NW through the years

In 1981, NW, known as Netwerk at the time, sprouted as a hub for theatre, dance, art, literature, punk, and jazz music in the heart of Aalst. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, NW evolved into a true breeding ground for emerging artistic talent, with an increasing focus on the visual arts.

In 2002, NW found its home in the old textile building next to the Municipal Fish Market. The relocation also marked an internal shift, which ultimately led to the official recognition of NW as a centre for visual arts under the leadership of artistic director Paul Lagring.

In 2017, under the direction of Pieternel Vermoortel and Els Silvrants-Barclay, Netwerk underwent a transformative phase. Introducing a new programme structure and internal organisation, it also adopted a new name: Network Aalst. The focus on participation and social relevance deepened, and the art house expanded to include a film house and Fabriek, a working group for and by third parties.

In 2023, the reins were passed to artistic directors Godart Bakkers and Laura Herman, ushering in further innovation across the team, programme, identity, and building. This is the NW you know—or are discovering—today.

A place brimming with history

NW is at home in Aalst, on the right bank of the Dender. This fertile industrial area flourished in the 19th century, only to face significant devastation during bombing raids in 1940.

Our existing buildings once functioned as a cigar factory, manufacturing chewing tobacco until 1962. In 1974, the Van den Brulle brothers purchased the run-down tobacco factory to accommodate their passementerie business. Passementerie involves textile manufacturing, creating ornate luxury textiles like fringes, galloons, and tassels. Passementerie Van den Brulle even hosted a few theatre productions back in the 1980s. Art and culture had taken root on the Houtkaai long before NW made its home there in 2002.

These stories, this history, weave the fabric of who we are and who we aspire to be. This is why they take centre stage in our exhibition Info Angel, which digs deeper into the many layers of our Dender clay.

Read more about Info~Angle

t Centrum voor Samenlevings-Vernieuwing, 1974