I gave a party on a slagheap in Charleroi

I gave a party on a slagheap in Charleroi

Panorama Pique-nique, Charleroi

“Climbing a slagheap in Charleroi, drinking a beer at the top, listening to music and socialising with strangers, that’s how a friend from Charleroi persuaded me to come to Panorama. After having experienced this event, I am sure that I will come back next year,’ explains Muriel, from Brussels.

Muriel is 29 years old, she lives in Brussels. Despite the railway strike, she has come to meet a friend from Charleroi, Charlotte, at the panorama Pique-nique event. “I expected a bigger place. It’s quite jolly. But it was an adventure getting here”, she says.

For Muriel, the adventure started at Charleroi railway station to find the way to the slagheap from Hiercheuses to Marcinelle. “After a short walk, we arrived at the foot of the slagheap. Musicians showed us the way. In exchange, we helped them to put their guitar in a wheelbarrow”, she adds. The tone is immediately set: happy organised chaos and a friendly atmosphere.

The Panorama Pique-nique brings together more than 500 people on the Charleroi slagheap

Just a small party with friends

Axel, one of the organisers, launched the Panorama Pique-Nique event in 2007 with some friends. “We often came to the slagheap when we were young, the desire to create a cultural event came from this”, he explains.

Above all, it’s a symbolic place. The slagheaps make reference to the post-industrial era, they are under-exploited places to showcase. — Axel, one of the organisers

The idea came from having a small party with friends which this year had around 700 participants. Christian, 52 years old, from Charleroi, has come for the atmosphere. “I always come, I love it, we feel like we’re in a bubble, separate from the rest of the world”, he laughs, taking a sip of beer.

The slagheap, covered in trees, offers an impressive view of Charleroi

Picnic atmosphere with music

A bit further away, sat on a blanket, François, 32 years old from Beaumont, has come for the concerts. Every afternoon, around ten groups are scheduled, from relaxed background music to livelier music in the evening.

“We don’t want to call it a festival, the Panorama event is primarily a nice place to be with friends and family. Hence, the idea of a picnic, rather than a festival. The groups are not the highlight in the publicity but give a harmony to the slagheap”, explains Axel.

The Panorama Pique-nique takes place at the top of the slagheap. It is accessed on foot via a path through the vegetation.

Nature at the heart of Charleroi

In the end, it is the slagheap – also called Thierry, the slagheap – which is the hero of the day. Next to an old railway carriage on the slagheap with ‘Panorama’ written on it in large letters, Shon, 47 years old, from London, accosts us : “See that incredible view of Charleroi. And bizarrely, we are in nature, everything is green, it changes the image we have of the city”. He came here by accident, with friends who wanted to do ‘something different’.

I’m discovering Charleroi in nature, it changes the image that we generally have of the city. — Shon, 47 years old, is originally from London but has adopted Charleroi as his home

The same for Adrien, 28 years old. He has come with some friends to have a good time : “There, we found a lot of people that we knew. Charleroi is still a small village, it’s a bit like a friend reunion’”.

However, the event was more open that it appeared. Among the participants, Axel counts almost half as Charleroi residents, the other half coming from elsewhere. “We don’t advertise anymore, information on the event is only passed around by word of mouth and via Facebook. We didn’t want to grow too much, we had the right number of people”, he says.

Sunset from the top of the slagheap at the Panorama Pique-nique presents Charleroi in a unique light

The final test: descending the slagheap in pitch black

At around 10:00 p.m., Muriel enjoys the last rays of light and a magnificent sunset, in particular. The Panorama Pique-nique ends gently. “Ah yes, the final detail: don’t forget that you have to descend the slagheap. And in the dark, with limited means, it’s not a given”, she says.

In the end, Muriel gets her train easily.

Next year, we will come earlier to better take advantage of it.

Panorama Pique-nique on Facebook

©Pictures/Leslie Artamonow