In memoriam: Philippe Grombeer (1946-2020)

It is with great sadness we at IETM have learnt that the pioneer Philippe Grombeer has passed away on April 26th

Philippe was a long time IETM member, board member, co-founder of our sister networks Trans Europe Halles and EFAH (later Culture Action Europe) as well as one of the transformers of the European Performing Arts landscape for decades.

For over a quarter of a century, he led and developed the multidisciplinary centre Les Halles de Schaerbeek in Brussels, turning it into one of the main places for artistic discovery in Europe. He did not stop at that, in 2002 he was appointed to direct the new showcase for the Belgian - French community in Avignon: the Doms, which became an example for many on how to create a strong presence in Avignon.

Philippe is remembered by friends and colleagues for his warmth, kindness, generosity and enormous contribution to the development of our art form.

As a young producer entering one of my first IETM meetings, a little scared, I remember his warm hug, smile and confidence in my generation – and instantly, everything was good.

We send Philippe´s family, friends and colleagues our most sincere condolences. 

A heartfelt hug to all the IETM members whose lives Philippe touched.

On behalf of IETM,
Ása Richardsdóttir, Secretary General


Philippe Grombeer,

always good for a smile and a big bear hug,

lender of empathetic ears,

tactful guide of teams,

generous donator of advice,

lover of women, men, artists, audiences,

indestructible contributor to exchanges of all kinds,

networker if there ever was one,

your ambition was without pretense,

your ideals down to earth,

your contribution priceless.

Thank you, dear friend.

Hilde Teuchies


There are so many tributes now in the press, media and social media about Philippe as a man of theatre, a professional, a colleague, a founder of initiatives and a supporter of artists.  I would only like to add some comments about him as a friend. 

Philippe didn’t just talk about values, he lived them. Networking, generosity, solidarity – he showed them. 

Knowing that our first Christmas in Belgium would be grim as we had hardly arrived and were living in an apartment that was barely heated, Philippe invited my husband and myself to share Christmas with him and his family.  He hardly knew us at the time – no one did - so it was all the more remarkable, and that generous gesture was characteristic of him.  Later, amongst countless kind acts, he welcomed me live in his house for some months when my apartment was unavailable. 

He devoted his life to supporting and believing in young people, in the artistic process, in the beauty of all humans to develop through art, creativity and collaboration.  

I will miss his warm brotherly embraces; we will all miss his great humanistic soul.

Mary Ann De Vlieg


Adieu Philippe!

The sky cried last night over Avignon, a particularly tenacious cloud landed over the "Escalier des Doms" confined in sadness, like the friends of Philippe Grombeer who will not be able to accompany this discreet man in his latest trip.

He made so many trips, Philippe, all over the world and of course to the Norway he loved so. Talking about our next meeting, he wanted so much to be with us in TromsØ. The disease he was fighting against for months and the virus that forced us to cancel our meeting finally won and took him away, prevented him from doing so. This junk got the better of our friend, his eternal smile, and his enthusiasm for every creator and artist.

This exacting man who knew how to use diplomacy and firmness was a very important member of our network. Unlike many cultural actors who can flutter from one position to another, Philippe has made his journey over time creating strong relationships with the territories in which he loved to practice. His 28 years experience in the management of « Les Halles de Schaerbeek » and his ten years of passion at the « Théâtre des Doms » in Avignon paved the way for an entire arts servant turned to artists and culture.

These Avignon’s years were the occasion of collaborations of which my memory is still full, of many evenings of passionate discussion, of rich exchanges and, of course, impossible to forget birthday parties skillfully organized by Isabelle, faithful among the faithful, who gathered us all around Philippe every year for a moment of rare happiness.

Kindness, here is the word that immediately resonates when we talk about Philippe, this kindness which has gathered around him a crowd of companions, farmers, people of culture, jazz enthusiasts... This very real kindness, never feigned, which allowed him to resist in the terrible universe of Avignon, this sincere kindness will be missed.

Our thoughts go to his sister Marie who maintained the link between Philippe and his friends, to Isabelle, to Emile, to all those who loved Philippe and will still love him for a long time.

Farvel min venn !

Frédéric Poty


In English below

 

Cher Philippe,

Il y a encore quelques semaines ou mois, on ne sait plus très bien aujourd’hui, tu m’avais concocté un délicieux déjeuner chez toi, dans ta retraite de Watermael-Boitsfort, tout en haut de l’immeuble que tu avais choisi pour finir tes beaux jours, comme tu le disais. 

«C’est végétarien, j’espère que ça ne te dérange pas». 
«Il me reste un peu de vin, mais je préfère ne pas en boire en ce moment, on trinquera néanmoins».

