About Flanders Festival Ghent

Flanders Festival Ghent is an international music festival hosted in the vibrant cultural city of Ghent and the greater region of East Flanders. Ghent Festival focusses on high-quality Classical Music in its purest form, but also stretches the boundaries with a variety of creative formats. For instance, ‘OdeGand’ annually launches the Ghent Festival, which has since its conception grown into a breath-taking and adventurous city festival. For three weeks in September, Ghent Festival attracts more than 50.000 visitors with its daring programme of Classical Music, as well as World Music and Jazz. Young up-and-coming talent and world-famous artists share their passion and virtuosity with melomaniacs, as well as fledgling music explorers. There are no less than 180 concerts on the programme, with more than 1,500 (inter)national artists taking part!

Flanders Festival Ghent is a member of the Federation of Flanders Music Festivals (FMiV) and the European Festival Association (EFA).

Mission statement

Flanders Festival Ghent is an international music festival centred on a high-quality classical repertoire but also ready to take the odd artistic risk. In Ghent and the surrounding East-Flanders province, the Festival acts as the mortar among cultural centres and the link between a glorious past and a fascinating present. Reaching out to an ever wider audience, the Festival is a valuable addition to the existing cultural scene.

Not just in downtown Ghent

The choice of Ghent, with its impressive architectural heritage, as the Festival’s heart was no accident. In addition, each year, countless villages and communes in the surrounding East Flanders province are firmly involved in this celebration of music, now universally known as “Flanders Festival Ghent”.

The story so far…

In 1958, Jan Briers sr. decided to set up “The Ghent Music Festival”. At the time, Briers sr. was the head of the Flemish broadcasting corporation BRT as well as a communication sciences professor at the universities of Ghent and Brussels. His brand-new festival presented eight concerts that attracted a 4000-strong audience. In 1959, the initiative was rebranded to “Flanders Festival”, and seven chapters were added to the original Ghent region.

Artistic direction

Flanders Festival Ghent has become a household name both in Belgium and abroad, with a strong following that keeps growing year after year. This growth is in large part due to the inspiring leadership of Messrs. Jan Briers (father and son) and the oftentimes prophetic vision of artistic directors like Gerard Mortier, Dirk Struys, Serge Dorny, Bert Schreurs, and Jelle Dierickx. Since November 2014 Veerle Simoens is in charge as artistic programmer and in 2016 she became artistic director.

In 1972 the Festival staged its first large-scale happening in all of Saint Peter’s Abbey’s available halls. The current success of “OdeGand”, the grand opening event on and along Ghent’s canals, and “Avanti!”, a musical cycling tour along East Flanders province’s most idyllic tracks, can therefore rightfully be considered the continuation of a long-standing tradition. Pop and world music were quickly added to Flanders Festival’s programme to provide an inspiring contrast and confrontation with western classical music, which has been the staple until this very day.

Not just Flemish composers from the polyphonic era were unearthed to general acclaim—Flanders Festival Ghent also spawned an impressive number of now world-famous Belgian musicians like Philippe Herreweghe, Sigiswald Kuijken, Paul Van Nevel and Jos van Immerseel. Obviously, the Festival also invited all major international stars to perform in Ghent: Sir Simon Rattle, Claudio Abbado, Valery Gergiev, …