The largest LGBTI+ youth organization
Six students from Utrecht fight against the discriminatory legislation aimed to protect young people from homosexuality. In 1969, they establish a ‘‘club for young homophiles’’, PANN. In over 50 years, PANN became the largest LGBTI+ youth organization in the country.
Six Utrecht students established PANN in 1969: Frank van Vliet, Sjef Pijnenburg, Jan Wennink, Jasper van der Linden, Beert van ’t Hoenderdaal en Wouter van der Sluis. They were tired of the lack of spaces for gay youth in their city. At the time, article 248-bis from the Dutch Penal Code criminalized homosexual relationships between adults and minors (under 21). Therefore, the ‘’Dutch Association of Homophiles’’, C.O.C., did not allow visitors under the age of 21. The students decided to take matters into their own hands. On Tuesday, April 15, 1969, they opened the “club for young homophiles” (soosjeteit voor homofiele jongeren), the first PANN event.
The Stonewall riots in the United States are often mentioned as the first gay protest. On June 28, 1969, riots broke out around gay bar Stonewall Inn located in the neighborhood Greenwich Village in New York City. The unplanned uprise against a police raid prompted a week of protest and marked the start of the radical queer movement in the US.
Six months before, on January 21st, 1969, a group of young people gathered at het Binnenhof, the heart of Dutch democracy, in The Hague to protest against the discriminatory Dutch legal provision 248-bis (see webpage 1911 Homosexuality in criminal law). The protest was initiated largely by students from Utrecht and Amsterdam.
Homophile Student Group
On September 18, 1967, the ‘’Homophile Student Group’’ (Homofiel Studenten Dispuut) was founded in Utrecht, followed by similar groups in other cities. They united in the Federation of Student Working Groups Homosexuality / FSWH on March 30th, 1968. The students believed that not them, but society should change. They aimed for an inclusive society through confrontation. The federation dissolved two years later, on July 4, 1970. Thanks to the FSWH and progressive COC members, the COC took a more active course. They adopted FSWH’s confrontational strategy and changed their name to the Dutch Association for the Integration of Homosexuality COC.
Father and Reverend
Two board members from the Homophile Student Group, Nico Brederoo and Rob Tielman, asked 18-year-old Frank van Vliet if he wanted to set up a youth section following the example of gay youth clubs in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Arnhem. The name was quickly found. In Rotterdam in 1968 they had chosen the Greco-Roman god Apollo, who also had sex with men. Then Utrecht had to embrace the Greek god Pan, Apollo’s competitor. “And then we add an ‘n’.” PANN still exists, but Apollo, with a similar formula, was dissolved in 2014.
It took three months before the (private) society opened in the wharf cellar of the Cunera student parish on the Nieuwegracht. Because 248bis was still in force, the students had consulted in advance with the Public Prosecutor whether there was any question of offering the opportunity to commit criminal offences. A social worker, pastor and reverend were present to help young people with problems with self-acceptance, their parents or work environment. J. de Mik, chief board member of the Dutch Association for Sexual Reform / NVSH, opened the first club. The members were mostly boys.
PANN on the barricades
In the 1970s, the club was replaced by a weekly café with a socially critical character. PANN became a visible fighter for gay liberation. She did not hesitate to protest against discrimination in the heart of the Dutch democracy, to perform demonstrative group marriages on the steps of the Utrecht town hall and to form a front against the conservative Cardinal Simonis together with the COC and other organizations.
Shortly after the introduction of the Tuesday evening society, PANN also started an ‘integrated’ social evening with the aim of bringing together people of all kinds of sexual preferences and backgrounds. This was followed by the low-threshold PANN parties, the first of which took place in the Kargadoor (December 1969). From 1971 they were organized monthly, including in Tivoli, SSR, Unitas, Veritas, Rasa and Chez Bébé. Its popularity was visible in the long queues at the door. Popular artists such as Herman Brood and Mathilde Santing provided unforgettable evenings.
In the 1980s Pann changed. She stopped radical actions and became a relevant interlocutor for the public, politicians and interest groups. The curtain fell for the café, partly as a result of the cutbacks in the national scholarship scheme. The monthly PANN parties continued. And with that, the core of PANN remained intact: an accessible meeting place for young people. Petra Luiken, active from 2006 to 2014, put it this way in an interview:
“PANN was my salvation. After I discovered during a trip through Australia that I liked women, I came back to Utrecht. PANN was the only place where I could be myself and meet people who appreciated me for who I was. I have developed close friendships.”
PANN became (and still is) a gateway for LGBTI+ youth to the rainbow community. “At the parties you met your real friends.”
PANN grew fast. In 2006, she welcomed 7,000 visitors to its activities. In 2013 there were 35,000. It also provided Pann with a constant stream of motivated volunteers. In this way, she became a breeding ground for volunteers who are committed to LGBTI + emancipation.
With a historically high number of active volunteers and the successful parties, PANN took on a new challenge in 2013: organizing the national pride: Pink Saturday. She wanted to organize a modern event that made the rainbow community visible in a cheerful way and appealed to young people. PANN submitted a winning bid book to the Pink Saturday Netherlands foundation. The RZ2013 foundation was established for the organization with PANN volunteers as a base. This third Pink Saturday in Utrecht on 29 June 2013 attracted more than 55,000 visitors, making it the most visited RZ edition to date (see window 1986 Pink Saturday).
PANN was – to quote Simon Timmerman (active from 2008 to 2016) – “good with money”. She did not received subsidy from government or charity. On the contrary, she spent the surplus on charities in the LGBTI+ community. There was also a lot of room to experiment with new concepts, such as PANN on Tour (nowadays PANN Glitch), successful series of parties in the country; PANN 25+ for people over 25 years of age; but also a hilarious world record attempt for pink cake bites with local VIP Marijke Helwegen.
The foundation became more and more professional and stable. She also organized increasingly larger events such as the PANN parties at various locations in the Utrecht city centre and the PANNdora parties in Central Studios (and still does).
PANN from 2015
In 2015 Tivoli Oudegracht closed its doors, for many years the home base for PANNs Saturday night parties. With TivoliVredenburg as a new base, she settled in the Ronda room of the brand new Utrecht music palace. In September of that year, she started a new chapter with a sold-out edition. The parties still attract about 1000 visitors every month. PANN has also been organizing an annual outdoor festival in Utrecht and various other activities in and outside Utrecht for many years – in addition to the monthly party in TivoliVredenburg.
PANN received the Bob Angelo award from the national COC in 2009 and was also nominated that year for the Jos Brink award, the national rainbow prize. In 2011 she received the Annie Brouwer-Korf award, the Utrecht rainbow prize. PANN also won five times the public award as best Dutch gay party from Gaysite.nl for the years 2007 to 2011 and once from profile site Gay.nl in 2011.
Evert van der Veen and Kees van den Berg
Eriq Terra en Caroline Linssen Pann, een verhaal apart : 12 jaar jongeren-(homo)sexualiteit-relaties-integratie. Utrecht: Drukkerij Anraad, 1981
Adrianne Dercksen Meer dan een feest. 25 jaar PANN in Utrecht, Utrecht: PANN, 1994
IHLIA: Stichting PANN: https://withpride.ihlia.nl/story/stichting-Pann/
IHLIA: eerste Nederlandse homodemonstratie: https://withpride.ihlia.nl/story/eerste-nederlandse-homodemonstratie/
Interview with Petra Luiken amd Simon Timmerman, June 14th, 2023.