On the 1st of June, the final Scheldeland Living Lab meeting took place at Fort Rozenbroek in Dendermonde. Together with the steering committee of the Living Lab, the conclusion of the project was celebrated and a final project plan was drafted, focusing on the operationalisation of the ‘Scheldeland in Beweging!’ product proposal that was developed within the working group. The project proposal discussed modular connections and attraction linkages, accessibility, limitations and opportunities, prospective market demand, competitive positioning, and marketing approaches. This project proposal (written in Dutch to serve the local stakeholders) can be found here.
From 20 to 22 June, the Scheldeland Living Lab received representatives of the living labs of Huesca and Utsjoki as part of the SmartCulTour project. These exchange visits form part of the SmartCulTour goals of knowledge dissemination, cross-border collaboration and the sharing of best practices in sustainable cultural tourism development.
Together with local stakeholders of Scheldeland, Griet Geudens of Visit Flanders and Vanessa Ágata de Abreu Santos and Bart Neuts of KU Leuven welcomed the visitors and guided them around the three partner municipalities of Bornem, Puurs-Sint-Amands and Dendermonde, focusing on particular cultural heritage venues, key natural resources and slow transportation modes that serve as a connector of potential network nodes. The living lab managers and other delegates got to visit these sites and carried out brainstorming sessions to look at opportunities, potential and possible thresholds.
After a challenging arrival due to a security personnel strike at Brussels Airport and subsequent rerouting of flights, on Tuesday 21 June a full day was scheduled. After an introduction to the Scheldeland Living Lab and an ice breaker exercise between the participants, an electric bicycle tour took the visitors via multiple points of interest in Puurs-Sint-Amands and Bornem. Via the bicycle tour, the delegates were introduced to the extensive cycling node network in Flanders. First stop was the Fortress of Liezele, a fortification built in 1908 and now housing multiple recreational and tourist attractions in and around the fortress such as a B&B, an escape room, a museum, an ice skating pond (in winter), a barefeet walking path and various walking routes. Next, the group cycled to castle D’Ursel, built in 1761 and now serving primarily as an event location, and its castle park and further via the Scheldt dykes to the Notelaer, a beautiful pavilion in neoclassical style with a magnificent view on the river Scheldt and also originally belonging to the duke of D’Ursel. In summertime, temporary accommodation is offered at the pavilion in the form of five tree-hung tents.
From there, visitors made their way to the castle of Marnix de Sainte-Alegonde. While the location had been home to fortifications and castle-structures since the 10th to 11th century, the current castle is a romanticized rendition from the end of the 19th century. Closeby, the abbey of Bornem has been renovated and redeveloped to house a museum collection and offer both residential accommodation as event areas, with the immaculate library being a particular highlight of the tour.
After lunch, the group cycled to the village centre of Sint-Amands, on the Scheldt bank. Here they were introduced to the development plans of the village, and its central focus on both the tidal nature of the river and the artistic heritage of Sint-Amands, visible by both its link to historic writers and by some creative architecture in the village centre. From there, the bicycles were loaded onto a wagon of the steam train Puurs-Dendermonde and representatives got to ride on the renovated carriages and visit the steam locomotives and other carriages that are being restored and operated fully by volunteers. Participants were given an introduction to the organization and its working and participated in an exercise to map the sensory experiences of the trip.
On Wednesday 22 June, the representatives visited the city of Dendermonde where they received a guided tour and introduction to the legend of the horse of Bayard which is central to a procession being held every ten years, as well as some notable heritage sites such as the meat halls, the cloth halls (nowadays the city hall of Dendermonde), the justice palace and the beguinage, and the Dendermondse painting school. Afterwards Vanessa Ágata de Abreu Santos ran a workshop inviting the participants to conduct an emotions mapping exercise as part of a cultural mapping methodology.
In November 2021 and February 2022, two advisory board sessions were organized in Living Lab Scheldeland, with the explicit purpose of presenting the community-led ideation to local policy makers.
The first session on 22 November 2021 took place in hybrid fashion, both real-life in CC Binder in Puurs-Sint-Amands and via Microsoft Teams. In this session, the project ideation canvases of the three subgroups – as developed in the fourth workshop – were summarized in a PowerPoint presentation and presented to the advisory board by selected members of the workgroup. The three prospective project to be presented were:
- “Scheldeland in beweging” (i.e. Scheldeland in motion): family-focused and group-based active weekends, linking different cultural heritage attractions and particularly focusing on one of the last remaining steam trains in Belgium;
- “Scheldeland, goed gezien” (i.e. Scheldeland, well seen): a sensory route for people with visual impairments, with slow modes of transportation;
- “Scheldeland, vanuit de hoogte” (i.e. Scheldeland from above): nature ‘hangouts’ with landmark values, particularly focusing on a lookout platform at the Scheldt river turn, linked to cycling routes and bird breeding grounds.
A House of Quality matrix was used by policy makers on various level in order to scare the different initiatives on different priorities and needs, leading to aggregated scores for the three proposals.
After the meeting, the scores were analyzed and reported to the participants, with “Scheldeland in beweging” receiving the highest average score. In a next advisory board session on February 2022, the different proposals and their respective scores were discussed and “Scheldeland in beweging” was unanimously seen as the initiative to prioritize, considering multiple recognized benefits. In the remainder of the meeting, a customer journey was mapped out in order to identify further needs in product development and help to plan future workshop meetings.
On 7 June 2021, the project team of Toerisme Vlaanderen and KU Leuven undertook a day visit to the municipalities of Puurs-Sint-Amands, Bornem, and Dendermonde, the central locations of the Scheldeland Living Lab. During this trip, the project team familiarized themselves with the local situation and cultural resources and met with policy makers, entrepreneurs and heritage experts.
In the morning, the Fortress of Liesele was explored, pre-WWI fortress built as part of a defensive ring of fortresses around Antwerp. Twice occupied without any direct battle, the fortress has been well preserved and is now being redesigned as multi-recreational attraction with a museum, escape rooms, B&B bedrooms, meeting locations, and a surrounding nature area.
Next, the team visited the historic centre of Puurs-Sint-Amands, at the banks of the Scheldt river, before moving on to Bornem with its impressive heritage sites of the Sint-Bernardus Abbey – currently undergoing intensive renovations to reimagine the site as a multi-purpose venue catering to both local residents, businesses, and cultural tourists – the castle of Marnix De Sainte-Aldegonde and the castle d’Ursel.
In the afternoon, the city of Dendermonde was explored, with visits to the Town Hall and Belfry, the beguinage, and the Honky Tonk Jazz Club, which has welcomed legends such as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King and Ray Charles in its 55-year-old history. Dendermonde is also the city of the legend of the horse Bayard, with the impressive processional of giants taking place every ten years and being central to the identity of the city. The day ended at the shipping wharves of Baasrode, industrial heritage from the end of the 19th century.