The vision for Copenhagen 2021’s culture program was multifaceted but tied together by the desire to include as large a part of the existing cultural life in Copenhagen as possible – and at the same time use the event as a point of departure for new artistic expressions and new alliances.
Through an extensive collaboration with the city’s cultural institutions and artists from all over the world, the goal was to make the city one big bubbly and rainbow-coloured performance scene and show Copenhagen as a vibrant, creative and welcoming capital.
The inclusion of new technologies, e.g. virtual reality videos that could embrace and convey the atmosphere of Copenhagen2021 should, after the event, be possible to use in educational contexts and in capacity building of LGBTI+ activists.
External culture partners
The activation and integration the city’s major cultural institutions, parks and tourist attractions as participants in a mega event that encompasses the entire city, so that no matter who you were, where you lived and whatever you did in the ten days, you would experience yourself as part of Copenhagen2021 and the overall theme #YouAreIncluded.
In addition to the city’s own cultural institutions, the vision was to invite national and international artists and ensembles from around the world to take in e.g. the city’s squares and bridges with music, theatre and exhibitions and thus be co-creators of the special Copenhagen ‘hygge’ atmosphere.
It was also desired that ‘colleagues’ from all major Copenhagen festivals were invited to Copenhagen 2021 with the explicit purpose of creating activation and offer ‘tastings’ of festival life in Copenhagen, in order to arouse an interest in Copenhagen 2021’s international guests, so that they might come back to the city for other major events.
As a special legacy, artists would be invited to interpret the spirit of WorldPride in Copenhagen in a number of different ways and gather all the works in a delectable coffee table version as a souvenir for foreign guests and a reminder of everything that was achieved during the event.
New technology was to encapsulate the atmosphere during WorldPride in Copenhagen in e.g. virtual reality videos that can be used in teaching materials and in capacity building for LGBTI+ activists.
In the original proposal for the culture program for Copenhagen 2021, as it was presented in the bid to InterPride, independent theme-based venues were not considered. These were developed during the project and ended up taking up a very large part of the Culture team’s activities.
Thus, the Pride pillar described Copenhagen as a traditionally child-friendly city and the wish to welcome rainbow families from all over the world to for example Tivoli, Copenhagen Zoo and the city’s many staffed playgrounds in the process, developed into a 7-day venue for Rainbow Families and Rainbow Children with its own program and decor.
During the five years from 2016, when the original ideas for the culture program were formulated in the bidding material, and until delivery in 2021, the program was changed, developed and expanded several times.
In 2019, a delegation from Happy Copenhagen participated in WorldPride in New York, and here the Youth Area made a big impression and resulted in the decision to establish a similar venture during Copenhagen 2021 with separate spaces for families with children and young people aged 13-18 years respectively.
During that same period of time Danish lesbian organisations expressed a wish to establish a separate space for women. Such a place had, somewhat spontaneously, been created during the OutGames in Copenhagen in 2009 and had very quickly proved to have a large and enthusiastic audience.
Finally, the venue Arcadia – A Meeting Place emerged due to a desire to add an experimental art space in the Town Hall Garden. Along the way, content for the garden had to change focus, partly due to the restrictions that the pandemic placed on the entry of international artists, and partly due to a necessary general re-prioritization of the total funds for the culture program. The venue in the garden was maintained as part of the event and was decorated as a calm, beautiful and welcoming garden with emphasis on Copenhagen 2021’s theme #YouAreIncluded and the Sustainable Development Goals challenge to #LeaveNoOneBehind.
The youth area was further expanded from one to two places, so that it consisted of both an indoor safe space for 13-18 -year-olds and an outdoor festival place, where the age limit was raised to 21.
This meant that the culture program was in place with five theme-based places, each with their own content and physical expression.
But with the onset of the pandemic, all plans had to be reconsidered. Changeable government announcements regarding capacity and access conditions at major public events and cultural events meant that over the spring of 2021, we had to rethink the layout of the squares several times so that they followed the rules in content and layout. In total, all pitches were redrawn three times in relation to fences, access control, and visitor safety.
Despite the pandemic restrictions and the consequent changes we were forced to make, the culture program in Copenhagen became the largest ever during a WorldPride and a EuroGames.
A recurring theme in all of the discussions and changes made on the basis of the pandemic restrictions, was maintaining the background and basic ideas and visions for the spaces. The need for a family venue, for youth areas and for a place focusing on women, genderqueer and non-binary people did not disappear with the pandemic. The challenge was simply to be able to offer meaningful content under the – possibly – more restrictive access conditions.
