I would say – living city project (www.zinneke.org). Aiming to be a participatory creation, an open space for everyone to experiment with cooperative living in the 21st century city, a city inhabited by Zinnekes proud of their mixed roots, it engages nowadays most of city’s cultural and social associations, along with schools, artists, collectives and, of course, residents. The creative process starts with the choice of the theme during the first semester and follows with one-year long workshops and ateliers, run by the central Committee, in partnership with involved associations. The main goal of this part is to elaborate a draft of a creative project to be realized during the last six months and be showed during the final parade at the end of April.

The outcomes of this collective reflection are astonishing. Like many other festivals, the parade attracts many visitors and streets are plenty of music, laughs and voices, but there is more. The parade has an important impact on the city and its citizens. The two-year process supports the development and the reinforcement of the links between social sector operators and the civil society. It helps social integration mechanisms, promoting a deeper intercultural dialogue among different communities. The lack of competition – the objective is to cooperate – makes the atmosphere during the day completely relaxing. Participants vary from elderly people and adults, to teen agers and children, whose projects have been prepared during the school year. As every proposal in line with the main theme is allowed, the parade includes dancing shows, bands, mechanic chariots, masked and unmasked people and actors. They pass through the whole historical center, from the Bourse to the Grande Place, surrounded by a welcoming and festive public. The bars and the concert halls located in the center also participate at the event, opening their doors for free concerts from the afternoon until late in the night.

The day ends in the north side of Brussels, next to the channel, where some old warehouses are located. Used as headquarter for the building of most of the chariots, they host all participants and friends for an all night long dancing party.