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Despite Arsenaalsite's derelict state, the city will work together with local organisations to make the party a unique event , Source: Altstadt

Ghent throws a ‘Thank you!’ party for Covid-volunteers

Ghent throws a ‘Thank you!’ party for Covid-volunteers

The party will be held in an ex-industrial site in the city, highlighting the local ambitions to embrace the future

This week, local authorities in the Belgian city of Ghent announced a ‘Thank you!’ party for the locals who have served as volunteers in handling the Covid-19 pandemic over the past few years. According to a statement by the city, the party will be held on 2 July in the former industrial zone known as the Arsenaalsite.

A wave of solidarity swept across Ghent

After two years, it finally looks like the pandemic and accompanying health crisis is winding down, as more and more European Member States are loosening or outright lifting restrictions. Although last summer also came with a fair bit of optimism that things were going back to normal, the winter of 2021 proved to be the most contagious yet.

Nevertheless, authorities in Ghent think the time has come to honour the nearly 2,000 volunteers who have been supporting local health authorities through this difficult time. During the coronavirus crisis and the vaccination campaign, the city saw a wave of solidarity sweep across. Countless residents were involved in filling the gaps in neighbourhood services, schools, helping the elderly and even in a door to door psychological service.

Despite the healthy dose of optimism, though, there is also the possibility that authorities could be forced to cancel the ‘Thank you!’ party, as they had to back in December of 2020. Although, it is also important to mention that over the past two years winters have proven to be the most volatile season in terms of spreading the disease.

Regardless, local officials want to at least try and offer their thanks to the citizens. They have stated that anyone who has volunteered to help city services and partner organizations from civil society during the pandemic will receive an invitation by letter or by e-mail around mid-May.

The Arsenaalsite – a unique venue geared for the future

The party will take place at the Arsenaalsite and will be wheelchair accessible. The city will work together with local organisations to make it a unique event.

The Arsenaalsite is a former factory district on the outskirts of Ghent, covering 13 hectares and dotted with numerous derelict industrial buildings. It used to service the local rail industry, however, last year, local authorities started a partnership project with the owners to develop it into a sustainable urban quarter.

Although significant progress in the redevelopment has yet to be made, the design concept includes keeping the site’s open and industrial character, while mixing it with education and housing buildings. The project even called the concept for the Arsenaalsite a ‘city within a city’.

This, however, would be done in a way that does not separate it from the rest of Ghent. According to the draft plan, it could be achieved with green spaces and prolonging certain streets. This move is part of the growing trend in finding new purposes for ex-industrial sites throughout Europe.

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