Dear Neighbors to the North, Under the motto “It’s never too late for a first time” I visited Antwerp Pride in the weekend of August 8. The visit was limited to Friday and Saturday, as this column had to be sent out to the publisher Sunday afternoon.
As a loyal visitor of Belgian Pride in Brussels, I wondered why our small country has more than one gay pride. Was it really impossible to celebrate Pride as one nation, Flanders, Brussels and the Walloon provinces in unison? But as I am not without any sense of reality, I came to realize over the years that Belgian Pride was mostly for the people of Brussels and the Walloon provinces, with less and less people from Flanders. They did not think it was “worth the trouble to go south to Brussels one afternoon in May.” The chance of bad weather is also considerably higher in May than in August. And after two days of Antwerp Pride, I do understand.
At Belgian Pride, almost everything takes place in one day, but Antwerp Pride lasts for several days and at different locations in the city center. Truly something for everyone.
On Friday night I went to the Roof of Love Party on the Festival Square at the recommendation of some Antwerp friends. I was told immediately that it was open air and that the music had to stop at exactly 10:00 p.m. But those hours were more than enough to run into friends in a very casual and fun atmosphere and catch up. This is sometimes necessary, as those friends, especially from the province of Antwerp and Limburg, are no longer traveling to Brussels for a drink or to go to a restaurant.
Some occasionally go to La Démence, and a minority visits Brussels two to four times a year to have a taste of the gay scene in the capital. But for most, it is a thing of the past. Not enough parking space, the center is too dirty, it has an unsafe feel at night, too French, and too few gay bars with terraces. Nothing new. It is just very confrontational to have to listen to this over and over again.
I also have to admit I do not visit Antwerp enough, but I cannot use their reasoning as an excuse for not visiting Antwerp more often. I have none. Antwerp has some nice gay bars I only discovered last weekend, with terraces. I did not visit the sleazier and kinkier bars, at least not this time. There is a suitable bar or club for everyone.
On Friday night I went to a Daddy party in the gay disco in Antwerp, the Red & Blue. I had not been there in ages, although that has more to do with the fact that I’m not really a party animal. I had totally forgotten it is a wonderfully decorated club with excellent service, and beverages that are served sufficiently cold. The latter is not so self-evident when things are busy. In short, very pleasant.
The parade on Saturday afternoon was the longest one ever with fifty wagons, but was over before I knew it. Perhaps that had more to do with the company than with the showy gays with a feather up their bum, trying to get the attention of the audience on the quays of the Schelde.
All over Antwerp, there were activities, both in the afternoon and at night. My company then went to the marina, to the MAS Museum. A very fancy and new neighborhood with expensive apartments, in which some establishments had created a small square with some beverage tents and a stage with some Flemish (pseudo) singers. A nice ambiance, just outside the center, and also nice for those who do not like music.
However, I didn’t run into a lot of friends from Brussels. Hopefully, the organizers of Belgian Pride were also in Antwerp for inspiration. Apparently, the organization is fighting internally, and may not have the time to fix Brussels Pride. And hopefully next year, the crush barriers at Kolenmarkt in Brussels will also be a thing of the past. Otherwise, they will not see me again at Brussels Pride. But I will be visiting Antwerp Pride.