Dear AGP Friends, The editors asked me to write a column in the run up to EuroPride. Although it is a hectic time with many deadlines coming together, I enthusiastically agreed to it. As the president of the Amsterdam Gay Pride (AGP) foundation, I want to give you a behind the scenes of the most beautiful event in the world.
The AGP foundation is the hub amidst all the organizations, companies and institutions that are jointly organizing Amsterdam Gay Pride. We are the license-holder for all the activities taking place in public space, and therefore are also responsible for security, cleaning and communication. The foundation itself also organizes a number of (outdoor) events, including the world-famous Canal Parade. To accomplish all this, we have a work organization and a number of committees with volunteers.
While everyone was still in the afterglow of a wonderful twentieth edition, we have already been preparing for the 2016 edition for the past six months. After the busiest Gay Pride ever, complaints of noise pollution and garbage poured in, leading to a media discussion on the rationale of Gay Pride. It became painfully clear that the public support for our festival was under pressure. Would our success also mean our downfall?
With this question in mind, we were happy with a city councillor’s statement that Gay Pride should be allowed to become an even bigger event, and if it was down to him, could even become the largest city festival.
The superintendent of police later agreed on TV that from a safety perspective, growth would not be an issue, but that is was purely an administrative choice.
It was up to us to ensure enough public support In December, there was a moment of tension between us and the city that escalated to such an extent that after a meeting with one of the councillors, I nearly resigned.
Fortunately that same evening, I received an email from COC Netherlands announcing that we were awarded the Bob Angelo Medal. The message moved me to tears. Obviously, we do not have a problem with grassroots support, and I felt I should stay at my post. Besides the medal being a personal and beautiful recognition of the time and energy I have spent over the years on the development of the Pride, it is also a message to politics about the importance of Gay Pride and its continued existence.
This February I was invited, together with other festival organizers and residents’ associations, for breakfast at the official residence of the mayor. The goal was to jointly come to nuisance measures that will become part of the city’s new events policy. The idea was that it would create more public support, but considering the atmosphere after the meeting, this remains to be seen.
However, there also was a positive element to the meeting. The residents of Prinsengracht were not as negative about our festival as the media led us to believe, and were an example of how we can work on a solution together. In the near future we will meet with them to see what we can do to drive back noise pollution and nuisance in general.
This year, we are hosting EuroPride. A special European version of the Amsterdam Gay Pride that will span two weeks and starts on July 23 with Pink Saturday.