Hundreds of thousands of people celebrating diversity: Amsterdam Gay Pride.

20 years
Amsterdam Gay Pride

Meet the man behind this celebration of diversity

Lucien Spee is CEO of Stichting Amsterdam Gay Pride, the foundation behind this high-scale event that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Dutch capital every year to celebrate diversity.

Lucien Spee, CEO of Stichting Amsterdam Gaypride.

The Amsterdam Gay Pride celebrates it’s 20th anniversary this year. What is the formula that makes it so successful and spectacular?

“Amsterdam Gay Pride is a festival to celebrate that you can be who you are and love the one you want. We share love and accept differences.

Over the last 20 years our nine-day festival evolved into one of the biggest and best celebrations of its kind around the globe attracting over 500.000 participants and visitors to stay and play in Amsterdam.

The city turns into a rainbow of events in gay and open-minded venues, from dance parties to film festivals, sporting events, debates and culture. The second weekend we blow your mind with a weekend of outdoor parties, the world famous Canal Parade and a unique Human Rights Concert on the closing Sunday.”

VIP tribune, AGP 2013

Your team is very lean. How do you manage to organize and event of this size with such a small group of people?

“We work with voluntary committees like Arts & Culture Pride, Lesbian Pride, Party Pride, Canal Pride, etc. Next to that we are blessed with companies who help us out for free, like you guys.” (note of the editor: VBAT is the Branding and Design Agency behind AGP)

Each year, the Gay Pride has a number of ambassadors. Who are the chosen ones in 2015? Why them?

Emmaly Brown, because she is very open minded, young and is open about her bisexuality.

Dolly Bellefleur, because of her 25 years of commitment to the LGBT community. The diva was recently also awarded with the prestigious Andreas Penning by the Mayor of Amsterdam.

Raymi Sambo, this year we also wanted a Caribbean Ambassador because this year we celebrate 20 years and have a unique cooperation for a boat in the Canal Parade together with the Pride’s of Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten. I am very proud of this partnership with which we want to emphasize the unity of the kingdom, but also want to draw attention to the differences in rights of LGBT’s. Raymi comes from Curaçao, is both famous here in the Netherlands as on the islands and has a strong drive to do break taboos.”

You did a photo shoot of this year’s AGP Ambassadors. Who was the photographer?

Marcus Koppen and he really made some magical pictures. That guy is not only a photographer but an artist.”

Dolly Bellefleur. Ambassador of AGP 2015. Photo: Marcus Koppen
Emmaly Brown. Ambassador of AGP 2015. Photo: Marcus Koppen
Raymi Sambo. Ambassador of AGP 2015. Photo: Marcus Koppen.
Preparation for AGP Photoshoot 2015. Photo: Jeroen Ploeger.
Photo: Jeroen Ploeger.
Marcus Koppen shooting the AGP 2015 campaign. Photo: Jeroen Ploeger.

Eric van Tijn is the composer of this year’s Gay Pride Anthem. How did you manage to get him involved, and who will be the singer?

“At the end of 2014 I got in contact with his sister and she arranged a meeting for us wit Eric and Jochem Fluitsma, his companion . They were very enthusiastic and because their love for our festival and what it stands for they were willing to help us out. When we asked Emmaly Brown he was even more enthusiastic.”

Eric van Tijn and Emmaly Brown working on the Gay Pride Anthem. Photo: Jeroen Ploeger.

The theme of this year’s Gay Pride is SHARE. Can you explain the theme a bit more in detail?

“Sharing is multiplying; Shared joy is double joy. Sharing is caring for another, respect each other and accept each other’s differences. It is above all showing our diversity to the world. Share love, love differences. With this theme we call on everybody to share something this summer.”

For us here in the Netherlands, homosexuality is pretty normal. Or is it?

“A remark often made by heterosexuals is that Pride today is unnecessary and the LGBT emancipation would be completed. That statement is usually based purely on the legal equality, which is passed to the social and economic inequality.

The diversity is tolerated in the Netherlands, although increasingly, but still not accepted.

Additionally, for many believers and LGBT’s with a different cultural background it is still not possible to come out of the closet without outcast or being abused, let alone when developing a happy and fully human. Therefore, last year we were particularly proud of the participants of the Moroccan boat that have ensured that now has started a dialogue openly within the community. The need for this was once again painfully endorsed by the statements of the Moroccan politician Mouna Jabrane which have even led to a complaint against her with the police by the Moroccan member of parliament Ahmed Marcouch due encourages gay hatred.”

