Anniversary edition of Antwerp Pride celebrates advances made


This year’s Antwerp Pride festival is all about giving thanks and showing that the queer community is an integral part of the city

Looking forward

Antwerpenaars are known – not always in a good way – for the enormous amount of pride they have in their city. But this month, there’s a definite reason to celebrate as the city comes together to celebrate its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community as well as its other sexual and gender minorities (LGBT+) during Antwerp Pride.

There’s a lot to celebrate. Over the past 10 years, Antwerp has played host to some significant LGBT+ events, including the International Lesbian and Gay Travel Association conference in 2010 and the World Outgames and Mr Gay World contest in 2013. Since 2010, the city has hosted the world’s second largest celebration of the gay fetish community each year.

These events have drawn thousands of visitors to the harbour city and raised its profile dramatically among the global LGBT+ community. But rather than rest on its laurels, this year’s 10th anniversary edition of Antwerp Pride will be looking forward, chair Bart Abeel explains.

“Fifty years ago, Antwerp wasn’t the enlightened place it is today,” he says. “Achieving the openness we enjoy now has taken a lot of time and effort. Pride helps us to sustain that momentum. It provides a framework and attracts an audience, but the initiatives come from the local community, and they are successful because so many people are involved.”

Many initiatives are spontaneous actions that are not organised by Pride itself. In 2017, trees on the square near the corner of Zirkstraat and Kleine Koraalberg will be decorated with Pride flags sewn by local women, while Jezusstraat in the centre of town will feature an exhibition of drawings by children on the topic of diversity.

Critical ingredient

Rainbow ribbons are also being distributed to staff and customers of shops and bars across the city. “I hope everyone will be wearing one,” Abeel says.

He believes that the message of Pride has changed over the past decade, noting that the LGBT+ community has gotten the legal protections it needed, such as marriage and adoption rights. “So it’s not about saying what we want,” he says. “It’s about saying thanks and showing that we are part of the city. And this year we want to look forward and see where we will be in 2027.”

A key focus of this year’s event is the power of elite sport to promote diversity and inclusion. “The role of LGBT+ people in top sports is one of the biggest taboos we face today,” Abeel explains. “I’m delighted that some of Antwerp’s leading sports clubs will be joining us in the Pride Parade. We’ll be welcoming the Royal Antwerp and Beerschot football clubs, and the Antwerp Giants basketball team.”

It’s time to inspire other groups in our society and show that we can address issues together in a positive way by being who we are

- Antwerp Pride chair Bart Abeel

Another sport group participating in the Parade on 12 August is the City Pirates football club, which aims to uplift children who live in poverty or otherwise have fewer opportunities in life. Today, they have over 70 teams across Antwerp.

“The LGBT+ community understands we are very privileged – we live in a very supportive city and have achieved a lot in a relatively short period of time,” Abeel explains. “Now it’s time to inspire other groups in our society and show that we can address issues together in a positive way by being who we are.”

According to Abeel, the success of Pride relies on one critical ingredient. “Everyone is a volunteer, even the organisers. We’re so grateful to the many people who are creating their own events or helping with official ones,” he says. “Their participation is spontaneous, and they are showing the world that they embrace diversity.”

Pride highlights

On 5 August – before the festival even officially starts – the Antwerp Queer Arts festival kicked off at the Felix Archive, which will also stage the 10 Years of Pride exhibition. Queer Arts includes several exhibitions in the Eilandje neighbourhood and a film programme at Cinema Cartoons.

Thursday, 10 August sees the Midsummer Party take over the city’s popular gay bar Den Draak and the Draakplaats outside to officially start the weekend’s festivities.

Dubbed “Incredible Friday”, 11 August begins with the From Strangers to Allies symposium at the Permeke library on De Coninckplein. Academics, artists, and athletes will look at how the LGBT+ community can inspire a broader movement for inclusivity and equality in society. Friday afternoon, it’s Pink Shopping on the Meir with the annual high-heel race.

The highlight of “Glorious Saturday” is without a doubt the annual Pride Parade, which starts at 14.00 at Vlaamse Kaai and features up to 70 delegations. Winding its way through the city, the Parade culminates in the Love United Festival. This new, free and open-air party will feature club music and entertainment on Steenplein, including Drag Queens United.

The enormous Pride Night party, meanwhile, boasts three different concepts aimed at gay men, lesbians and a mixed crowd at The Shop near the Red Star Line Museum.

Finally, “Magnificent Sunday” sees the Closing Festival on Grote Markt. A highlight is the world-renown Swedish dance music band Army of Lovers. Get there early as the area will be closed once maximum capacity is reached.
9-13 August, across Antwerp