The city of Antwerp has been flying rainbow symbols on billboards for months now. Pride week has arrived for the 11th time and before you head out to colour the streets this weekend, you’d better get the itinerary straight - even if you’re most likely not. The theme is ‘Love United’ and since Belgian Pride in Brussels earlier this spring was a moment of resilient beauty, we’re ready for round two now.
THE ANTWERP QUEER ARTS FESTIVAL (AUGUST 2 – AUGUST 12)
As previously noted, the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival (or AQAF) is where it’s at if you’re looking for a fuller meal during Pride. On the whole, Antwerp Pride could be considered to be more of a commercial affair than its Brussels counterpart (read this excellent piece on the global commercialization of Pride) but this festival is all you need to get by and inspired. Cinema screenings, performances, talks (don't miss this one in collaboration with MoMu on queer fashion), club nights, safe and creative spaces – it's where to get together with your queer family. Find the full programme here.
THE PARADE (AUGUST 10)
Antwerp’s finest electro queercore performers ‘Partytrashers’ invite you to walk alongside them at the official parade on Saturday and there’s no reason for you to miss out, really. The category is: ‘creepy/baroque/rainbow/being your trashy self’! There’s not much radical protesting going on at Pride anymore, unfortunately, but it can still feel like an extreme act to just be yourself walking the streets of the city. Even in Belgium, where only a few days ago a couple in the nearby city of Ghent were brutally beaten in a homophobic attack.
THE DANCING (AUGUST 8 – AUGUST 11)
There’s a free festival every year on or around Antwerp’s Steenplein and it’s exactly the place to let it all out (Saturday August 10 – 3PM till 11 PM). Aside from Beyoncé shows, this is where I do a year’s worth of all-out dancing - it’s a total celebration of self and otherhood. You can also head to ‘Den Draak’, 'Le Zoo' or the official Pride Night Festival on Saturday if you’re not quite done. There are various fetish nights for those interested and a closing festival on Sunday to round things out.
For the first time, you’ll be able to enroll in ‘Pride Games’ on Friday: a teamwork game where the end goal is to capture a rainbow flag through physical games, brain teasers, style challenges and more. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can head here to get involved. If you’re feeling bendy, join Ashtanga Yoga Antwerp on Saturday for newcomers as well as regulars.
If you’re up for a debate, catch the Symposium on August 10 which focuses on identity themes as discussed by local politicians and a panel of experts.
Finally, and the dad in me is jumping out here: remember to stay fully hydrated (with water) and always be safe and vigilant – let your group know where you’re headed if you decide to split up! Most importantly, if you’re not ready, willing or able to join the crowd out there: we stand with you in spirit. Happy Pride!