The AGP gives a voice to people in countries, where homosexuality still is forbidden. What can we do from here to help make things change?

“We can give them hope by showing them what we achieved during the last 30 years, give them power to keep on fighting for equal rights. At the same time we can ask our government to put pressure on these regimes that do persecution.”

An Italian tour company is now offering art tours of the Vatican that focus on the sexualities of Michelangelo and other great 16th and 17th-century masters. Do you think that with the new pope the attitude of the church towards homosexuality will change?

“The new pope asked openly “who am I to judge” but he did not say that God did not judge. Only recently the Vatican called the gay marriage referendum victory in Ireland ‘a defeat for humanity’.”

Amsterdam Gay Pride is famous for it’s huge entertainment factor. Last year, AGP welcomed Eurovision Songcontest winner 2014, Conchita Wurst:

Eurovision Songcontest winner 2014 Conchita Wurst at AGP 2014

Next year, Amsterdam will host the EuroPride. What’s the difference between a regular Gay Pride and EuroPride, and why is it so important for the city of Amsterdam?

“EuroPride 2016 will last two weeks from 23 July / August 7, with Pink Saturday and the Gay Parade on July 30th, a European TV concert on the Dam Square on Sunday, July 31st , and the street and the world famous Boat Parade with European twist in the last weekend.

Compared to a regular Amsterdam Gay Pride, EuroPride will also be distinguished by the many important international LGBT conferences, sports and other events that will take place, including The World Conference for LGBT law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, The European Bisexual Conference, International Workplace Pride Conference, Smashing Pink Tennis Tournament European and International LGBT Choir Festival at the Royal Concert Hall.

Also, many Amsterdam Museums show special LGBT related collections and participate in a unique EuroPride Art route that will also contain objects in public space.”

Is there any other big event you’d really like to organize once in your life?

“Sail 2020 or World Pride 2027 in Amsterdam”

What’s the importance of art and design in the gay world?

“I am not really a fashion queen, don’t even know many designers by name. I think it is very stereotype to think that every Gay has a strong feeling for fashion and design.”

Who’s your favourite designer?

“Dutch design in general makes my heart beat faster, but I only know one name though and that is Marcel Wanders. The new Andaz Hotel at the Prinsengracht is completely designed by him and is exactly my taste.”

Marcel Wanders. Photo courtesy of Marcel Wanders
Andaz Hotel Amsterdam by Marcel Wanders

And finally: Amsterdam or Rome?

“Amsterdam, without any doubt. Rome is nice for a romantic holiday but there is no place like Amsterdam.”

In 2013, Amsterdam Branding and Design agency VBAT have refreshed the visual identity of Amsterdam Gay Pride. VBAT’s Creative Director Graham Sturt about the close cooperation with Lucien Spee and the AGP Foundation:

“From the very first meeting with Lucien and his team at AGP it was clear that their ambition was to make Amsterdam Gay Pride the No.1 LGBT festival worldwide as soon as possible.

Our response to this was to create a brand identity for AGP that, as much as possible, avoided the usual cliches to do with gay events.

For us it was more important to focus on the event as a global celebration of the diversity of the LGBT community and to create an identity that could be appreciated and embraced by everyone. As such we developed a distinctive AGP logo which could be interpreted in a diverse number of graphic ways and a visual language which could be adapted year on year to keep the event’s communication fresh. Having now worked on this for three years it makes me proud to see how well our system has worked for AGP. It’s always been our intention to build AGP’s identity style towards Amsterdam’s hosting of EuroPride 2016 and I’m really looking forward to unveiling some very special work by VBAT for that then.”

VBAT’s logo for AGP and campaign images from 2013
AGP Tattoos 2013
Online adaptation of new AGP visual identity 2013

AGP campaign 2014
Sjeezy Pearl. Ambassador of AGP 2014.Photo: Marjolein van Veen.
Sieb de Haan. Ambassador of AGP 2014. Photo: Marjolein van Veen.
Lady Galore. Ambassador of AGP 2014. Photo: Marjolein van Veen.
AGP Tattoo 2014

Watch the after movie of last year’s AGP and make sure not to miss Amsterdam Gay Pride 2015!

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