3 years, 6 months ago
From La Grande Braderie de Lille to Barcelona’s La Mercè, Amsterdam Fringe and Open House all over London, we’re not missing summer at all this September.
Good old September or ‘Limbo Month’ as we like to call it. The one where we have to admit summer’s finally over, yet we can’t fully commit to winter. But seems that gloomy view’s the exception. A quick look round at what the rest of the world is up to over the next 30 days doesn’t reveal anyone taking to bed with tissues and toughing it out. September’s great for cities, loads of stuff is happening and mostly not weather dependant. It’s a devoted bargain hunter’s month with the mother of all Flea Markets ‘La Grande Braderie de Lille’ kicking off this weekend. Doors are being flung open from Aberdeen to Prague on European Heritage Days (some places are pretty much hanging out the ‘welcome’ sign non-stop for this one –we’re talking about you, Ireland). And, even if you just want crunchy leaves ‘neath your little boots, plenty places are traditional autumn pretty for September, well into October and only shutting it down in time for some fairy tale November frost and snow.
Lille might look responsible and sober with its half-timbered Medieval houses, grand squares and mighty ‘can’t miss them’ towers and spires, but it only takes a few minutes to reveal itself as one Northern France’s finest places to play. It’s also home to Europe’s biggest flea market the first weekend of every September. You can’t prepare yourself for the size of La Grande Braderie de Lille. Just think of the biggest market you know and keep multiplying until the numbers stop. Millions of people visit. Thousands of stall holders sell everything from teaspoons to antique chimneys to clothes and shoes, ribbons, books … name it and you’ll find it. And, weirdly enough, tons of mussels are eaten (Lille is as Belgium as it is France). It’s on the 5th and 6th of September. Short notice? Lille’s just an hour’s drive north of Calais, so if you’re free this weekend it’s doable. Alternatively we’re recommending Vienna’s Naschmarket to anyone who’ll listen these days. Held every Saturday from 6am, it’s not the size of Lille but it’s fabulous and great for real ‘flea’ stuff and bargains and if you’ve ever visited Vienna you’ll know a bargain’s a big deal.
From September 3rd to 13th it’s the annual Dutch Theatre Festival and that means sensational Amsterdam Fringe. The no holds, no language barrier, no inhibition event that powers across the entire city in early autumn is bigger than ever this year. Over 40 venues are staging 80+ local, national and international productions from teeny one-man bands to extravaganzas. There are dozens of kid’s shows. The streets are packed with performance. And the weather’s still not winter yet. Don’t speak Dutch? Don’t worry about it. Reliably inclusive Amsterdam Fringe has plenty happening and language is hardly ever an issue.
London’s a world architecture great, but those who really know the city will always tell you it’s the things most of us never get to see that are often the best. Open House does a good job of righting that wrong on the 19th and 20th September this year. From lesser known monuments to famous design studios, artist’s ateliers to underground workings, London’s letting the public behind normally closed doors all over the place and all for free. You really don’t need an excuse to visit the city, but if you did, Open House this September would do just fine.
Amsterdam’s no slouch when it comes to permanent photography collections, world-class photography galleries and taking credit for historic photojournalism, so the city’s annual Unseen Photo Fair is just as incredible as you’d expect. Home-grown talent mixes with international names, new with celebrity and the only theme is astonishing. It’s on from 18th – 20th September and limited edition prints of many photos are for sale – we’re thinking early Christmas shopping. The Unseen Photo Fair exhibition is at Westergasfabriek in West Amsterdam and there are other film and photography events going on all over the city at the same time.
Barcelona doesn’t believe in letting summer sneak away without an all-out farewell celebration. The annual La Mercè festival (18th to 24th September this year) is the city’s biggest and wildest street party. Individual barrio compete insanely to out-excess each other. Barcelona’s main streets are closed down for the traditional Gigantes Parade, children love this. Carrefoc (fire walking) is a big crowd pleaser – the best place for this frenzy of fireworks, sparklers, bangers and fire is on Via Laietana where the entire road is handed over to ‘Devils’ after dark. And, if Carrefoc sounds extreme, go see the Castellars. Huge towers of adults standing on each other’s shoulders until finally a small child scrambles up their bodies to perch on top – and you thought Running with Bulls was a dangerous Spanish custom! In between La Mercè madness there are quiet moments of Catalan dance and theatre, live gigs, street performance and endless eating and drinking, of course.
If you don’t make Lille’s Grande Braderie, try Heidelberg later in the month. Heidelberg Herbst on the 26th and 27th September is the city’s annual ‘Autumn Festival’. Here, kids run the excellent flea market while grown-ups attend to the serious business of supplying fantastic food, drink and entertainment to 1000s of visitors. Expect a carnival atmosphere, parades and plenty of Medieval dress up.