Neighbours of the Abbey
Neighbours managing local heritage

Three residents, Fabien Audooren, Arnold de Vijlder and John Vandaele, came up with the idea in 2006 to reopen the St Bavo’s Abbey, the oldest building in Ghent, located in the heart of the Macharius district, for public use. The city was keen to cooperate with local residents to use the abbey as a location for communal events, such as musical performances and exhibitions. The first event held at the reopened abbey was an Easter egg hunt, which was a great success. The abbey is now managed by a steering group made up of about ten people who ensure that it is open to the public on Sundays and regularly hosts activities. In 2012, they organised around 140 activities attracting some 20,000 visitors to the area. The ‘Neighbours’ are also involved in setting up meetings and activities at the nearby Macharius inn. The network and infrastructure they have established has given rise to many other citizen initiatives, such as a puppet theatre, film, book, and the EnerGent energy cooperative.