Located in the town of Huy, about 40 kilometers away from both Liège and Namur, MUR is more than just a place to get coffee or grab a quick lunch. It aspires to be a vital part of a community built around cycling, bringing people together. It’s also the unlikely love child of Edward and Bernard, both musicians and cyclists, yet one’s from the North of England while the other was born and raised in Huy. We sat down with them on a Monday morning, the day after Edward’s first taste of a football game in the Belgian first division.
Edward: The game in Liège was super intense and very interesting. There were scuffles left and right, among supporters of the same team nonetheless, which was bizarre. Great game though. However, when one of the goals that Liège scored was cancelled by the referee, one of their die-hards flipped out and tried to climb over the fence and onto the pitch. Luckily there was a steward there to stop him, otherwise the guy would’ve gotten fined and banned from the stadium. So behind us there was a whole contingent of Dutch-speaking fans screaming and yelling in Dutch, while the others yelled back at them in French. None of them understood what the others were saying. That only happens in Belgium I think, where people can support the same club and live within 30 kilometers of each other, yet they do not speak the same language. Things aren’t like that where I’m from.
Edward: In November it’ll be 10 years since I moved here. I already knew my wife before that so in the years prior, when she lived in Manchester with me, we’d come visit regularly. But honestly, it’s like another galaxy here. It’s not like I moved to Brussels or Antwerp. I’ll admit that it was tough at first, ‘cause culturally it’s very, very different. What both regions – the North of England and the South of Belgium – have in common is an industrial heritage; the mines, the factories, the workers’ houses and things like that. So visually, there’s a lot of common ground. But when it comes to culture and human interaction, it’s so very different. People are much warmer here. When they see you, they’ll greet you with a kiss on the cheek. In Manchester, you just mind your own business. You look at your feet and keep going. On the other hand, people might be warmer and more welcoming here, but they can also be rude and disrespectful. In England, politeness and courtesy are everything. So yes, all of that did take some getting used to.
Bernard: But Edward is a very outgoing, social person anyway. When I go with him to see a concert in Antwerp or Kortrijk or wherever, people always come up and talk, he knows so many people. Music definitely played a part in that too, seeing how he’s in a band (Supergenius – ed.) with Flemish people. I guess it’s music that helped us to connect. I used to be in a band called Jakob Maersk that’s been broken up for a long time now... but it’s through that band that I got to know Edward after he moved here. My friend and bandmate at the time, Nicolas, knew Edward and reached out to him to start a new project. Because Huy’s a pretty small place, it’s inevitable that you’re going to meet like-minded people with the same interests and musical taste anyway.
Edward: But I really like living here now. I dig the variety the region has to offer. I like the hamlet where we live but I also enjoy visiting cities like Liège, Antwerp or Ghent. The strange thing is that, over time, I’ve grown to kind of dislike going back to Manchester, ‘cause it saddens me. It’s a weird feeling. It’s where I’m from so it should feel like home, but at the same time it’s changed so much that it’s no longer “home”. I actually prefer visiting London now because I’ve always been a tourist there, so that hasn’t changed.
Edward: Eventually Bernard and I started cycling regularly with a group of friends and during those rides it became clear that we shared a lot of the same ideas and had similar plans. Bernard was already experienced in the world of hospitality and I was aching to do my own thing. Together we started solidifying those plans and creating the framework for what would become MUR.
Bernard: We’ve been open for close to two years now but back when we were still making plans, we weren’t sure if Huy was the right place for our plans. Liège is much bigger and attracts more tourism for sure, but it isn’t as bike friendly and doesn’t have the Mur de Huy. Plus, we live here obviously, so it made sense to give it a go.
Edward: What we do is nearly impossible to do on your own. We feed off each other’s ideas, we divide the work in a way that’s quite natural. Administration is more my thing, ‘cause I really want to do all the paperwork my way. Bernard’s really good with food and preparing meals so that’s more his thing. It works itself out really, we’re definitely complementary.
Bernard: Our personalities may seem similar, but they’re not. Edward stresses out a lot more. It doesn’t always seem so, but the wheels inside his head are always spinning. He likes to get things done though. Which is cool because I tend to stay very calm, but I also tend to procrastinate. In that regard, we do balance each other out.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY.
Bernard: This region isn’t the wealthiest. There’s a lot of unemployment, minimum wages and poverty. It’s been rough for this part of the country in the last decades, but things are starting to turn around. More and more entrepreneurs are trying to change the way things are, people are starting to invest in the future again which creates a new dynamic. The only way is up now. Plus, it’s beautiful here, especially in the summer.
Edward: We feel like we’re part of that new dynamic. Our principal goal was to develop something that could bring together cyclists from the area and develop a sense of community. MUR Cycling Club is a new thing we’re doing with which we arrange quarterly conference evenings, each one with a different theme and speaker, linked to cycling. We organize rides of various kinds during the season as well and we just dropped our own cycling kit. We also show all of the racing here during the season and arrange a big party for La Flèche Wallonne. MUR Cycling Team is another branch of this initiative - we have a team racing at amateur level in Limburg and Liège. We’re the main sponsor, and they also wear Sweet Protection helmets, which is a brand that we carry exclusively in Belgium.
Edward: We’re conscious of a need to grow, from the perspective of personal ambition, as well as from a business point of view. Our place is evolving and getting busier all the time, but we know that there’s only so far you can take a cycling café in a town like Huy. We want to continue to see it grow and more importantly become central to the local cycling community. We also hope that the shop can become a more active part of our business from day to day. There’s room for that. However, we also want to investigate the possibility of opening further establishments, whether they be more based around coffee/food or cycling, or even more places that combine the two.
MUR’S FAVORITE TUNES.
With two music freaks running the show, the soundtrack is bound to be interesting.
Bernard’s top 5:
Pedro The Lion: “Clean Up”
Teenage Wrist: “Supermachine”
Basement: “For You, The Moon”
Drug Church: “Weed Pin”
Slum Village: “Fall In Love”
Edward’s top 5:
Vaperror: “Krystal GB”
Bad Bad Not Good: “And that too”
Self Defense Family: “Slavish Devotion To Form”
Ryan Adams: “Fuck The Rain”
Pictures by Thibault de Schepper
Words by Bjorn Dossche