After the victory at the Eurovision Song Contest, Conchita Wurst felt obligated to “always show her colors,” and the singer with the beard tried to participate in as many Pride events as possible. As his alter ego Tom Neuwirth, the Austrian idol gave a performance at the Rainbow Parade in Vienna with the boy band Jetzt Anders! as early as 2007, and after the Eurovison victory Conchita was a celebrated guest at the Prides in Stockholm, Madrid, Antwerp, Manchester, and many other cities. She is one of this year's EuroPride Ambassadors.
In “Ich, Conchita: Meine Geschichte: We are unstoppable” (Munich 2015) the drag star notes: “As often, Amsterdam sets the standards. We can all learn something from the city and its residents. At every Pride I am overwhelmed by all the people on the street fighting for the cause, but in Amsterdam the entire city celebrates - young or old, straight or gay, it does not matter. Small children and their grandparents are dressed in rainbow colors [...] from head to toe. They sing, they dance, are happy and do not fear the others, the new-comers. They are heart-warmingly open.”
High praise for the Dutch capital, which hopes to prove this from July 23 to August 7, when Amsterdam is hosting EuroPride, of which Conchita Wurst is one of the ambassadors. A study published by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research in May 2016 shows that the Netherlands in Europe is one of the countries with the most positive attitude towards homosexuality. The study shows this positive attitude has been present for some time, and that it has become even more positive in the past few years. The study shows that now only seven percent is queer negative. In 2006 this was fifteen percent. This mostly positive attitude of the Dutch (which should be put in perspective when looking at figures about tolerance when visibly confronted by homosexuality - thirty-two percent takes offence when two men are kissing) has paved the way for the theme of the Amsterdam EuroPride: “Join our freedom, feel free to join us!”
Busy Days for Dolly
Traditionally, the highlight of the Amsterdam Gay Pride again is the Boat Parade, but a lot more is scheduled. Last month we already highlighted some events for Pink Saturday on July 23, but these festivities are only the start of fifteen exuberant days.
Holland’s own Conchita, Dolly Bellefleur, whose career nearly spans Conchita’s entire life time, has compiled an international song and poetry program for EuroPride 2016 with the title “Pink Pop & Poetry” at the OBA Theater.
Busy days ahead for our cover model Dolly Bellefleur, as she will be hosting a special EuroPride program as part of Senior Pride on the 4th of August: “A Gay History of Pride,” a musical tour of the highs and lows of Dutch gay emancipation. From the first ever Pink Saturday up to the Gay Pride.
Senior Pride is a canal festival in front of the Theater-restaurant Paleis van de Weemoed especially for and as a tribute to Pink Seniors. This year, there will be a large barge on the canal with a big stage.
Visitors can enjoy the Bienvenue Festival, and DJ Ronnie Retro will be spinning oldies. The evening is opened with a spectacular performance by Raoulala and his boylesque dancers. Miss Kimberley Clarck will pay the festival a visit with the All That Jazz Dancers and will get the party started alongside Miss Lana Sinner with their famous sing-a-long medleys.
Diva Karin Bloemen will close the evening with a concert. Senior Pride will take place on Thursday, August 4 from 18:00-23:00 near Theater-restaurant Paleis van de Weemoed, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 15, Amsterdam. Free entry. See www.seniorpride.amsterdam or Facebook.com/seniorprideamsterdam for more information.
The Pink Sports Taboo
Even though homosexuality seems generally more accepted now, there are still areas in which it is an issue still, for example (professional) sports. That is why this year, special attention is paid to sports. Lucien Spee, Director of Amsterdam Gay Pride: “In the world of sports it is still a sensitive subject, and athletes are afraid to come out during their active career. This year, we are extremely proud to have found an international sports brand that wants to sponsor us - Adidas. It is a fist and a very beautiful statement.” Conchita Wurst is not so diplomatic: “It is worse in football - no active football player ever came out of the closet for fear of turning his fans into enemies.” And not only fans can cause problems, but team mates as well. When basketball player John Amaechi came out in 2007, also after his career ended, a colleague said: “I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we’re in the locker room,” it would only cause trouble and concentration problems.
In spite of the to be expected negative reactions, over the past few years an increasing number of athletes did come out, mostly after their careers ended, but also increasingly during their active career, especially athletes in individual sports. One of the pioneers was the American football player David Kopay, who came out in 1975. Just like Amaechi, he speaks out in the documentary “Out to Win” by director Malcolm Ingram. This documentary, which was released last year, will be shown in the Open Air Cinema on Nieuwmarkt on August 4 at 21:00.
