From year to year
For 26 years we have been celebrating freedom in Amsterdam – the freedom to truly be yourself and to love who you want. Pride Amsterdam has become an integral part of the annual calendar and our collective experience in the city. The festival has grown into a world-renowned event spanning several days where the LGBTQIA+ community truly sets the standard in the city. However, this has not always been the case. The road we have traveled to get here with Pride has been a long and hard one. Despite many highs and lows, the emancipation struggle has endured and taken unprecedented steps, with many moving moments to cherish forever. This is all recounted in the story of the past 26 years of Pride Amsterdam below.
Since its inception in 1996, our Pride has evolved into a nine-day festival and has grown into one of the best and largest celebrations of its kind worldwide. The city turns into a rainbow of festivities with dance parties, film festivals, sporting events, debates and culture, a Pride Walk, a Pride Park and in the closing weekend, we literally ‘raise the roof’ together at several outdoor stages.
The canal belt is our heritage and what sails over it once a year, our Pride, is also our heritage. It is really of the same order, and I am also incredibly proud of it!Femke Halsema
Mayor of Amsterdam
Looking back on 25 years Canal Parade and with 50 Pride ambassadors, each with their own story and struggle, 2023 is a good year to take stock. The support of all participants, visitors and partners of Pride Amsterdam is also invaluable. That is why we put everyone in the spotlight this year with the theme #YouAreIncluded. This allows us to show the world how unique Amsterdam is, that everybody counts and that we are fighting together for a safer future.
Queer Amsterdam provides the programming from 22 – 28 July 2023 and Stichting Pride Amsterdam from 1 to 6 August 2023. The overall program for the two weeks is called Queer & Pride Amsterdam.
2022: My Gender, My Pride
Everyone should feel free to be themselves, without an imposed norm from outside. Unfortunately, the reality is different, and our emancipation is often far from complete. In the Netherlands, too, people are still discriminated against and beaten up every day because of who they are or who they love. In recent decades, our struggle has mainly been about ‘being allowed to love who we want’ and it is time to broaden the focus to ‘be allowed to be how we feel’. In other words, time to pay attention to the diversity of gender identities and our right to self-determination. We have the right to deviate from the norm and the sex we were given at birth. Gender identity was the main message this year with the theme ‘My Gender, My Pride’.
2021: TAKE PRIDE in us
2021 marked the 25th anniversary of Amsterdam Pride. This year’s theme was ‘TAKE PRIDE in us‘.
From July 21st to August 10th we had a photo exhibition in the Vondelpark. We looked back on 25 years of Pride in Amsterdam. We were moved by the incredible images and recalled all the important moments and memories from past years.
2020: The Corona Edition
Pride Amsterdam came up with an alternative program in 2020 to remain visible, even during the pandemic. In mid-April, the board of the organization announced that Pride Amsterdam could not take place this year due to COVID-19. That is why an alternative program was devised for July 25 to August 2, 2020.
In addition to broadcasting live on PrideTV for nine days and an online demonstration in the Concertgebouw, Pride Amsterdam was also clearly visible in the streets of Amsterdam – among other initiatives, through the Proud Faces of Pride campaign, the Find-All-Flags Tour and the call to hang your rainbow flag.
2019: Remember the past, create the future
Collaborating parties and organizations with special anniversaries were central this year during the boat parade with, among others, the Dutch Sport boat, the Political Parties boat and the Higher Education boat taking part. In addition, ‘vignettes’ for boats along the side of the canals were sold for the first time.
This year’s theme was based on the Stonewall riots that broke out in New York 50 years earlier, which were an iconic moment in the history of the LGBTQIA+ movement. Pride Amsterdam even participated in the legendary parade in the Big Apple during World Pride New York.
As of July 2019, Pride Amsterdam has been added to the Inventory of Intangible Heritage in the Netherlands.
Pride Ambassadors: Ellie Lust, Jeffrey Wammes, Raymond Timmer, Victoria False, Dinah Bons, Amber Vineyard and Justin Hermsen.
