Adam Smith reviews pride in Reykjavik held last weekend where almost half of the city turns out to celebrate LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) rights 64° north.
When I told people I was going to gay pride in Iceland I got a lot of strange looks. A bloke at work told me “It’s gonna be 6 Eskimos leading a rainbow coloured moose”. When we arrived and I saw how small Reykjavik, the capital city where two thirds of the population lives is, I thought that 6 Eskimos might be optimistic.

However a short stroll down the main street Laugavegur made me think twice. Nearly every shop, bar, restaurant and house (yes, people appeared to live on the main road, in detached houses with gardens) had a rainbow flag in the window.

For any of you who have seen ‘Rick and Steve’, it looked similar to West Lahunga Beach but with less palm trees and more mountains in the background. After we had been into numerous clothes shops, cafes, newsagents and pharmacies all displaying copies of the official gay magazine, I began to think that maybe Iceland Pride was going to be bigger than I had thought.

On the day of the parade we got to Laugavegur just as the parade was beginning. There were no crowd barriers along the street – the parade route was lined with what looked like most of Reykjavik’s population (ok, it was 80,000 out of 200,000) waving rainbow flags, wearing rainbow hats and sucking rainbow lollies. It appeared that people from all walks of life – families, groups of teenagers, twenty-somethings, gaggles of old women with their fold out chairs, had all come to watch the event. There were even a few gays in there somewhere.

The parade itself was more of a hotchpotch of the gay community. Dykes on bikes led the way, followed by people with very official looking rainbow flags. Then came a series of floats with various characters on board (they may have made more sense if you could understand the Icelandic banners) and people strolling along in national costumes, two floats full of Thais and a host of people who looked like they had just got swept into the parade. At the end of the parade came a big sausage full of rainbow coloured balloons.

What there weren’t were a load of muscled boys in hot pants that are symptomatic of prides in London and other major cities. Now of course this was partly due to the city’s location at 64° north, but also because that’s not what the day is about. The atmosphere is definitely inclusive, and more about the wider community showing their support for gay, lesbian and bisexual people than a street party to get drunk and pull.

Director of Pride, Heimir Már Pétursson explained to PinkNews.co.uk: “We have managed to turn the festival to a celebration of human rights in general, not just gay rights.
“We also urge our families, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers to come. Iceland is such a small society, people either get the point or not.”

The parade ended at Arnarhóll, a park on a hill overlooking the city where a crowd gathered in front of the stage. Various Europop acts played, though disappointingly there was no sign of the country’s openly lesbian Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. Indeed when PinkNews.co.uk asked her spokesman if she supported pride we were told “well she is not opposed to it.” When we enquired if we could interview her, we were told that she only gives interviews in Icelandic and that she would never speaks about her sexuality.

Despite the no show of their leader, the crowd seemed to enjoy the acts (including the many different Icelandic variations of ‘I will survive’) and at the end a huge cheer went up when the sausage of balloons were released into the air. Then everyone drifted off, some people to get back home, others to the bars and restaurants in the city and a large crowd of teenagers gathered in Ingólfstorg, one of the small squares dotted around the city.

Everything calmed down somewhat for a few hours until people headed to town again, this time for a night of food, booze and cheesy music. The official pride party was at Nasa, Reykjavik’s largest nightclub. The music was gay europop, but the crowd loved it despite many of them not actually being gay but then that seemed to be the theme of pride in this very integrated, liberal city.

Adam and his boyfriend, PinkNews.co.uk publisher Benjamin Cohen stayed at Centerhotel Ararhvolur and flew with Iceland Express.

Iceland Express flies daily from London Gatwick to Reykjavik and prices start from £69.00 one way including taxes. For reservations go to www.icelandexpress.com, or call 0118 321 8384.

Adam’s photos can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/adman_as/