It’s just over a month since we heard the amazing news from the InterPride Annual Conference that Copenhagen Pride will host WorldPride in 2021. We caught up with some of the team to ask about that momentous day, and their plans to bring WorldPride back to Europe in four years’ time.
What’s your role with Copenhagen 2021?
Lars Henriksen (LH): I am the head of Copenhagen Pride and responsible for all that has to do with WorldPride. But because we are creating WorldPride as a joint event with EuroGames and hence are collaborating with PanIdræt to realise the entirety of the event, we have set up a project organisation ‘Happy Copenhagen’, which will serve as secretariat and executive creator of the event. Through this organisation, the event will be planned, created and aligned to be one event with two clearly identifiable identities of WorldPride and EuroGames. In this office we expect approximately 17 Danish and international staff. I am one of these staff, and serve as the political liaison – this means that I am responsible for contact with politicians and decision makers in Denmark and internationally, who support our event, that I am the outreach to activists, but also that internally I oversee the inclusivity and diversity of the event. I am also the liaison to InterPride and to EPOA.
Martin Xaver Dover (MXD): I’m in charge of all things communication-ish. Everything that comes close to social media, outreach to the press, drafting and producing promotional materials and just making our event sound just as awesome as it’s going to be, well, all of that lands on my desk.
Lars Christian Østergreen (LCØ): I am the Managing Director of Happy Copenhagen. Going forward our focus will be to develop the WorldPride event in Copenhagen and to ensure the foundation for the organisation behind. I am responsible for developing our organisation and managing the staff in our secretariat working on promoting and developing Copenhagen 2021.
Helle Bjørnstrup (HB): I am responsible for the more commercial part of Copenhagen Pride. To mention a few of my tasks within Copenhagen Pride I make our support wristband and I make all graphic material – printed and online – such as posters, banners, programs, cover photos etc. I set up our online Facebook events, maintain our website and do the invoicing of our sponsors.
How did it feel when you realised in Indianapolis that you’d won?
MXD: I remember looking at the bars indicating the votes, and after a brief moment I realised the larger one was for Copenhagen. I jumped up and started crying with joy. My first thought: It took a lot of hard work to get to this point. My second thought was: Now we just have to win the bid for EuroGames. My third thought was something like: What have I gotten myself into? Because the hard work has only just started.
LH: Moving, humbling – an incredible relief – and somewhat daunting, as so many people are placing their trust, hopes and dreams with us for 2021. We have worked for the last three years to prepare and rally support. It is a wonderful feeling to have finally delivered on the promises, that WorldPride 2021 WILL be in Copenhagen – now we need to deliver the best, most inclusive and most international event ever. We go to this with great seriousness – very often groups in our community feel left out of mega events like this but we have pledged ourselves to making sure this will NOT be so. We want to show that it IS possible to create an event, that is truly inclusive of and safe for all.
LCØ: At first, I was very surprised. We knew it would not be an easy win, and both my team and especially the supporting European pride organisations had been working very hard on promoting the Copenhagen 2021 bid both ahead of and in Indianapolis. Just before the voting commenced, we were still unsure on the outcome, as there was uncertainty about the level of support among the North American pride organisations. The first thing I did after hearing the amazing result was to give Martin and Lars a big hug, as they are the two I have been with round the clock for the last eighteen months. Lars and I shed tears of happiness from finally seeing the result of our hard work. The next thing I did was to thank the team from Fort Lauderdale and to invite them to continue the dialogue towards 2021.
HB: I jumped! And I believe I screamed a bit of excitement as well. It was somewhat a feeling of joy and relief combined as we have been working towards this moment for quite some time. In the process we have all been emotional wrecks. At times we have felt very insecure about who would win and at other times we have felt quite sure that our bid for WorldPride in 2021 was solid and just what our pride movement needed. I was bouncing back and forth between the two right up to the last seconds before the results from the vote was made public.
You’ve got three years and nine months. What’s the biggest challenge?
LCØ: I believe that our biggest challenge will be to ensure a world event living up to the legacies from the previous WorldPrides and especially the recent one in Madrid and the upcoming one in New York in 2019; and at the same time also show the world OUR Copenhagen, an amazing open and inclusive city, where you can be yourselves, no matter your sexuality or gender.
HB: We have a huge workload ahead of us in making this WorldPride truly inclusive. We must make sure we have representatives of all the community part of the planning process to ensure that all voices are heard in order to make Copenhagen 2021 a WorldPride for everyone. This is not an easy task at all and it is something that we take very seriously. As a 38 year old female-identified cisgendered lesbian I do not see the world through the eyes of a 17 year old muslim bisexual man or a 57 year old transgendered woman, which is why it is so important to include as many representatives of the LGBTQIA+ community as possible to make Copenhagen 2021 truly inclusive.
LH: Needless to say the inclusivity as described above is a challenge, as it has to be tangible, to be felt by all, and not end up as a talking point. We realise that no matter what we do or how we do it, there will be criticism, but we are determined to listen and learn from now and until the closing of the event. Raising funds is of course a challenge too but we are doing well already on that front. In 2009 Copenhagen hosted a very successful World OutGames in 3 years, and we have an additional 9 months which we can easily use, but the positive thing is that the experience from 2009 means that all of Copenhagen are now aware of the positive effects of such an event, and we can feel that in our talks with stakeholders. Another challenge is that so many expect so much of the event for themselves personally and for their organisations, to not disappoint peoples expectations, and at the same time these high hopes are a luxury, because everyone stands at the ready to chip in.
MXD: Oh the biggest challenge is making this event truly inclusive and truly global, because we strive for nothing less. All of our team is committed to making sure that everyone feels safe and embraced in Copenhagen 2021. We’re already working with activist groups from all letters of the acronym, but we will make mistakes down the road and we will have to learn from those.