Tu étais en pleine forme, disais tu, la veille d’une nouvelle séance de chimio, une contraignante mais simple formalité pour un petit cancer qui allait disparaitre rapidement. Tu m’avais expliqué dans le détail ce que ça signifie une chimio, en quoi ça consiste, pourquoi c’est éprouvant et jamais totalement curatif. Tu étais presque fier de ce «tout petit cancer" qui allait disparaître avec le printemps. 
Le méchant virus en a décidé autrement.

Le printemps n’est pas celui qu’on espérait.

Lors de ce lunch, nous avons rappelé le passé, rappelé des noms, des visages, des histoires, des belles histoires…

Par exemple: Notre première rencontre, mémorable par l’exhibition bravache de ton permis de conduire (toi que je n’imagine pas au volant d’une voiture) et de ton portrait de hippie hirsute aux cheveux longs. A l’époque tu es le patron des Halles de Schaerbeek et on se trouve à attendre un vol après une réunion d’IETM à Birmingham. 

Tu te souviens que dans ce temps là on prenait l’avion comme on prend le bus ? Aujourd’hui on aurait honte, tu me l’as dit, je te le confirme: la honte !

Cela faisait longtemps que je connaissais Les Halles de Schaerbeek, de nom, cette salle improbable à Bruxelles, l'ancien marché Ste Marie squatté par des artistes et des animateurs socio-culturels, des punks babas-cool, dont le plus beau spécimen reste encore ton ami Jo Dekmine, que tu retrouves ce soir pour une grande fête des morts façon … je te laisse choisir.

Philippe, les Halles de Schaarbeek que tu diriges, ce lieu improbable par sa programmation et son éclectisme (concerts mémorables, cirques de toute sorte, salon de la CIA ou de l’Astronautique de Plaisance, Assemblée d’Avril ou Bruxelles-Africapitales, liste sans fin d’artistes de toute disciplines et origines) et improbable surtout pour son nom imprononçable. Imprononçable par les français, tout autant que par les anglais/assimilés avec lesquels je travaillais quand, Nicky Childs et Judith Knight ou Eduardo Bonito me disaient que cette «Halle" était la meilleure à même d’accueillir les artistes que nous produisions au sein de Artsadmin. Ça défrichait dur aux Halles !

C’est drôle qu’aujourd’hui j’habite tout à coté, à Scha/a/erbeek, en cette Belgique/ België / Belgien / Belgium, construction intellectuelle née dans un opéra, à La Monnaie. Hé oui, il faut de la musique pour tout cela !

Une mini Union Européenne qui n’était pas pour te déplaire, toi le constructeur de ponts, ouvreur de fenêtres : qu’importe la langue et l’origine, l’essentiel est de partager. 

Tiens, comme c’est drôle encore : ta comparse et compatriote Frie Leysen répète la même chose depuis des années : les portes et les fenêtres doivent s’ouvrir.

(même en temps de COVID19)

Philippe, avant de te connaître je savais que c’était chez toi qu’il y avait un (ou plusieurs) grain de folie pour faire des choses improbables. 

Ainsi, tandis qu’on se retrouvait à Bxl où sur les routes de l’IETM, tu me racontais les aventures de « (t)on bébé», cet autre réseau européen dont les principes sont copiés sur ceux de la grande sœur. Tu en étais très fier, bien légitimement. Tu n’hésitais pas à demander conseil et avis à MA DeVlieg ou Hilde Teuchies. Tu t’appuyais sur les épaules de Fazette Bordage et Birgitta Persson. Ah tu savais t’entourer de (belles) femmes !

Tiens d’ailleurs, c’est tout à fait la même chose que tu as fait à Avignon : aux Doms tu étais le pacha, grâce à Isabelle Jans et tout(es) celles qui faisaient tourner la boutique avec toi, tu as présenté la Belgique / België / Belgien / Belgium sous son meilleur rapport aux français et aux autres. Tu as porté sous les projecteurs les artistes importants/conséquents du moment. 

Et même dans la France profonde tout comme en Belgique citadine, toujours tu avais en tête ton bébé international : TEH.  Mais, gros malin !, tu avais encore choisi un nom imprononçable : Trans Europe Halles est certes super sexy pour ceux qui comme toi et moi aimons le groupe Kraftwerk, mais … Non, sorry, ça ne marche pas, même en Globish ;-)

Alors qu’importent les noms, ces réseaux pour lesquels nous avons travaillé des années toi et moi, les réseaux pour lesquels nous avons consacré du temps et de l’énergie, pour lesquels nous avons donné et reçu de l’amour, des preuves d’humanité, il restera toujours les valeurs en partage: «la curiosité» « la bienveillance» «le respect mutuel» …

Lors de ce lunch récemment tu m’as raconté ton voyage en Palestine il y a peu, combien tu étais content d’avoir marché sur les traces de ton ami feu Marcel De Munnynck et combien ces valeurs que nous partageons, lui, toi et moi, ici et là bas restent essentielles à la vie.

