Vibrant arts center
Vooruit is a vibrant arts center with 300.000 annual visitors. Since 1982, we have been offering countless cultural events, focusing specifically on performing arts, music, books and city & transition. Vooruit organizes 500 to 600 of our own activities annually. In addition to this, we also cooperate with a large number of partners, who complete and strengthen our offerings through our hall rental.
Significant meeting place
With its broad range of activities, from stage shows, performances and concerts, to book presentations, debates and parties, Vooruit is a significant meeting place for a very diverse public.
Contributing to this is our popular Café, where anyone can come enjoy a (vegetarian) meal or drink, meet for a chat, or catch up on some work. Moreover, our central location in the heart of Ghent, makes Vooruit an ideal place to meet new and familiar faces.
Vooruit is located in an impressive one-hundred-year-old monument that houses four stages, four studios (for lectures/exhibitions/rehearsals) and a large café with connecting patio and bicycle parking lot. With 20.000 m² of hallways and chambers, you can stroll for hours in this official historical landmark. The building is open every day, but the halls are only accessible during activities.
...with a history
Around 1880, workers in Ghent were living in dreadful conditions. They had no voting rights, no trade unions and were paid a pittance. In various places in the world people started experimenting with cooperatives* and Ghent was one of the places where a cooperative was established. The Vooruit Cooperative (under the leadership of Edward Anseele) defended and united the interests of workers and was used to spread the socialist ideology among workers. The cooperative started with a bakery, but expanded rapidly to include coffee houses, attire stores, coffee-plantations, weaving mills, and pharmacies. A Festivities Hall offered workers a spot to relax.
The first Festivities Hall was located in the Bagattenstraat, but quickly became too small, so the decision was made to establish a new Festivities Hall in the Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat. However, the 1913 deadline was not met and for the World Fair in Ghent that year, only the Café opened. A year later the festive grand opening had to make way for the First World War. In 1918, the cooperative regained ownership of the building and socialist activities were able to resume.
From World War I to World War II
During the interwar period the Festivities Hall blossomed, but this came to an abrupt end when the Germans occupied the building for the second time in 1940. In 1946 the building was again returned to the Vooruit Cooperative. During the seventies, the Vooruit Festivities Hall entered a period of decline. The building was no longer in good condition, the cinema had lost income and associations could no longer be subsidized. There were fewer and fewer activities in the building, income dwindled and the building fell into further disrepair.
1980: a fresh start
In 1980 a group of young people negotiated with the cooperative to use the Festivities Hall as a venue, as a means of offering local artistic talent a stage. They succeeded. In 1983 the ‘vzw Socio-cultureel centrum Vooruit’ (Vooruit Socio-Cultural Non-Profit) was created and this later became ‘Kunstencentrum Vooruit’ (Vooruit Arts Center), as it is known today. The building, however, needed some serious work. Once the building was recognized as a monument in 1983, interest in renovating it followed. Thorough restoration works started in 1990 and were completed in 2000, the same year Vooruit was awarded the ‘Monumentenprijs’ (Monuments’ Award).
A new chapter
But these restorations were not the last. After the turn of the millennium, plans started to take form to tackle other parts of Vooruit. This resulted in major renovations after 2010, concentrated into one overarching Vooruit Renovations Masterplan. In 2012-2013 the Café saw the birth of its sibling, the Patio (het Terras) – with a covered bicycle parking underneath.
More would follow. During the following years - 2014 and 2015 – the Concertzaal and the entrance area were made future-ready and the former COOP-supermarket was transformed into Vooruit’s new nerve center. Now this space is called the Groene Coop. In 2017 and 2018 finally, the last phase of the Masterplan will take effect. Follow all the latest updates right here.
Today Vooruit Arts Center (Kunstencentrum Vooruit) is a major cultural institution. Just like its predecessor – the Vooruit Celebrations Hall (Feestzaal Vooruit) – the Arts Center is a place for encounters, culture and activism. The inscription ‘Kunst veredelt’ (‘Art ennobles’), that was chiseled over the stage of the Theaterzaal more than a century ago, may sound quite pompous but it is and remains Vooruit’s motto.
You can read the extensive history here or in the book 'Vooruit 1913-2013'