Artists occupy Belgium opera house to protest Covid restrictions on culture

Brussels, Apr 10 (EFE).- A group of artists has occupied the national opera house in Brussels to highlight the plight of the culture sector in the face of Covid-19 restrictions, which have closed down theaters and cinemas across Belgium.

The Royal Theatre of La Monnaie was first built in the early 1700s, although has had several facelifts since, and receives funding from the federal government.

“This movement is an urgent reaction to months and months of what for us has been mismanagement from the government,” Elli Mastorou told Efe, adding that the collective, called BezetLaMonnaieOccupée, felt the occupation of the opera house would send a message to officials.

The leaderless protest started last week and has brought together students, employees of the culture sector and artists.

The rows of seating inside the main hall of the opera house are made up of armchairs, which provide a comfortable place for the protesters to sleep ahead of a day of activism.

Each day at 5 pm, protesters gather in the square outside the opera house where they host a wide range of performances on a small, makeshift stage.

“What was important for us, besides criticizing the government from a political point of view, was to have the possibility to create art in every possible way,” Mastorou added.

Although the end goal of the collective is to re-open Belgium’s cultural spaces, it also operates as a platform to voice other concerns from precarious sectors of society.

“For us, it is necessary to have solidarity between all the precarious sectors of society, not only to fight for ourselves,” she said.

Themios, another spokesperson for the group, said the government restrictions in Belgium were unfairly strict on already precarious sectors of society, such as the arts.

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