“Out to Win” analyses and gives an overview of the lives and careers of upcoming and professional athletes from all over the world. The film documents the present in a historic context of those who paved the way, and highlights the experiences of athletes who fought and battled, both in and out of the closet. Besides Amaechi and Kopay, the pioneers Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Billy Bean speak, but also contemporary heroes, the stars of tomorrow and the people who helped them climb to the top.
“Out to Win” is not the only movie shown during EuroPride. In Rialto, Ceintuurbaan 338, the Gay & Lesbian Summer Film Festival takes place until August 7, with nine films, including Neil Armfield’s “Holding the Man” from 2015. In this movie, the main character Timothy, who is fifteen, meets the rugby player John, and it’s love at first sight. Fighting prejudice, both at home and at school, the couple becomes very close. Timothy and John go through good and bad times, and are then confronted by their biggest challenge, when one of them unexpectedly turns out to be sick. On August 7, all films of the festival will be shown on one day during the Gay & Lesbian Film Marathon. See rialtofilm.nl for more information.
Out on the Water
Traditionally, the Canal Parade is the exuberant highlight of Amsterdam Gay Pride. “Everywhere else, we drive around cities on trucks,” wrote Conchita Wurst, “but in the realm of the Amsterdam canals, boats are obligatory. For the show they featured imaginative structures, making it seemingly impossible to manoeuver through narrow waterways. But then, it became clear to me how brilliantly everything was constructed. With a pair of handles, even the highest constructions could be folded with the next bridge in sight. That was not only great, but it also shows that obstructions do not exist when people have imagination.”
This year, the Canal Parade takes place on Saturday, August 6. It starts around 14:00 on the Westerdok to go via the Prinsengracht, the Amstel and the Nieuwe Herengracht to the Oosterdok, where the boats will moor. This route of approximately 3.7 miles offers the spectators plenty of opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of eighty boats in total.
Special this year is the participation of the European Commission that does a one off to make European citizens (even more) aware of discrimination in Europe, which still exists, and to stimulate acceptance. The Commission’s participation is part of an EU wide campaign for GLBT acceptance that was started this year. The Association of the Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union (OCTA), under the presidency of Aruba, is participating with its own boat, reaching out to twenty-two islands in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.
As this twenty-first edition of the Amsterdam Gay Pride has a strong sports theme, the Royal Dutch Rowing Association KNRB is also participating, and four Amsterdam based gay sports clubs have combined forces to make sports and GLBT acceptance a subject of discussion. Remarkable is the participation of the Ukrainian Lady Gaga: Kamaliya. This activist and pop artist wants to bridge the gap between East and West with her boat and make the voice of the gay community in the Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe heard.
Unlike previous years, a specially appointed ballot committee decided which boats were allowed to participate, as the organization wanted to ensure the quality of the Boat Parade. Not everyone was so understanding. On its website, Café ’t Mandje reported that they received the message on the founder’s birthday that the bar had been “excluded from the Boat Parade” without giving clear reasons. It is questionable whether the large Dutch banks participating in the Parade are more important for emancipation than the late Bet van Beeren and her still flourishing bar, which she took over in 1927 and which especially during the first decades after the Second World War played an important part in the then mostly underground gay community.
It has been a safe haven for almost ninety years. Perhaps it is a good idea to honor this legacy after the Canal Parade by visiting the street party that is organized from 13:00 on the Zeedijk. There will also be street parties at the Spuistraat, the Amstel, the Westermarkt, and near the Stopera City Hall.
Those looking for culture and relaxation during EuroPride can visit the “Shakespeare Club” on the courtyard of the Amsterdam Museum, Kalverstraat 92. The club is open daily from 11:00 to 21:00, and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to 23:00. Everyone is welcome in this “Heart of the Pride” for some culture and music, but also for a beer and to relax for a while, or for meeting other Pride participants.
Visitors can enter the beautiful courtyard through a medieval gate from the busy Kalverstraat. During EuroPride, there is a podium and café with DJs, artists, and various initiatives from the gay community. The program is very diverse. Club ChUrch, one of Amsterdam’s most controversial clubs, hosts the opening night of July 23.
The Danspaleis will also organize an evening on the courtyard, and there are lots of other activities planned. It promises to be an ideal place to have a drink after work, have something to eat, or have breakfast before visiting the Canal Parade. The Shakespeare Club is named after the early name of gay interest organization COC. This was founded seventy years ago, on December 7, 1946, as Shakespeareclub. They chose this pseudonym, as homosexuality was still a taboo subject in those days. In 1949, the Shakespeareclub was renamed the Cultuur- en Ontspannings Centrum, or in short: C.O.C. See www.shakespeareclub.nl for more information.
The full program of EuroPride can be found on www.pride.amsterdam or consult for more information the 124 page magazine “JOIN” that was published on the occasion of EuroPride, and of course at pride.gayamsterdam.com.