Britt Van Marsenille

Throughout our lives, from infancy onward, we are taught communication skills through our experiences in school, interactions with peers and parents. The emphasis is usually placed on reading, writing, and speaking. However, one crucial aspect that often goes unnoticed is the skill of listening. How often do you find yourself interrupting your conversational partner? Are you listening in order to respond, or to truly understand? Are you genuinely interested in the perspective of others? Many conflicts could be avoided if we genuinely seek to understand the person across from us. While this isn't a real introduction to the person we are portraying in this journal entry, it was the first thing that caught my attention. Britt excels in this lost art; she has the ability to make you feel seen and understood without saying a word.
Most people may know you from television or radio. But who is Britt Van Marsenille?

I am still in the process of getting to know myself, and I hope that continues even when I’m 80 years old. Searching and discovering new things is what life is all about for me.

I love my television work, and I always choose projects that have added value. The rest of my time I fill with pursuing projects that truly fill my heart, such as establishing social projects. Even if it's on a small scale, I hope to continue making a difference. I strive to do that in everything I do in life.
But to answer your question, I don't think there is a difference between myself in real life and the one you see on television or hear on the radio.

Factcheckers is your main occupation. Can you elaborate a bit for the people who don’t know the program?

Our program 'Factcheckers' aims to differentiate between truth and lies and educate people on various issues in our daily lives. We are not trying to persuade people of anything, but rather to provide education and extra information that may not be covered in mainstream media. It all began with 'Voor hetzelfde geld' a program that mainly focused on specific financial matters in daily life. After 3 years, we decided to broaden our scope and address broader societal questions in a profound yet fun way. That's when Factcheckers was born. The 6th season is coming up, and the program is still going strong with many viewers.

Before we started the interview you told us you are working on a new television program, can you tell us something more about it?

The television program is called  'Kunnen we overeenkomen' (Can We Agree). Its main purpose is to assist people in resolving longstanding issues for which they have been unable to reach a consensus on their own, we provide tools to help those people to find a solution that is mutually beneficial.

In almost every dispute, communication, or a lack of it, is key. I feel that we could all benefit from better communication, where listening is a key element that we often tend to forget. Therefore, I believe this program is very meaningful for everyone, not just the people directly involved. Everyone will see similarities with their own lives when watching the program, and hopefully, everyone will learn something from it. It's during difficult situations that we tend to forget to stay calm and communicate clearly.

Last year you had a pop-up shop with second-hand clothing. This was a super nice project!

A good friend of mine is a project developer who is co-owner of the company LIFE  that bought a building in Antwerp. However, after submitting the building permits, they had to wait for almost a year before everything was approved and they could start with the project. During this time, the building remained vacant.
I suggested to my friend, 'Hey Toon, can't we do something with the space while you are waiting for the paperwork?'

He shared my enthousiasm and after some brainstorming we decided to use the space for a good cause, and the idea of a econd-hand clothing initiative came to mind. We thought about collaborating with individuals who may have difficulty finding employment, such as those waiting for a residence permit, individuals with a history of detention, or people recovering from illness and looking to re-enter the workforce but are unsure of their physical capabilities. In the end, we managed to create a space of 500 square meters that brought the whole society together.

You were involved in the entire start-up process, I assume? Putting together the team aswel?

At its core, it was a social project aimed at creating employment opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds and parts of society. The store was created in collaboration with LIFE, Oxfam, Kringwinkel, and architect Dries Otten 3, using entirely recycled materials. Additionally, we partnered with Emino to hire our staff.
The process  wasn’t always easy.  It was a constant flow of people. Some had a temporary good time but remained searching for what they really wanted with their lives. There were also a lot of people coming from Ukraine who fled for the war, looking for a new temporary life who worked at the store. They live here in a sort of isolation, and then it's very nice to hear that they now still meet up with each other when the shop is no longer there.

After the project ended, some people secured permanent jobs, largely because of the valuable experience they gained from working for an extended period. Many job opportunities require candidates to demonstrate prior experience before being considered for an interview. Now, they are able to showcase their experience, which is really great. The building permits were approved in the end, so we had to leave the building. But at least we managed to get this unique project up and running.

Did the store itself receive a lot of response?

Yes, it did, and I found that very nice. Let's be honest, the shop was located in a wealthy white neighborhood. I really wanted people from all classes of society to be able to shop there, just like we all can. I refused to put any grab bins there; I wanted people to shop with dignity. The items were well presented and showcased so they could go through the racks and decide if they liked something or not. I was very happy when people who are not familiar with that neighborhood found their way there. But to be honest, the majority of the visitors were tourists and hip youth. To see the mix  of all different kind of people was super cool.

What is something you will never forget about the shop?

There was this woman, named Fleurette whom I will never forget. She was an amazing, humble, and honest woman. She was the sunshine of the shop. During the opening of the pop-up, Tom Meus, who was the Minister of Poverty Reduction at the time, came to give a speech. I had informed Florette that people without an invitation could not enter. However, when the minister arrived without his invitation, Fleurette stood her ground in a super friendly but firm way. She was fantastic. Eventually, someone noticed the situation and let the minister in. (laughs)

How did the link with Eat Dust/ G.o.D come about?

I used to live near Kings & Queens and always shopped Eat Dust brand there. I think I must have mentioned at least a hundred times to Hans, that he had to say to the people at Eat Dust they had to start a women’s line. I've been a real fan of the brand since the beginning. Then Girls Of Dust came along, and I was totally sold. I think I met Aline in the store and approached her with the idea of a collaboration for my television work. She immediately agreed, which was super cool.

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, is there anything else you would like to share?

Do you  have a moment? (laughs) No, I think it's super cool to collaborate with you
guys. For me, it's a huge gift that I can do my job in clothes where I find my self-
confidence. It's an extension of myself, which is very pleasant. Thank you for the opportunity, and now I’m going to take another stroll through the store? (Laughs)
Text & Styling Gijs Grondelaers
Photos and Intro Wouter Struyf
Britt is Wearing