When asked why I love Wallonia so much, I explain how wonderfully kind and welcoming the Wallons are. Coming from London, it always takes a day or two to change pace. I’m so used to walking fast from one place to another, integrating 10 ideas a minute, look for trends, for innovative, futuristic events… Here, suddenly you start chatting to strangers. Shop keepers, waiters, passers-by, waiters, bakers, gardeners, sweet 70-year-old ladies sitting on a bench, waiting for the bus. I don’t mean small talk either but meaningful conversations about memories, traditions, what’s happening in the region, the skills of local artisans. I’m French, I live in England and yet… I fit in. I was reminded of that today, walking through Métamorphoses. This creative festival, taking place every 2 years, turns Liège into a real dream land.
In London, the same festival would have been grandiose, sophisticated, instagrammable. In Liège, it was extraordinary, yes, but in a gentle, poetic kind of way. The park, by La Boverie, provided the perfect green for a giant picnic. So many shades of green… Touches of white, too, here and there, chestnut trees in bloom, thousands of daisies in the grass. A dash of gold added by buttercups. The gaze, though, goes towards moving sculptures, solar powered seagulls flapping their wings gently. There is a yoga session by the riverside, parents practising with their child, listening to each other’s breathing, joining hands, raising feet in the air, so many patterns of socks, funky little clouds in all sizes. The scene itself is touching, appeasing. There is so much love in these few square metres.
There are animations too. A sonic massage, for example. You lie down on a table, eyes closed, ear plugs in while someone plays strange vibrations on the wooden surface using all kind of tools. A whisk, springs, rubber balls. Some will sound alien, others as delicate as the melody from music box. There is an acrobat too, Chloe Moglia, moving beautiful on a metallic curve, as if she were swimming in the tree leaves, her movements ever so slow, an exercise much more difficult than those speeding up in the air. Further on, the Cirque Barbette, invites the audience to see-saw without touching the ground, rediscover the art of balancing, forcing admiration. Elsewhere an orchestra was created from mini-instruments suspended in the trees: a spoon hitting a metallic bar, a stick turning against a rock… each creating a unique sound, an alternative symphony. In town, on the place Saint Lambert, the Aeroflorale stops passers-by in their tracks. This incredible spaceship, imagined for steampunk like scientific expeditions, looks like a flying greenhouse. It’s all about slowing down, dreaming, reconnecting with people around you, reconnecting with your senses.
Wallonia’s theme for 2018 is L’Insolite, meaning amazing, different, surprising, exceptional, quirky. You’d be amazed at how much this region has to offer: incredible folklore (from processions of giant puppets to Napoleonic marches), a floating tub race, a boat lift raising them 80 metres in the air, a fondue chariot taking you through the countryside, whisky and sparkling wine to die for, a steam powered brewery, a museum hone to 60,000 tin boxes… and so much more! Like me, you will come back again and again to explore it a little further.