Lee Williscroft-Ferris gives us a preview of Iceland’s gay pride festival, before jetting off to Reykjavik to sample it for himself.
Reykjavik is a very special place for a whole variety of reasons. Last year, So So Gay waxed extremely lyrical about the Icelandic capital’s abundant attractions for the curious visitor. One aspect of this incredible city, the world’s northernmost capital, which we particularly appreciated was its overwhelmingly positive approach to LGBT rights. This is a country whose Prime Minister is a lesbian who is married to her wife – and we mean married, in the proper sense. Reykjavik is a place where gay couples can stride down Laugavegur, the main shopping street, holding hands unmolested. Yes, there is indeed much for the gay tourist to get excited about here.
Here’s a little fact to win over those of you still a little cold to the idea of visiting this island nation in the Atlantic Ocean. Around 70,000 people attend Reykjavik Gay Pride (Hinsegin Dagar in Icelandic) every year. To put that into context, the total population of Iceland is just 320,000. You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to work out what that means in terms of how Pride is viewed by the people of Iceland. Indeed, wander around the trendy 101 district of the city during the festival and you will see parents wearing rainbow garlands, walking hand-in-hand with their rainbow poncho-clad children. It is not uncommon to pass middle-aged heterosexual couples with rainbow flags painted on their faces.
For Icelanders, Gay Pride is not simply an opportunity for LGBT citizens to assert their identity. Speak to a visitor at the event and they make it abundantly clear that this is the jewel in the crown of Reykjavik’s cultural calendar, as well as an integral part of Iceland’s broader vision of equality and human rights.
So So Gay is delighted to announce that we will be represented at Reykjavik Gay Pride 2012. There is much to look forward to at this year’s festival, which takes place from 8 to 12 August. The impressive programme actually begins on Tuesday 7 August with the opening of Marilyn and Greta, an exhibition of drawings by Icelandic poet, Kristín Ómarsdóttir at Reykjavik City Library at 5pm, before events move to The Nordic House an hour later for a concert given by Reykjavik Queer Choir. The evening is then rounded off by the premiere of a new documentary by Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir at Bio Paradis Cinema.
Day One proper of Reykjavik Gay Pride is jam-packed with über-exciting events. At 5pm, a new photographic exhibition, Pride in Pictures 2000-2011, will be opened at Reykjavik City Hall, alongside Bringing Out The Past, a display of important documents from Reykjavik Municipal Archives. British stand-up comedienne Zoe Lyons will make her Pride debut in the Norðurljós Auditorium of Harpa Concert Hall, the city’s breathtaking music venue on the waterfront, opened last year. Thursday evening sees Háskólabíó Cinema play host to a variety of performers, both Icelandic and international, followed by a post-concert party.
Friday 10 August hots up considerably with a Queer Literary Walk, a guided tour in English through the centre of Reykjavik, beginning at Ingólfstorg Square at 5pm, followed by A Queer Broadway Songbook at 8.30pm. This event features Kristjana Stefánsdóttir, dubbed ‘Iceland’s diva of jazz’, performing a set by a variety of composers at Harpa Concert Hall. A highlight of each year’s Pride is the Queer Cruise; this year’s waterborne tour of Reykjavik’s shoreline begins at 10pm at Ægisgarður. Those with any remaining vestiges of energy can then dance the night away at the Queer Dance at Club Gay 46 from 11pm onwards.
Saturday is always the jewel in the crown of Reykjavik Gay Pride. 11 August sees the phenomenal Pride Parade wind its way through the streets of the capital with its colourful array of floats which in 2010 featured Jón Gnarr, the city’s (heterosexual) mayor, dressed in full drag. The parade’s terminus is Arnarhóll, where an outdoor concert will take place. Club Broadway then flings open its doors for the official Pride Dance. Iconic Icelandic gay singer-songwriter Páll Oskar helps to spin the tunes alongside DJ Lingerine and DJ Kolster. Those looking for some respite from the intense partying might like to take part in the Rainbow Family Festival on Viðey Island on Sunday 12 August. Boats set sail at 11.15am with the event itself starting at 2.30pm.
It might seem unlikely that this far-flung corner of Europe should be leading the way in terms of how to organise a Pride which successfully combines opportunities for hedonistic partying with exhibitions by esteemed artists, while also maintaing the kind of inclusivity that sees around 25 per cent of the national population flock to the capital for the event. However, following the difficulties encountered by the organisers of this year’s Pride London/World Pride event, it would perhaps be no bad idea to look further north for inspiration. So So Gay will report back from the event itself. Stay tuned.
For more information on Reykjavik Gay Pride 2012, visit the official website.