This year, Pride Amsterdam wanted to draw attention to human rights around the world with the boat parade. The boats of Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, among others, were proclaimed by the organization as ‘pearls of the parade.’ The foundation ‘Meer dan doen’ received the first ‘Support Card 2018’ from Rabobank.
The theme of the 2018 Pride was Heroes. Everyone knows someone who deserves hero status. Think of people who take the lead, stand for something and also fight for this publicly, who are committed to human rights in general and/or our community in particular, whether or not they identify as LGBTQIA+.
In 2018, Pride Amsterdam was voted Best Public Event in the Netherlands.
Pride Ambassadors: Jip van Leeuwen, Mieke Martelhoff, Loena Maas, Vanny Reyes, Jackson, Serdar Manavoglu, Francis van Broekhuizen and Jennifer Hopelezz.
2017: This Is My Pride
Many participants seized on the theme of 2017 to discuss serious, hard-hitting topics during the famous boat parade, including an Iranian boat and a Suicide Prevention Boat.
In order to better serve all those who identify as LGBTQIA+, to strengthen the content and to be inclusive for everyone, the Amsterdam Gay Pride Foundation extended and renewed the number of existing committees this year. This enriched the nine-day festival with even more meaningful content than before to help even more members of the community to better identify with the program. As such, the festival updates its name to be simply Pride Amsterdam.
Pride Ambassadors: Brothers Grimm, Ana Paula Lima, Sjors van der Panne, Souad Boumedien, Niki Today and Shary-An Nivillac.
2016: EuroPride – JOIN
In 2016 EuroPride returned to Amsterdam after 22 years. In September 2013, Amsterdam made a bid to bring EuroPride 2016 back to the city, with the members of EPOA (European Pride Organizers Association) unanimously choosing Amsterdam to host EuroPride in 2016. The Pink Saturday Foundation then decided that the Dutch capital could also host Pink Saturday that same year.
EuroPride opened with a unique ‘Freedom Concert’ on Dam Square, including the debut of international artists and a fireworks display.
“Join our freedom, feel free to join us!” exclaimed Director Lucien Spee: “With this message, Amsterdam Gay Pride wants to call on European countries, where people cannot yet be themselves, cannot live freely or where human rights are under pressure, to join our way of thinking and freedoms.”
In contrast to previous years, there was no drawing of lots for the boat parade, but a special balloting committee determined which boats were allowed to participate. Pearls in 2016 were Madrid Pride and the participation of Ukrainian Lady Gaga: Kamaliya.
Pride Ambassadors: Conchita Wurst, Margriet van der Linden, Valentijn de Hingh, Sipke Jan Bousema, Mayday and Tara McDonald.
The nine-day festival celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year. The question: “What has been achieved in twenty years and what has changed?” was considered in many ways.
Boats that took part in the Canal Parade this year drew attention to the situation of homosexual refugees, the homeless and the overseas territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For the first time, there was also an “empty” boat, which was equipped by KPN with a 360-degree camera, through which people could virtually “sail” along with the boat parade online.
”Sharing is multiplying: shared joy is double joy and that also applies in the field of love,” said Lucien Spee (Director AGP) about the theme. “Sharing is wanting to know how someone else is doing, daring to be yourself, making yourself vulnerable.”
Pride Ambassadors: Dolly Bellefleur, Emmaly Brown and Raymi Sambo.
In 2014, the Amsterdam Gay Pride Foundation took over from ProGay with director Lucien Spee.
The boat parade started with the commemoration of victims of disaster flight MH17, with Aids Fonds, who lost two colleagues in the plane crash in eastern Ukraine, leading the way. Other notable boats were the Moroccan boat, an American boat, AMC’s Donor boat and again the Jewish boat.
Pride Ambassadors: Siep de Haan, Sjeazy Pearl and Lady Galore.
During the Canal Parade in 2013, another Ministry of Defense boat sailed along, this time for the first time also carrying the Minister of Defense. The KNVB boat which carried several well-known former football players also received a lot of media attention.
