Every year the Iris Festival celebrates the Brussels-Capital Region. It is worth noting that on 16 May 1991 the iris was adopted by the Brussels Parliament as the symbol of the Brussels Region.
Next 1 May, Brussels will be launching a week of festivities. Only 30 years ago, the Brussels-Capital Region was created and 150 years ago the first tram appeared on the streets.
“2019 is no ordinary year for the Brussels-Capital Region. This year we’ll be celebrating its 30th anniversary. The region was born in January 1989. Finally, the needs of the population were taken into account when it came to political choices and decisions. It was only right to commemorate this event with the people of Brussels and with Belgium as a whole. This year, the Iris Festival lasts 5 days. It is a long weekend of celebration for Brussels’ 1,200,000 inhabitants and 184 nationalities. But this is not the only important anniversary in 2019. During the Iris Festival, we will also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the tram, a key part of the daily lives of many Brussels residents. You'll get a unique opportunity to look back at the important milestones of its long history and discover the tram of tomorrow. Concerts, guided tours and numerous activities of all kinds are planned during the festival long weekend. A magnificent firework display on Place des Palais brings events to a close. I look forward to celebrating two incredibly symbolic anniversaries with you.” Declares Rudi Vervoort, Brussels Minister-President.
Today Minister of Mobility and Public Works, Pascal Smet and Brussels Minister-President, Rudi Vervoort, presented the program for festivities linked with the 150th anniversary of the tram in Brussels.
The tram has been a vital means of transport for decades in our city. We’re celebrating that with three major events: A tour of historic trams on the 1st of May, the exhibition of local trams with the presentation of the new model for Brussels on Place Royale and the European Championship for the best tram driver, organised by STIB, which will take place for the first time in Brussels.
"If chocolate, the Atomium, Art Nouveau or Magritte are symbols of our Region, the tram surely is too. It is part of our Brussels identity. The history and landscape of our city have been marked for 150 years by this mode of transport, which remains one of the most developed networks in the world today. As inhabitants of Brussels, we can be proud of this heritage and we must continue to invest and upgrade this clean and sustainable mode of transport. With the extension of tramline 94 and the creation of tramline 9 in Jette, we have shown our belief in trams for the future. In addition to that we will create two new lines to Tour & Taxis and Neder-Over-Heembeek, and extend tramline 62 to the airport. The tram will always have its place in Brussels.” said by Pascal Smet, Brussels Minister for Mobility and Public Works.
Here's a preview of the 5-day festival programme.
Wednesday 1 May
- Tram parade
The undisputed highpoint of the festivities celebrating the tram’s 150th anniversary in Brussels will be the huge parade of classic trams along the Rue Royale, which will start at 2pm, featuring some forty historic trams. Virtually all the different types of tram from Brussels’ rich history of trams, will be taking part. From the early horse-drawn trams to the 3000 and 4000 trams that travel through the streets of Brussels today. Fans will also be able to travel on one of the classic trams.
- The Next Generation Tram
During the festivities, ten or so historic vicinal vehicles from all four corners of the country, including a steam-powered trams, will be on display on the Place Royale. But the undoubtable star of this exhibition will be… the model of the brand new TNG tram (“the Tram New Generation”), currently under construction, the first versions of which will be travelling around the streets of Brussels in 2020.
“Brussels is one of the rare cities that never did away with the tram, and that has always continued to invest in its tramway infrastructure”, points out Brieuc de Meeûs, the CEO of the STIB. “And that’s not all. We’ve got lots of plans to extend the tram network in the pipeline, and we are proud to be able to let our passengers be the first to see the life-size model of the trams of the future. It is also a huge honour for us to host the European Tram Driver Championship. An unusual competition that will help the people of Brussels appreciate the skills exhibited by our driving staff.”
Thursday 2 May
- Bruxelles-Brussels: a city journey
Premiere of the documentary film directed by Luc Jabon at BOZAR
Talking about Brussels with a walk through certain streets, boulevards, squares, lanes, and urban spaces… With these streets as the star of the show, discover the men and women walking, passing through, strolling or spend time there, celebrating and expressing themselves.
- Free guided tours on a classic tram.
To celebrate the tram’s 150th anniversary, professional guides will be giving you a tour through the districts of Brussels on board a classic tram. The tours will be departing from the Place Poelaert on Thursday and Friday 2 and 3 May, and will be in French, English and Dutch. The journey will take around 2hr30 and will include a stop at the vicinal exhibition on the Place Royale. A unique, free event to find out more about this public transport heritage in the company of an expert.
Friday 3 May
- Manneken Pis in STIB uniform
Brussels' most famous little boy, Manneken Pis, is going to be dressed up in the STIB's new driver's uniform. This uniform, designed by Maison Strelli, will be the 3rd STIB outfit that Manneken Pis has worn over the years. The change of uniforms for STIB staff will take place on 2 May.
