Some 350,000 people are expected in Amsterdam over the coming week to celebrate Gay Pride. Brandon Hartley looks back at the event’s history and what you can expect during the week long 2015 edition
The annual celebration of gay, lesbian, and transgender culture first took place in Amsterdam in 1996. Since then, it’s become one of the city’s most popular summertime jubilees.
In its early days, the annual extravaganza was a bit smaller and a little wilder than it is now. Organisers have made efforts to tone down the amount of nudity in recent years during popular events like the colossal canal parade in order to make the celebration more family-friendly and accessible for a wider audience.
Gay Pride was originally launched to help strengthen the city’s gay friendly image while also drawing attention to important issues that impact citizens in the Netherlands and other nations around the world.
Today it features an extensive programme of events ranging from parties to film screenings and museum exhibitions. Over 350,000 visitors flood into the city for the celebration every year, making it one of the largest annual Gay Pride events in the world.
Not Just a Party
While many attendees go to Amsterdam Gay Pride to dance and have fun, it also serves as a reminder that there’s still much to be done for gay communities both here and abroad.
‘In terms of LGBT rights a huge amount has been achieved,’ Peter de Ruijter, chairman of gay rights lobby group COC told DutchNews.nl. ‘[Our] focus in the Netherlands is now on acceptance in daily life, in schools, sports clubs, amongst seniors and by religious groups.
A lot of effort by many people, initiatives and organisations is aimed at raising awareness and improving acceptance through lectures, discussions, and organising activities around (LGBT) diversity.’
The canal parade
The crown jewel in Amsterdam Gay Pride’s annual programme is definitely the canal parade. This year’s edition is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 1 August. Tens of thousands of spectators line up along the parade route to watch dozens of barges sail down the Prinsengracht and along the Amstel River. Many feature vibrant decorations and dancers in elaborate costumes, DJs, and sound systems powerful enough to shake nearby windows and set off car alarms.
In prior editions, the boats have been sponsored by Dutch corporations and even local politicians sometimes hop aboard them to ‘shake their groove thing’. An increasingly diverse array have appeared in recent years. The 2013 parade included a boat sponsored by the Dutch football association and featured an appearance by the the then manager Louis van Gaal. He even danced. Well, a little bit.
Can’t make it to the parade this year? You can still attend virtually via Pridestream. This innovative project will send an ‘empty’ boat down the waterways of Amsterdam but that doesn’t mean that they’re won’t be anybody on it.
Thousands of people around the world will climb aboard by logging on to Pridestream’s website. The boat, which is equipped with cameras, will offer virtual attendees a 360-degree panoramic view of the celebration.
Meanwhile, those along the parade route will be able to view video messages on its large screens that have been submitted by people from all around the world. For many of them, it’s not possible to celebrate Gay Pride events in their native countries. Pridestream will allow them to do so via the internet without fear of reprisals from government officials and others.
Gay Pride 2015
‘We have 160 events during the nine days of our festivals,’ AGP spokesman Danny de Vries told DutchNews.nl. ‘Sports, arts & culture, debates, parties, etc. For everyone there is something to do.’ The full lineup can be found on AGP’s official website.
For those in search of an event that’s sure to be lighthearted and silly, there’s the International Drag Queen Olympics. It features events including the handbag discus and the 100 metre stiletto sprint in addition to fashion competitions. The 11th annual games will begin at 19:00 on 31 July at the Homomonument in the Westermarkt.
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