Only quite a short time before the event, most restrictions were lifted and the original plans for the seats, the stage programs and the audience capacity could be retrieved and activated again.
External Culture Program
Including the cultural institutions in and around Copenhagen turned out to be a great success. Both old established institutions such as the State Museum of Art, The National Museum, The Royal Theater, Opera House, Folketeatret, Københavns Museum, Copenhagen Contemporary, Nikolaj Kunsthal and a large number of galleries, smaller theaters and performance stages took part in the program. Of the more unusual partners Medicinsk Museion took part of the Copenhagen 2021 Arts and Culture Program.
To include visibility in the streets, we organized three outdoor exhibitions in Ørstedsparken, at Rådhuspladsen (WorldPride Square) and Solbjerg Plads (Frederiksberg), a pop-up queer opera performance at Nørreport Station and daily monologues in Ørstedsparken.
In collaboration with Bellahøj Svømmehal we showed examples of the Danish version of ‘Memorial Quilts’, a project made to commemorate victims of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s.
At the Human Rights Conference in Øksnehallen, Memorial Quilts were hung from the ceiling down and a photo exhibition by Thomas Cato with portraits of LGBTI-refugees framed essential parts of the conference.
From January – August 2021 the program grew week by week and the ambitious goal of 50 individual collaborations could easily have been reached, as culture institutions, individual artists and art-project by themselves reached out to us asking for ways to participate in the culture program. However, at close to 40 individual collaborations, the program was already overwhelming, reaching almost 1000 single performances, shows, exhibitions etc.
The original plans for including artists from all over the world had to be revised due to the pandemic and changed for a focus on primarily Danish and Scandinavian participants. Nonetheless, the diversity and quality of the program was impressive and the evaluations from our culture partners has been overall very positive with a few negative comments about ‘drowning’ in the extensive program or not getting enough attention on social media and in the App.
During the event representatives from the culture program at Copenhagen 2021 visited as many culture partners as possible together with the representative from Copenhagen Pride Culture team to ensure a smooth handing over.
Rainbow Families and Rainbow Children aged up to 12 were given their own square for the whole week.
Opening Days: 14-21 August
Opening Hours: 9.00 – 19.00
In the morning kindergartens and pre-schools were invited to experience our rainbow colored childrens universe, while rainbow families and other families alike were welcome all day.
Workshop areas, playgrounds and a small stage offered inclusive and non-binary activities for all children and their families. Stage shows and daily flag ceremonies were mainly performed by LGBTI-representatives, who served as role models for children of Rainbow Families.
Throughout the planning phase, representatives for Rainbow Families were involved as Advisory Board to ensure that the program for Rainbow Children @ BLOX was in line with visions and target group.
Huset 2021 consisted of two venues made for young people by young people offering a full eight-day program focusing on LGBTI+ youth, friends, and allies.
A Danish report from 2021 shows that more than half of young LGBTI+ people in the age group harmed themselves or attempted suicide. Huset 2021 was designed to offer a safer space for young people, for whom Pride is attractive but who would benefit from a dedicated area to create their own celebration and enjoy Copenhagen 2021 on their own terms.
During eight full days, Huset 2021 offered a curated and varied program for all LGBTI+ young people, their allies, friends, and school classes to feel welcome, seen and heard.
The school program attracted 360 participants in five days and reached almost maximum capacity.
Huset 2021 included two connected venues: Main House – a five-story city house (HusetKBH), and Front Yard – an outdoor festival site along the canal (Frederiksholms Kanal / Stormgade).
Both areas opened on 14 August and closed with several hundred young participants marching together in the WorldPride March on Saturday 21 August.
All activities in Main House and at Front Yard were free to attend and apart from the school program no registration was required.
Opening Days: 14 – 20 August
Weekdays 09.45 – 22.00
Activities 10.00 – 21.45
School Activities 10.00 – 12.30
Weekends 12.00 – 22.30
Main House was an alcohol and smoke-free area, photography was prohibited, and grown-ups were only allowed inside by invitation, either by a young guest or as performer or delivery person.
Activities in Main House – all planned and executed by young activists:
Utility Room: Welcome area with a café, clothes swap station and reading area. Includers welcomed the young guests and introduced them to Main House and the many activities.
Dining room: A room for counseling, board games and communal dining. AURA, a youth organisation affiliated with LGBT+ Denmark, provided counseling for young guests. Every day 50 young people joined in a free vegan meal. The food was provided by the organisation Ishtar – a socio economical organization run by women from ethnic minorities.
Living Room: three curated movies were shown in the cinema every day. All movies were aimed for the age group and captured aspects of being a young LGBTI-person. In the morning movies were part of the special program for schools.
