I ’m sitting on the roof terrace of Stockholm’s Cultural Centre enjoying coffee with Anna Soderstrom, a representative of this year’s EuroPride. She peers over to the Royal Palace, and says: “One day we’ll get the rainbow flag flying from their roof.” I’d wager that day isn’t far off. When EuroPride hits Stockholm for 10 days this summer, the rainbow flag (the banner of the international gay rights movement) will be flying from almost every flagpole in the city, and rainbow stripes will adorn the side of all Stockholm’s public transport.
EuroPride began in 1992 as a festival to bind together Europe’s lesbian and gay communities. It’s hosted by a different European city each year, but never before has it received so much support from the government as it will this time in the Swedish capital. On 25 July–3 August, Stockholm goes gay. From parks and museums, to theatres and even children’s libraries, nowhere in Stockholm will escape the rainbow banner. This is testament to the Swedes’ famously liberal attitude towards sexuality. The Swedish stopped caring about who people share their bed with years ago. Last year, 500,000 of the city’s 1.6 million inhabitants turned out to watch the annual Stockholm Pride Parade, with about 50,000 taking part.
If you are heading to EuroPride this year, Stockholm could not have made it easier. There’s even the tourist board’s Stockholm Gay Network, set up to make your visit as cheap and easy as possible. Special offers on hotels, airport buses and city passes all mean the city has got it covered. Once there, your starting point should be the EuroPride information centre in the Gallerian shopping mall on Hamngatan. Follow the rainbow-coloured moose footprints (we’re not joking!) to the Swedish sauna-inspired structure at the heart of the centre, where you’ll be able to pick up a programme of Pride events and the tickets you need to access them.
EuroPride is split into four strands: Pride House, Pride in the City, The Pride Parade and Pride Park. Both Pride House and Pride in the City are open for the duration of the festival, and counter the perception that Pride events are just about drag queens in feather boas dancing to cheesy music. Held in the capital’s main cultural centre, Kulturhuset, Pride House will host a series of events, talks, debates and theatre productions exploring the theme “Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders”. Swedish Sin refers to the country’s laid-back attitude, acquired back in the 1970s. Remember all those saucy films with busty blondes giggling their way through the flimsiest of plots? You’ve got the idea. It also looks at how Sweden exports its liberal mentality to less enlightened countries, and will feature various writers, politicians and high-profile spokes people.
Pride House will also have a youth centre for teens to hang out in and, uncontroversially for Sweden, a children’s library with gaythemed books for parents and children to flick through.
Pride in the City refers to the many cultural events taking place across Stockholm. Most of the city’s big museums are hosting exhibitions put together especially for EuroPride. Simply purchase a Stockholm Card EuroPride from the information centre for SEK 415 (€44) to get free access, along with special offers.
Pride Park opens on 30 July in Tantolunden, in the Södermalm neighbourhood. This is when EuroPride begins to resemble what we already know and love about Pride events – for instance, drag queens in feather boas dancing to cheesy music. For five days, this gorgeous park on Stockholm’s southern island will be transformed into a giant open-air festival. The only way to access this is by buying specially designed dog tags from the EuroPride information centre. Inside, there will be restaurants and bars, stages for music and speeches, a dance tent and wide-open spaces just to chill out in.
A special treat will be the “Schlager” night. Schlager is Northern European folk music. You might expect these tunes to evoke Scandinavia’s Viking ancestors, but you’d be wrong. Schlager dominates the Eurovision Song Contest; yet a genre that most Europeans can only bear one night of the year is a way of life in Sweden. On Thursday evening, former Eurovision winners will perform their “hits”. Be afraid!