- Electro Night
Electro Night brings music lovers together year after year. DJ sets will be taking place in Place des Palais, in the heart of the capital, and will once again be headlined by some of the major Belgian and international names.
Saturday 4 May
- Iris Festival across the Brussels districts
This event invites all passers-by, be they natives of Brussels or tourists, to discover a Brussels that is off the beaten track. A huge number of secret places or places normally closed to the public will be offering exceptional visits on this festive Saturday, under the banner of discovery and togetherness.
- Europe Day
The European Institutions will open their doors to the public and offer guided tours all day long. A unique occasion to discover the inner workings of the European Union.
More information on the website of the EU Commisssion
- The European Tram Driver Championship
The 8th European Tram Driver Championship will be taking place on Saturday 4 May too. Mixed teams of tram drivers from 25 European cities will battle it out over the course of a number of different challenges. The championship will be held on Saturday 4 May along the Rue Royale, by the Parc de Bruxelles, and will be open to the public.
- Concert on the Place des Palais
To close the day with a flourish, people are invited along to several exceptional concerts being performed by Belgian and international artists.
A spectacular fireworks display will begin at around 11 p.m. at the Place des Palais.
Sunday 5 May
- Festive Park
During the Iris Festival, street art is showcased through an artistic programme which brings together the best and brightest in this field from Brussels and elsewhere. Circus arts, street theatre, interactive games, all kinds of workshops, dance demonstrations, children's activities and much more.
A host of sporting activities will also punctuate the day.
From 12:00–6:00 p.m., a hundred or so associations from the Region's different districts will be present in Brussels Park.
- Festival at the Parliament
The Iris Festival at the Brussels Parliament is the chance to discover, while having some fun, an historical building right at the heart of the lives of its inhabitants.
- Brussels Swings!
A documentary film by Marie-Jo Lafontaine screening as part of the "Brussels on screen" retrospective
Flagey (Studio 5) Screening with the director
Marie-Jo Lafontaine has captured the energy of musicians, audiences and a city on the move. The audience is projected into the space of a thousand and one music, seen as pulsations of the City of Brussels. The music describe the city's diversity, from the appeal of the cello to the Congolese rumba, from punk to electro-acoustic music, from noise to opera, from the strains of the accordion to rap.
- A trip on a classic tram
On Sunday 5 May, visitors will also be able to enjoy a journey on a classic tram for free along the original 1869 route (around the Parc de Bruxelles). And this will not be a one-off event. From now on, the Tram Museum will be putting on trips along this part of the route on bank holidays, as is already the case every weekend from April to September inclusive, along the Avenue de Tervueren in Woluwe.
Willem Draps, CEO of the Tram Museum: “As the managers of the historic heritage of Brussels’ public transport, we really had to tell the locals about the 150th anniversary of the launch of the first tramline along the Avenue Louise on 1 May 1869. With the support of the STIB and the regional authorities, more than a hundred volunteers will be helping our not-for-profit organisation bring this magnificent heritage back to life on Wednesday 1 and Sunday 5 May. After that, on every bank holiday during the summer, these same volunteers will also be helping to run a new line, ‘BS’, connecting the Bois (Legrand stop) to the Église Sainte-Marie, on the classic tramways from the early 20th century.”
Throughout the weekend
- Audrey Hepburn : the woman behind the legend - Espace Vandenborght
Intimate Audrey is an exhibition on the life of Audrey Hepburn created by her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, to celebrate her 90th birthday in the town of her birth, Brussels. The exhibition focuses entirely on the woman and not on the icon through photographs, souvenirs, dresses, accessories and her fashion drawings.
The exhibition, which covers more than 800m² on the first two floors of the Vanderborght Gallery in Brussels, includes several hundred original and reprinted photographs, a limited number of souvenirs, dresses and accessories, as well as her unpublished works, fashion drawings and humanitarian writings. A series of poignant videos brings each chapter of the icon's life to life.
All profits will go to EURORDIS-Rare Diseases Europe and to Brugmann and Bordet hospitals in Brussels.
- The Museum of Natural Sciences is planning to put on its own surprise to celebrate the Region’s 30th anniversary…
The Museum is one of Brussels' most visited. Every year, more than 300,000 visitors discover its rooms. They have the Dinosaur Gallery (the largest in Europe), halls on Evolution and the History of Mankind. Countless projects that have been created with the support of the region.
It is also the showcase of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, a true centre of excellence in scientific research that flies the flag of Brussels and Belgium high and well beyond its borders, often in collaboration with the Brussels-Capital Region.
There is something spectacular going on in the Institute's laboratories and corridors. Scientists, museologists and all the teams are working hard to prepare a major surprise. But we're not going to spoil the surprise, because birthdays without surprises are no fun at all! Little clues will be revealed from 1 April and during the Iris Festival where we will welcome you at our stand! Come down to the museum on 7 May for the grand opening.