»A spirit of hospitality, friendliness and knowledge (about writers and the conditions of their work) prevails. All in all: a model highly to be recommended. I hope it will find many imitators – and I hope it will be continued for a long time.«
The Brussels literary society, Het beschrijf
In 2004 Het beschrijf launched two new initiatives: the Passa Porta International Literature Centre in the heart of Brussels, and a prestigious programme of residencies for artists. Passa Porta includes a multilingual bookshop, a literary platform, offices for literary organisations, a venue for workshops, and a flat. Its mission in Brussels, the capital of Europe, is to open doors between different languages, literatures and cultures.
The flat in Passa PortaVilla Hellebosch, is situated several hundred metres from the language boundary between Flanders and Wallonia.
Het beschrijf welcomes an average of 15 authors per year who stay either in the Passa Porta flat or at Villa Hellebosch. They can choose between city and country. Their stay varies from four to eight weeks. The authors themselves can apply, but just as often Het beschrijf invites them, either as part of an exchange programme with other residence programmes or upon recommendations by publishers, translators, universities, embassies or cultural institutions. Villa Hellebosch is also open to translators for short stays in joint-residency with the author they are translating.
The three basic concepts of our literary residencies are hospitality, creation and exchange. Hospitality: authors are given the opportunity to work on a manuscript in perfect peace, far from their familiar surroundings, and to discover their new environment at their own tempo.
Creation: the author is given the time necessary to concentrate on writing a new work and can set his/her own balance between creative composition and inspiring encounters. The residencies at Passa Porta and Villa Hellebosch repeatedly appear to set authors in motion, to induce a flow of creativity, and they often return home with much more material than they had ever dared hope for. Sometimes their choice of Brussels or Flanders is quite deliberate, in connection with specific research (politics, culture, history, etc.).
Exchange: the regular presence of this intellectual potential from all over the world enriches the whole cultural life of Brussels and Flanders. Getting to know foreign writers who spend some time here and look at our country from a different angle is an inspiring and enjoyable experience. For this reason we also ask every author-in-residence to write a short piece on their experiences in and views on Belgium, Flanders and Brussels. These essays appear on the website www.residencesinflanders.be and are sometimes published in Belgian newspapers. Some authors-in-residence are given the opportunity to introduce themselves to the public in the course of a programme at Passa Porta, and there are also regular private gatherings where lively discussions take place between interested parties of the Brussels cultural community. The other side of the coin is equally important: authors-in-residence discover Flemish literature in translation, and are helpful in establishing contacts with literary organisations in their own country.
To stimulate exchanges between different countries, literatures and cultures, and also to give our own authors the opportunity to find their way to inspiring places in new surroundings, Het beschrijf
The European literary scene has changed radically in recent years, and this includes a substantial increase in such initiatives as festivals, literature and residency centres, plus opportunities for cross-border cooperation. The creation of a dynamic and inspiring forum such as HALMA opens up excellent prospects for authors and literature from all these different countries and regions. Something truly exciting to look forward to.