On pourrait continuer à parler, chanter et danser sur les musiques qui nous émeuvent… mais ta page Facebook déborde, allez! dépêches toi, réponds à tous ceux que tu as touchés, ils sont nombreux, y’a du boulot !…

Que tes rêves embellissent les nôtres.

Je t’embrasse.

Michel Quéré

 

Dear Philippe,

It was already a few weeks or months ago, hard to know now exactly when, you made a delicious lunch for me, in your little retreat in Watermael-Boitsfort, at the very top of the building that you had chosen to finish the good times, as you called it. 

“It’s vegetarian, I hope that doesn’t bother you.”
“I have a little wine left but I prefer not to drink right now, still let’s have a toast.”

You were feeling great, you said, the day before a new session of chemo, an onerous but simple formality for a small cancer which was going to disappear rapidly. You explained to me in detail what chemo was, what it meant, how it was done, why it was demanding but never totally healing. You were almost proud of this ”tiny little cancer” which would be gone altogether by Spring. The nasty virus decided otherwise. 

The Spring was not the one we hoped for. 

During our lunch, we remembered the past, remembered the names, the faces, the histories, the beautiful stories…

For example: our first meeting, memorable by the braggartly exhibition of your driving license (you whom I could never imagine behind the wheel of a car) and your hairy, hippie, long-haired portrait. Then you were the boss of the Halles de Schaerbeek and we were waiting for a flight after an IETM Meeting in Birmingham. You remember back then we took airplanes like they were buses? Today we would be ashamed, you said, and I agreed: shame!

I had known Les Halles de Schaerbeek for a long time, by name, that improbable venue in Brussels, the former St. Mary’s Market squatted by artists and sociocultural workers, the cool dudes, of which the most beautiful example is still your good friend Jo Dekmine, whom you will join tonight for a huge party of the dead, in the style of… well, I’ll let you choose.

Philippe, the Halles de Schaarbeek that you directed, that venue improbable both by its programming and its  eclecticism (memorable concerts, circuses of all kinds, fairs and conferences of the CIA or the Astronautique de Plaisance, the April Assembly or Bruxelles-Africapitales, endless list of artists from all disciplines and backgrounds) and improbable especially by its unpronounceable name. Unpronounceable by French speakers as well as the native and assimilated English speakers with whom I was working, when Nicky Childs and Judith Knight or Eduardo Bonito told me that this “Halle" was the best one to present the artists we produced at ArtsAdmin.  

It’s funny that today I live almost next door, in Scha/a/erbeek, in this Belgique/ België / Belgien / Belgium, an intellectual construction born during an opera at La Monnaie. Oh yes, music for all!

A mini European Union that wouldn’t displease you, you the bridge-builder, the window-opener: no matter the language or the origin, the essential is to share.  Hey, it’s funny your accomplice and compatriot Frie Leysen has been saying the same thing for years: the doors and the windows have to be opened. (Even in times of Covid-19)

Philippe, even before knowing you I knew that there would be a spark or even more of madness in you in order to accomplish such improbable things. 

Thus, while we met in Brussels or on the road for IETM, you told me of the adventures of your ‘baby’, this other European network whose principles were that of its big sister. You were proud of it, and rightly so.  You never hesitated to ask advice from MA DeVlieg or Hilde Teuchies. And you leant on the shoulders of Fazette Bordage and Birgitta Persson. Ah, you knew how to surround yourself with (beautiful) women!

And moreover, it’s exactly what you did in Avignon: at the Doms you were the pacha – thanks to Isabelle Jans and all those who made the shop run with you, you presented la Belgique / België / Belgien / Belgium in its best light to the French and others.  You shone the spotlight on the most important and critical artists of the moment.

And even in deepest France just as in urban Belgium, you always had your international baby in mind: TEH. But, smart aleck! You again chose an unpronounceable name! Trans Europe Halles is definitely super-sexy for those like you and me who love Kraftwerk, but ….No, sorry, that doesn’t work, not even in Globish ;-)

Whatever the names, the networks for which you and I worked for years, the networks to which we devoted time and energy, in which we both gave and received love, the trials of humanity, what remains always are the values of sharing, ‘curiosity’, ‘good will’, ‘mutual respect’….

During this recent lunch you told me of your trip to Palestine not long ago, how happy you were to have walked in the steps of your fast friend Marcel De Munnynck and how much the values that we shared, him, you and me, here and there will remain essential in our lives. 

We could continue to talk, sing and dance to the music that moves us, but your Facebook page is spilling over - Allez!  hurry up, answer to everyone you’ve touched; there are so many; you’ve got work to do! 

May your dreams embellish ours, 

Je t’embrasse

Michel Quéré