This is the very first year to have official Pride Ambassadors, which included Hans Verhoeven, Windy Mills and Raffaëla Paton, who were all appointed for life.
2012: On The Move
Bigger, better and more beautiful.’ That is how director Irene Hemelaar of the ProGay Foundation described the 17th Pride, which ended on Sunday with a closing party on Rembrandtplein.
An important moment was the start of the Pride Walk in collaboration with the Homomonument Foundation (then still Tears of Pride Walk). This parade was dominated by exploring themes around homophobia and respect, which have become a permanent part of Pride since 2012.
2011: All Together Now
For the very first time, the boat parade was led by a ship with uniformed soldiers from the Dutch Ministry of Defense. Former American Lieutenant Dan Choi and British naval officer Mandy McBain were also on that boat. Choi lost his job in the US military after he came out. He then went on to become one of the leading faces of the American gay rights movement.
The Hindu gay community also floated along this year to help break the taboo about sexuality in their religion. Along the canals, the spectators again stood in rows, watching often beautifully decorated boats with their ‘crews’.
To conclude the Pride celebrations, the closing party traditionally held on Sunday on the square in front of the Stopera aan de Amstel was moved to the more spacious Rembrandtplein in 2011.
2010 was a less colorful year due to heavy rain, but nevertheless hundreds of thousands of visitors still managed to find their way to Pride. This year for the first time we saw a Polish boat and a pink delegation from the Dutch Railways.
Many celebrities were also there, for example, Patricia Paay, Job Cohen, Gerard Joling, Evert Sankrediets and Beau van Erven Dorens passed the Amsterdam canals.
The procession was opened by a boat from the municipality of Amsterdam. On this boat, five Dutch-American LGBT+ couples were married during the parade by Mayor Cohen. At the initiative of five Amsterdam schools, straight-identifying young people also took part on a School Boat for the first time.
The city was pink, the city was warm, the city was full. For the thirteenth time, LGBT+ Amsterdam waved from the water to the city.
In the United States, Amsterdam Gay Pride was named the best Gay Pride celebration in Europe in 2008.
2007: Music and Dance
In 2007, under the leadership of Frank van Dalen (then Director), the name was changed from Amsterdam Pride to Amsterdam Gay Pride. For the first time during the boat parade, there was an “official” boat with straight participants, a boat with disabled people and two boats with Amsterdam officials. Also for the first time, an organization supporting gay youth under the age of 16 (Young & OUT) sailed in the parade.
Mayor Cohen was pleased that so many boats with a substantive theme were participating. Cohen: ”Colorful and tolerant! Amsterdam will remain on the map as the Gay Capital of Europe, because that is what we are and we will continue to guarantee that.”
In 2006 the ProGay Foundation took over from GBA. With chairman Hugo Braakhuis, the city of Amsterdam and the organization embarked on a new direction for Pride.
Many social institutions such as Humanitas and political parties such as GroenLinks and D66 took part this year. Under the motto “Personal Pride – Company Pride” multinationals such as Shell, ING, TNT, IBM and ABN/AMRO also took part in the parade.
2005: Straight Ahead
The lead boat of the parade was one that stood out – not because of the party crowd, but an important political statement. Showcasing a large photo of two Iranian boys who were hanged because of their sexual orientation, attention was drawn to LGBT+ acceptance elsewhere in the world and what steps still need to be taken.
2004: Pride Goes International
The increasing municipal costs for permits and cleaning almost threatened the very survival of Amsterdam Pride, as well as a ban on rainbow flags and darkrooms. As a protest against the latter, during the Canal Parade in 2004, the boat of popular gay bars April, Exit, Exit Café and Soho were explicitly equipped with a “darkroom” from which two huge inflatable hands protruded..
2003: Bloot met een knipoog
Organizer Siep de Haan of GBA called for more ‘bareness’ on the boats this year. This was to prevent turmoil and prudishness in the city center.
In the end, the call was not answered en masse, but it was again a busy Pride with more visitors than ever before.
