by Leander Milbrecht
This year, LGBTs all over the world celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. It is a good opportunity to consider what we can give back to older LGBT generations who fought for equality all their lives.
Oebele Kooistra has been organising the SeniorPride concert in Amsterdam since 2006 – there is nothing quite like it elsewhere. SPARTACUS talked to him about the concert, his experiences and the dialogue between the generations.
How popular and cherished is SeniorPride today?
After years of hard work, with perseverance and the help of a lot of volunteers and sponsors we are one of the most popular events during Pride Amsterdam. Recently we moved to a bigger place, an enchanting square in the centre of Amsterdam, with a lot more space outdoor: the Nieuwmarkt. In 2015, the organisation of Pride Amsterdam offered to help us so we could operate under their wings. From then on we named ourselves SeniorPride. SeniorPride can only be organised thanks to the help of sponsors, like Stephen Thompson. These companies take responsibility and contribute to our community. This year, during Pride Amsterdam, following in our footsteps, there are more than 50 events for seniors in the elderly homes and places like the Amsterdam Museum.
Where did you get the idea for this event?
I visited Barcelona on a city trip with a friend in 2004. We discovered that behind our hotel there was a place advertising as LGBT venue. That night we went there too early. The place was empty and only had one bar. Suddenly the doors swept open and a crowd of senior gays entered and also a lot of people in wheelchairs and they started to dance almost immediality, also with the wheelchairs. It was at that instant that we realised why there were no chairs and tables in the room. They needed the whole place so everybody could dance. We had a lovely evening. Unfortunately, at that time there were almost no activities for senior LGBT persons in Amsterdam anymore.
© Metje Blaak
And you wanted to change that?
I wanted to translate our experience in Barcelona to the local situation and culture in The Netherlands. Some local gay bars in Amsterdam were prepared to sponsor my idea. I found a place where the toilets were on the same floor – so people in wheelchairs could be welcomed too. We started to organise the first evenings for senior LGBT’s. The same year, in 2006, we organised GreyPride on a pontoon on the canal. It was a huge success instantely. Also because of my contacts with famous Dutch artists. Though people first didn’t want to accept our invitations, some even did tear apart our flyers before our eyes.
It’s Stonewall50 this year. What do the younger LGBT generations owe the older generations?
We owe them that they stood up for our rights and they should be cherished. They laid the foundation we can use to continue to build our community. We honour our pioneers and seniors with the organisation of the SeniorPride Concert.
Our experience is that if you organise a professional event with an interesting program young LGBT’s will show up. If you create a community they will be there. They even like to help us with the organisation, I think that’s a beginning to improve the dialogue between the generations.
What positive feedback have you received in past years?
We’re a little bit overwhelmed the last years by the help of sponsors, volunteers who like to join us and artists who want to perform. Our organisation consists of volunteers who use their professionality or experience. We also coach volunteers. We need all kind of skills to organise the event.
SeniorPride is a lovers lane too. Since we’ve started we celebrated quite some marriages. It happens by chance. Because there aren’t a lot of bars anymore or other venues, so every opportunity to meet senior LGBT’s is welcome.
Have you heard of similar events in other countries?
No, but senior LGBT’s are starting to organise themselves now, we have contact with some groups in the USA and Greece.
What are your plans for this year, what does the program look like?
On the first of August we organise the SeniorPride Concert 2019 and we expect about two thousand visitors. We are remembering the Stonewall riots and we asked famous Dutch troubadours to perform. There will be enough room to dance, chat, snack and drink.
There are numerous artists who will be on stage, including Lenny Kuhr, Mieke Stemerdink and Mariska van Kolck. You can check our program on our website.
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