The Pukkelpop Festival in Kiewit, Belgium, was 25 years old in 2010 – and it just keeps getting bigger and better. Unusually for a predominantly rock and pop music festival, Pukkelpop was founded, and is still organized, by a Belgian politician, Chokri Mahassine, and the grand-sounding Humanistic Youth of Leopoldsburg. It has, though, developed from a one day event in its first incarnation in 1985 to the three day festival of today, featuring over 200 different acts. The headline acts in 2009 were Arctic Monkeys, Faith No More and Placebo, who followed in the line of such artists as Metallica, Radiohead, Belle and Sebastian, Chemical Brothers, Guns N’Roses, Neil Young, Keane and the Manic Street Preachers.
As many as 180,000 partygoers attended the recent festival; a far cry from the 3,000 who attended the first Pukkelpop, which was held in Leopoldsburg. The organizers tried various other locations before moving to the present site in 1991. Currently there are eight different stages – as well as the main Stage there are the Marquee, Dance Hall, The Shelter, the Boiler Room, Club, Château and Wablief. This variety ensures that the musical experience at Pukkelpop includes everything the modern music fan could want from rock to hip hop and from heavy metal to top quality DJ sets. As organizers estimate that at least 50% of the crowds come from the Flanders region, there are always a good number of local acts on the outside stages. Six of the stages are now situated in tents. The Festival additionally has an idiosyncratic circus show, the Bataclan, as well as a smoking area full of bongs and eastern music.
Pukkelpop has its own campsite, to be found on a field opposite the main festival. The site is open to festival goers the day before the official opening, which usually takes place on a Thursday as the Festival finishes on a Saturday evening. There are always a number of local DJs providing entertainment on the Wednesday evening. Buying a ticket for Pukkelpop entitle you to free camping at the site. The only drawback to the arrangements is that the busy main road, Kempische Steenweg, passes between the two locations.
Te Pukkelpop site at Kempische Steenweg, Kiewit Hasselt is easily accessible from anywhere in Belgium. Brussels and Antwerp are both about 45 miles away and the E313 Antwerp to Liège motorway passes close by. With train stations at Hasselt and Kiewit (only 500 yards walking distance from the site), ticket holders have the bonus of free rail transport to and from any other Belgian station and a free bus service from Hasselt.
The town of Hasselt itself is the capital city of the Limburg province and is best known for its own flavoured gin, Jenever, which is made in the town. Apart from a highly regarded Japanese Garden and a museum devoted to Flemish architecture and country life, it is known as friendly little town which greatly enjoys the eclectic mixture of people attracted to Pukkelpop each year.
The Pukkelpop Festival is held annually in mid-August. Full details of how to purchase tickets and the festival’s line-up will be found at the official Pukkelpop Festival website.