The 70s: social-cultural councils
How did the community centres come about? At the beginning of the seventies, Social-Cultural Councils were established which mobilised Flemish people in Brussels and their associations, created opportunities to meet and made their voices heard within the municipality and the Region.
The Councils focused on society and culture:
- ‘Social’ stood for community building. The Councils focused on the wider local community. They also addressed issues such as the environment and well-being.
- ‘Cultural’ refers to the promotion and support of local cultural life – ‘people’s development’ as it was called at the time.
The Councils were also multifunctional: they combined themes such as sport, youth, family and the environment. There were no separate Councils for this, as there were in Flanders.
Groundwork for and by Dutch-speaking residents of Brussels
The Councils organised themselves in a highly pluralistic and democratic way. The purpose of their programmes? To free Dutch speakers from their minority position.
They achieved this in the following ways:
- They ensured that they were recognised by the municipality as an advisory body.
- They developed recommendations for the government.
- They encouraged Dutch-speaking representation on municipal councils.
- They detected acts of discrimination and acted against them.
- They created opportunities for people to meet and stimulated association life.
This groundwork produced results. The Councils organised the first festivals in Brussels. The local promotion campaigns for Dutch-speaking education, child care centres and community work evolved into government initiatives.
1972: establishment of the umbrella organisation and the Dutch culture commission
1972 was a pivotal year. The Social-Cultural Councils set up their umbrella organisation: the Agglomeration Council for Local Social-Cultural Work (APSKW, Agglomeratieraad voor het Plaatselijk Sociaal-Kultureel Werk). That same year, the NCC, the Dutch Commission for Culture of the Brussels Conurbation – the predecessor of today’s VGC – was founded.
The APSKW (later City and Culture) was one of the initiators of the Congresses for Flemish speakers in Brussels in 1975, 1980, 1986 and 1994. These congresses provided an open and democratic platform for all Flemish people and their organisations. Together they worked on developing Brussels as a ‘Living City’. Flemish people shall be integrated in this. They participated in the development of the multicultural society.
The 80s: non-profit organisation Trefcentrum
In the meantime, the Flemish community purchased buildings for the Social-Cultural Councils. At the beginning of the eighties, a non-profit organisation called Trefcentrum (meeting centre) was set up in various municipalities to manage the buildings. The decree on Cultural Centres recognised these non-profit organisations, which meant:
- an additional animator of culture
- the compulsory development of a cultural and educational programme
This created tension between the existing programmes of local associations and the Social-Cultural Council on the one hand, and the new Trefcentrum programme on the other.
In 1989, the Flemish Community Commission (VGC) was established by the Brussels Act. The VGC has strong ties with both the Flemish community and the Brussels institutions.