2002: Lift Me Up
The Canal Parade was held in Amsterdam for the seventh time. In the meantime, it also started to receive increasing worldwide interest. The Red Cross took part this year to draw more attention to people infected with HIV.
For the first time, boats sailed from the Arab gay bar Habibi Ana and from the Jewish community of Beit Ha’Chidush. This is the same year that same-sex civil marriages were legalized in the Netherlands – the very first country in the world to do so. The then-mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, performed the first ‘gay’ wedding at the Stopera, Amsterdam’s city hall.
2000: 5-years of Pride
In the new millennium, the Canal Parade came under some new pressure. The municipal environmental service announced that it would not measure the amount of noise disturbances by the canal houses, but on the houseboats themselves. Organizer Siep de Haan thought the rules of the municipality were becoming too strict and indicated that it would then only be possible to hold a ‘silent tour’.
Gay nightlife flourished in the Reguliersdwarsstraat and peaked at the Gay Pride street party on August 5, when famed Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue unexpectedly performed live on the street.
From 2000 (till 2003) a Drag King Contest took place in the COC building on the Rozenstraat. As a counterpart to the well-known Drag Queen competitions, this event was intended for women who dress like men, and to raise awareness for people who do not like to be labeled as male or female.
1999: Doorstart ‘Amsterdam Pride’
After the success in 1998, it was decided to continue the ‘Amsterdam Pride’. In addition to the boat parade and street parties, cultural and sports activities were also added to the program. There was also a maximum of 80 boats allowed to sail along.
Despite a rainy weekend, an estimated 100,000 visitors enjoyed the parade from the sides of the Amsterdam canals. At the end of the procession, a boat joined in on behalf of, and as a tribute to, the recently burnt-down discotheque Club RoXY.
1998: Opening Gay Games
In 1998 the long-awaited Gay Games took place in Amsterdam and coincided with Gay Pride. The Gay Games took place outside North America for the first time and Amsterdam was the first European city designated to host all sports activities for a week. With more than 14,000 athletes participating in about 30 sports disciplines and about 250,000 spectators from all over the world, this resulted in the largest LGBT+ party that had taken place in the Netherlands up to that point.
During the Gay Games there was an atmosphere of freedom and solidarity in Amsterdam in which LGBT+ people felt in the majority for the first time – a feeling that has remained unparalleled for many to this day. The Gay Games were also celebrated with street parties in the Warmoesstraat, the Halvemaansteeg and of course also along the Reguliersdwarsstraat.
It’s also striking that KLM (the official sponsor of the Gay Games) was also the first major corporate to sail in the parade.
1997: Generale repetitie Gay Games
In 1997 the second boat parade was organized. It became the unofficial dress rehearsal for the Gay Games that would take place in 1998. The Pride not only grew in visibility but also in visitors.
Amsterdam Pride initially lasted three days, with street parties on Friday and Saturday in the Warmoesstraat, the Halvemaansteeg, the Kerkstraat, the Paardenstraat and the Reguliersdwarsstraat, and on Sunday a pink church service, as well as the closing party.
1996: Trots op Amsterdam
The very first boat parade to commemorate Pride took place this year on the canals of Amsterdam, with the theme of ‘Proud of Amsterdam’. For the Amsterdam Pride it was decided, among other things, to organize a boat parade over the canals. This idea was already included in the bid book for the Gay Games, but was actually already implemented two years earlier. Initially the Canal Parade was proposed to only be held three times, namely up to and including the Gay Games in 1998. However, it proved so successful that it became an annual highlight of Amsterdam Pride.
More than 45 boats and small boats took part in the first boat parade on August 3, 1996. However, at the request of the police, the participants had to sign a chastity statement.
Amsterdam Pride was a party, organized by gay hospitality entrepreneurs united as part of GBA, to promote Amsterdam as a gay nightlife city and to celebrate the freedom and diversity of our city (which is still anchored in the DNA of our festival). “It was a gift from the gay entrepreneurs to the city,” says GBA spokesperson Siep de Haan.