Largest Utrecht LGBTI+ event
The first Utrecht Canal Pride in 2017 was an immediate success and – despite the Corona restrictions – grew every year. Robbert Kalff of the Utrecht queer cafe Kalff started this initiative out of frustration about the exclusion from the Amsterdam Pride.
Utrecht Canal Pride experienced its first edition on June 17, 2017 as the start of the Midzomergracht Festival. Initiator was Robbert Kalff. Queer cafe Kalff participated in the Canal Parade in Amsterdam under his leadership until 2015.
The Canal Parade is an important part of Pride Amsterdam, a festive LGBTI+ event that has been held annually in the capital since 1996 during the first weekend of August. Since 2014, the organization has been in the hands of the Amsterdam Gay Pride (AGP) foundation, which is also responsible for bringing in the EuroPride 2016. APG was criticized because the boat parade was becoming too commercial. The EuroPride in 2016 only allowed the most beautiful boats to sail with the result that smaller ‘gay boats’ did not pass the ballot, including the boat of cafe Kalff. This led to protest and dissatisfaction which, after much discussion, was converted into a new initiative: a boat parade on the beautiful Utrecht canals. The Utrecht Canal Pride was born.
Jan van Zanen
Two important organizations were enthusiastic about the plan from the start: the Municipality of Utrecht and COC Midden-Nederland. Both aim to improve acceptance and increase visibility and it was expected that a Utrecht Canal Pride would certainly contribute to this. Robert Kalff and 5 other enthusiasts (Peter Muusers-Meeuwsen, Jelle Klaas Beekhuizen, Roald Stolk, Remy van der Pas and Ralf Mens) then founded the Utrecht Canal Pride Foundation (now Utrecht Pride). Mayor Jan van Zanen also joined the enthusiasts and on June 17, 2017, 27 boats sailed through the Oudegracht and the canals with the slogan ‘Proud through Utrecht’. At the time, this was still done under the umbrella of the Midzomergracht Festival.
The success of the first edition elicited the words ‘A tradition is born’ immediately after the parade. And the mayor was right, because the following year, in 2018, the second edition with 41 boats was a fact. This time as an independent event on Saturday 2 June. From that year on, the first Saturday in June would become the fixed day of the parade. In 2019, the (almost) maximum number of boats (48) sailed through the waters of Utrecht.
In the first year 25,000 visitors came to the event, the following year that number immediately doubled. Following the parade in 2017, there was a packed street party on and around the Jacobi Bridge. In 2018, this expanded to the square next to the Jacobikerk and to the (outdoor) restaurant Roost on the singel (boulevard) near Paardenveld (Horse Field).
Due to the corona measures, no parade could take place in 2020 and 2021. In that last year, the blood was crawling where it couldn’t go and the UCP organization went ahead anyway: with one boat with none other than the brand new mayor Sharon Dijksma on board.
In 2022 it was possible to unpack again. It was a very special and festive edition, partly because the route was expanded with the newly opened Catharijnesingel. Thus, for the first time, a full circle could be made. With 50 boats and 100,000 visitors.
Utrecht Pride has quickly developed into a true city-wide event in the city, festive for everyone, on the boat or on shore. The boat parade makes a major contribution to the visibility of the LGBTI+ community and hopes to contribute to its acceptance. The unique Utrecht character and the enormous diversity of participants contribute to the success.
On Saturday, November 26, 2022, Utrecht Pride received the Annie Brouwer Korf Award.
Robbert Kalff and Kees van den Berg