Charleroi ” The black country”


Urban Photography, with steve foucart.  (Click picture for video).

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Charleroi , an Industrial graveyard in total decay. The result of decades of socialist governance.   The Black Country, attracted workers from all over Belgium.

They worked day and night. Digging the black gold until their backs were broken.

Money hungry industrials and aristocrats ran de factories. Workers were just a resource and available in abundance. Old , young , boys and girls worked and lived under tyranny. Poor health, housing and education became the perfect breeding place for rebellion and upraise.

The socialist movement had in its early days a very difficult time to get a foot on the ground in Catholic Belgium.

DSC_2313-Edit-EditRoaring chimneys were spitting fumes and heavy smoke, blackening the facades of houses and streets. No wonder ,They called Charleroi the black country.

An area, subject to unrest and upraise. The ideal place for Socialism and Unions to flourish. So they did. It started with the best intentions, to break the almighty power of the industrial aristocrats.

Fight for decent working conditions, proper pay, healthcare,

a minimum age for youngsters, education , pension schemes and many other social provisions. While the standard of living of the blue color workers increased, the Socialist party grew. Unions became super powers.

And like anything else it ended up in a race for power.

In the 60’s the first coal pit closed. Every effort to convert the shrinking heavy industry was torpedoed by the Socialist Party and Unions.

Not surprisingly, a transformed industry would no longer require the same skill sets.   They rallied workers and convinced them how bad things would be without the coal and steel industry.

The Party was given the mandate by the workers, and forced the government to reject the industrial convergence.

Subsidies were made available for the entire Black Country.

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Few workers continued in heavily subsidized factories until the 80’s. At the end, it become an industrial graveyard. With an army of unemployed and demotivated people. The country itself was now broken up into four sub-states. Governance by compromise. Whereby Financial compensations were given to Wallonia.

Resulting in large Infrastructure works such as metro’s and railway stations that would never be used.

Officially, constructed to transport the workers to the coal and steel plants. Its worth noting that those factories were already closed or at the blink of been closed.

New bridges were constructed, yet did not connect to a road. Large sluices for ships that never sailed.

Millions and millions of euros were transferred into the Black Country. Sponsoring an industry that was as already death.

Today Charleroi, is filled with industrial relics, unemployment and crime.

And so, I ended up in making a Safari in Charleroi. A daunting trip through the old industrial relics;

a place where you normally would never come back from. So if you are around and you like urban photography, this is the place to be.

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