The Garage: Workshops and talks in The Garage was all about technology and communication: Young LGBTI-influencers opened for discussions on how to navigate safely on Tik Tok, YouTube and Instagram. Photo- and video workshops showed new ways of presenting fluid gender or statements like #YouAreIncluded. DJ-workshops and Speaker-workshops helped all participants raise their voice – loud and clear.
Your Room: The professionally equipped theater room offered free showings of popular plays, Gaga-dance and Drag Shows.
Volunteer hub: Registration of Includers for Main House and Front Yard took place in the cozy Volunteer Hub, where everybody could meet for lunch, coffee or a catching up with friends.
The Courtyard: As part of Main House was a courtyard that with lots of plants and garden furniture provided as a welcoming hang out-space.
Opening Days: 14-21 August
Weekdays: 14.00 – 22.00
Weekends: 14.00 – 23.00
Around the corner from Main House, a closed festival site called Front Yard had focus on visibility, self-realization, and a tribute to diversity.
With workshops, stage for live bands and DJ set-up, lounge areas with the opportunity to ‘hang out’ and create networks, Front Yard was a space for community building with creative activities, panel debates, youth policy speeches and preparation for joint participation in the great WorldPride March and more.
Workshops and stage program at Front Yard was aimed at young people aged 13-21 – but everybody was welcome.
In the afternoon, the stage was used for panel discussions and debates with topics such as: ‘Activism through time – who are we on the shoulders of?’, ‘What’s in a Family?’, ‘Drag for beginners’ and a theme day on HIV and AIDS.
Through late afternoons and weekend evenings young upcoming LGBTI musicians and DJs took the stage and turned the cobbled street into a dance floor and youth party.
Throughout the planning phase, LGBTI+ youth organizations were involved. An Advisory Board, consisting of representatives of the organizations, met several times to ensure that the program for Huset 2021 was in line with objectives and target groups.
During event execution, a large number of youth organisations were active in workshops such as mediators, hosts or panelists.
Opening days: 13-21 August
Every day 14-16: Political talks and debates
Every day 16 – 17: Writers Voice
Week days: 19 – 22: Concerts and DJs
Weekends: 19 – 23: Concerts and DJs
Fluid Festival hosted 26 live concerts, a ’Writers Voice’ with performances by 22 authors and poets, daily political talks with speakers and activists from all over the world: Fluid Festival presented a unique full nine-day celebration of women, genderqueers and non-binary identities.
Situated in one of the most beautiful locations along the canal in the oldest part of Copenhagen, Fluid Festival took advantage of the cobble stones, the big old trees and the always present water element at the square to build a space focusing on aesthetic, inclusion and good vibes.
On stage a 100% representation of lesbians, genderqueer and non-binary speakers and artists offered a total of 58 hours of curated program. Though everybody – in- or outside the LGBTI+ acronym – were welcome and included at Fluid Festival, we believe, that the very conscious choice of representation at stage created a special athmosphere – hard to describe, but easy to feel.
A circle stage was center for political talks, performances, concerts and DJ-sets, while four separate lounge areas around the square – including four big wooden rafts in the canal – invited everybody to network and enjoy drinks from the two bars offering a selection of beer and wine and light meals from the two food trucks – one vegan and one meat.
Most of our ambitions for Fluid Festival were met. Of course the pandemic made it difficult in due time to engage artists and speakers from outside Europe and instead we strengthened cooperation with our neighbouring countries with af focus on intersectional minorities in Scandinavia. But even though we managed to ensure the diverse representation of minorities, that we aimed for.
Opening days: 14-22 August
Every day 10 – 20.
The quiet city garden located a short walk from WorldPride Square was designed for everybody seeking a break from the city-noise. Arcadia emphasised the already-romantic feel of this almost secret garden, adding delicate garden furniture’s, huge hammocks with room for two, double sized been bags and puffs spread out on the lawns.
Arcadia build on two basic statements: Our own #YouAreIncluded and the Sustainable Development Goals’ challenge to #LeaveNoOneBehind. To reach this, daily friendship speed-dating offered everybody the chance to meet new people. Garden games like crochet, boule and a variety of board games made Arcadia an including, relaxing and playful space.
Every day for one hour, guests enjoyed a free classic concert performed by professional musicians and singers, either a string quartet playing LGBTI+ iconic songs, a male soprano and pianist or a queer opera. Classic concerts are a rare feature at Pride, but the concerts in Arcadia showed that there is an audience for this type of entertainment.
On Thursday 19, Copenhagen Municipality invited our guests to get married in Arcadia, and at least one couple from Israel were happy to tie the knot in Arcadia.