‘No spectators, but a party for everyone’


NOS News

  • Jacco Hupkens

    Editor online

  • Jacco Hupkens

    Editor online

Last year the 25th anniversary of Amsterdam Pride was celebrated, this summer is a special moment for probably the most famous part of the LGBTI event: the Canal Parade is held for the 25th time this afternoon. For the first time since 2019, because the annual boat parade through the canals was canceled twice due to corona.

Siep de Haan (64) was one of the first organizers of Pride. He saw the boat parade grow from forty boats with about 20,000 spectators in 1996 to an eighty-boat event now that invariably attracts half a million people.

According to him, the Canal Parade has always been set up as a celebration for the whole city. “Back then, there were already Pride events elsewhere in the world, but especially in places where it was less safe for the rainbow community. Amsterdam was already very safe, so we wanted to organize this precisely to show how proud we were of the city. , too on the heterosexuals, so it wasn’t called Gay Pride either, but Amsterdam Pride.’

More party than activism?

De Haan can’t do much about that criticism: “It’s strange that the municipality interferes in what is in reality a citizens’ initiative: of course there are differences of opinion in the LGBTI community, just as there are among heterosexuals. But Pride and the Canal Parade is pretty much the most inclusive event in the Netherlands. And it’s been that way from the start: the straights stood on the sidelines, the gays flowed in the channels. It’s never been an in-crowd event.”

That the business community participates in the boat parade is not new, says De Haan. “At the first edition, it was mainly the smaller businesses that participated: The pink notaries, the pink lawyers, cafes in the city.” Since then, increasingly larger companies have joined, also due to increased costs, he acknowledges. “They then promote their pink network, for example. But they are also allies.”

Companies are ‘allies’

Martijn Albers, spokesman for Pride Amsterdam, agrees. “All companies are participating allies, who all want a safer environment for their employees. And large companies ensure that less wealthy organizations can also sail along. For example, Rabobank provides a boat every year, this year the Staatsbosbeheer will sail together with their Pink Foresters.”

Advice to completely change Pride and the Parade stems from a “false opposition” between business and the LGBTI community, according to Albers. “While they need each other. It’s great that that diversity is there, also within Pride itself. With the boat parade you have the festive side of the event, and with the Pride Walk more the critical protest side.”

Here is a selection from the 25th Canal Parade:

Look back: the canal parade through the years

“There is always room for improvement,” adds Philip Tijsma of the LGBTI interest group COC. “And it’s good to listen to criticism from the community. But I think Pride listens well. It’s also organized by all kinds of committees that can make their own input.”

As examples, he cites a conference on transgender health care this year and one on the experience of LGBT people of color. It is precisely this diversity that makes Pride and the boat parade so valuable, he believes. “It’s both: the Pride Walk and the Canal Parade, conferences and parties.”

The growth in diversity is the biggest change Tijsma has seen in 24 Canal Parade editions: “You now have boats with people of color, representatives of different world religions. But LGBTI people with disabilities also sail along, and people over 65. Parade shows where diverse that society is.”

High school students

It also increases acceptance, says Tijsma: “In 2007, for example, a 14-year-old boy wanted to sail on a boat, which led to a social discussion at the time: should you support this, such young people can already make good judgments about their sexuality. “Questions that people would never ask young people. This year there is a boat sailing with all high school students and no one has a problem with it.”

At the end of the day, says founder De Haan, you’ll always keep people who aren’t happy with Pride and the boat parade. “By the second edition in 1997, there were already people saying, ‘I liked it better last year’.”

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