The city of Antwerp, in the Flemish region of Belgium, has often been hailed as a hidden gem in Europe. Every year during the second weekend in August, this boutique metropolis sparkles brighter than ever when Antwerp Pride takes over the city centre.
Kicking of on Thursday 10th August with an official opening reception and the ever popular open air Midsummer Party in front of the rainbow house, this four day festival has everything you can expect of a colourful, joyus Pride celebration. On Saturday afternoon the LGBT community parades and sashays from the south part of town, alongside the river Scheldt to the centre and this year the parade will prove to be bigger than ever. After the parade, Antwerp Pride promises a new open air party called Love United in front of the medieval Het Steen castle and in the evening and until the wee hours you can be who you are at the main party Extravaganza. On Sunday - and this is what sets Antwerp Pride apart from other prides - city hall is the spectacular backdrop of the Closing Festival on the Grote Markt which starts in the afternoon after which the street parties around the Grote Markt take over and the whole city centre becomes one giant party.. In the past stars like Conchita Wurst, Alexander Rybak, Loreen, Vengaboys, 2Unlimited, Dana International and Ruslana graced the stage of the Closing Festival together with local bands and drag queens. Of course this year, being the tenth edition the organisers promise some big names to headline the event. And don’t forget the Hard Party on Friday night for those who like it a bit more kinky.
‘Antwerp is a welcoming and tolerant city towards the LGBT community,’ chairman of the organising committee Bart Abeel says. ‘This is our way of thanking all the people in Antwerp that we can live in a city where we can be who we are. You don’t have to be LGBT to come and join us. Every year we see a great mix of straight and gay people celebrating together in a tolerant and happy ambiance.’
Although Antwerp Pride is a celebration, it also tackles some serious issues concerning the LGBT community.
‘Every year we have a theme,’ Bart Abeel continuous. ‘In the past we looked at the situation for LGBT’s in Russia, in China and last year we focussed on the difficult circumstances LGBT refugees often have to face. This year, being a special anniversary, we look back on the amazing progress the LGBT community has achieved in the past years but also we look forward into the future asking ourselves where we want to be in the next ten years.’
In the week leading up to Antwerp Pride, the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival will have its third edition, featuring theatre performances, exhibitions and movies on all things queer.
Antwerp Pride from 10th-13th August