And what are you looking forward to the most?
HB: I love the planning process of a pride, but the biggest moment for me and what I look forward to the most when it comes to WorldPride in Copenhagen in 2021 is to witness all our plans become a reality and to see the thousands of people feeling free, loved and included in our beautiful city.
LCØ: I look forward to working with prides and LGBTQ organisations from both Denmark, Europe and the rest of the world. Through my job over the last two years, I have met the most fantastic activists from all over the world. Together I am certain that we can create something with a European touch that will give activists, pride participants and athletes unique experiences and tools to bring home after WorldPride 2021.
MXD: Making this event truly inclusive and global. It will be a challenge, but it’s also why I signed up with the Copenhagen 2021 team in the first place: Because WorldPride and EuroGames should be all about inclusivity and our global movement. I’m so excited about working with all kinds of people and all parts of our community in the years ahead to help us do this.
LH: The faces of people when the event unfolds. 2009 was a completely life changing event for me personally – for the first time ever, I was part of what was felt as the majority of the city, as rainbows unfolded everywhere and every nook and alley of Copenhagen was filled with LGBTI+ individuals from all over the world. In 2021, twelve years will have passed and it is time to instil this feeling in a new generation of young people and hopefully create a new generation of activists. I also look forward to inviting people from places in the world where LGBTI+ individuals face far graver challenges than in Denmark and empower, embolden and inspire them in their freedom fight. Their example should be the standard we are all measured by.
Your theme is #YouAreIncluded. What does it mean to you?
LCØ: Three words says it all, and we truly mean it when we are working hard on ensuring that everyone has a say in our event. The Danish Prime Minister spoke to support our bid, and concluded by saying that in Denmark all of us are welcome, because #YouAreInculded! To me that means we all have a place to feel included, and that is exactly what I will do my best to realise over the coming three and a half years.
HB: #YouAreIncluded means that everyone who attends Copenhagen 2021 feels that they are included. Everyone should feel that they have been on our minds when we were planning WorldPride.
LH: That no matter who you are, where you come from, how you identify, what socio-economic background you have, your ethnicity, religion, gender or otherwise, our event is FOR you and BY people like you. That we are safe for all, inclusive of all, and have done all we can so that everyone feels that they have a place and a voice in our event.
MXD: I’m from a small town a few hours away from Copenhagen. Growing up, I experienced many instances where people were made to feel less human in one way or another. It could be based on skin colour, ethnicity, body shape, socio-economic status, your grades in school. All sorts of things. In my case, it was about my sexuality. #YouAreIncluded means that no matter who you are, who you love, how you present, and regardless of everything else, you will feel embraced and loved at Copenhagen 2021.
What’s your favourite Pride moment?
MXD: My best pride moment has to be Copenhagen Pride 2015. I wasn’t attending myself, but the year before, I had brought my parents for their first pride. They loved the feeling, the vibe, the people – everything about it. And in 2015, they went themselves. I always felt like they’ve stood up for me. But knowing that they went for the pride march without me, I knew they were also standing up for everyone else and that made me very proud.
HB: I have been attending Copenhagen Pride Week for quite some years before I joined the team. While I have had many fun and festive moments throughout the years, my biggest moment was the first Copenhagen Pride Week I was part of planning. It was very emotional to see all the hard work and passion for Copenhagen Pride turn into this amazing event that means so much for all of our attendees. When I looked over the crowd at Pride Square and witnessed the huge amount of love and joy I got very emotional and extremely proud of being part of a team who made this happen. And that feeling returns every year.
LCØ: One among lots of others was Stockholm Pride 2016. I was walking in the parade together with some friends. The weather had been nice, but half way through the parade, suddenly the skies darkened and a cloudburst was drenching everyone. It was a magic moment standing in the warm summer rain surrounded by happy people parading through the streets of Stockholm dancing, cheering and waving to the huge crowds of onlookers to the Pride. After a few minutes the rain suddenly stopped and the sun came shining once again on all of us and I was feeling even more proud and happy to be a part of all of this.
LH: Oh – there are many! in 2009 at the opening ceremony in Copenhagen, when the lights shone in the night sky and rain suddenly started to fall. Because of the lights we could see the raindrops far up in the sky, long before we felt them – and they looked like silver glitter descending upon us. I remember standing still for a moment in the vast crowd of people – it was as if everyone looked up at the sky and became silent – we wondered: What is this? Is it glitter? How did they manage to do this? Suddenly we felt the rain on our upturned faces, and it felt invigorating and liberating. The music returned (or rather, my consciousness did) and people started dancing like mad – living the moment. It was as if a higher power was celebrating with us.
Can I share two more moments? In 2017 I was in the Pride in Istanbul – police chased us, and used water cannons, rubber pellets and tear gas – and we ran around in the streets to escape them and at the same time gather as a group. At one point, in an intersection, we were a few hundred who managed to unfold a large banner and read a declaration via a bull horn, before the police again dispersed us, arresting a few activists – but the feeling of having stood up to oppression and defied their effort to silence us was powerful – and the sense of achievement and victory I could feel from the Turkish activists was beautiful and meaningful.
Generally – in every Pride I participate in, some individual touches me and becomes a lasting memory. There are people within our community that display an enormous strength and courage. Either because of their personal circumstances, or because they live in oppressive societies. When I meet them and see how much they can do at such peril to themselves, I feel that my own contribution fades in comparison with them – but I am tremendously inspired, and always end up expecting more of myself – which is a great catalyst for my work.
Copenhagen Pride will take place from 13-19 August 2018. For more information, sign up to Copenhagen 2021‘s mailing list.
Photo: Jesper Hyldal
Editor: Steve Taylor