From Iceland — Pride In A Pandemic: Reykjavík Pride Reshapes Itself For 2020

Pride In A Pandemic: Reykjavík Pride Reshapes Itself For 2020

Published July 20, 2020

Pride In A Pandemic: Reykjavík Pride Reshapes Itself For 2020
Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Art Bicnick

“Our first decision was that, no matter what, we weren’t going to cancel,” Vilhjálmur “Villi” Ingi Vilhjálmsson, the President of Reykjavík Pride, says proudly. Sitting back, he takes a bite of a croissant, apologising quickly for eating during the interview—he’s been in Pride meetings all day, he explains. “Of course,” he continues, “this year, we wouldn’t be able to gather 80,000 downtown for a parade, but Pride is about so much more than just walking down one street. The parade is just the mask.”

The regulations and gathering bans surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic meant the big events and fantastical parade that Reykjavík Pride had become synonymous with were impossible. This forced the board, when planning the 2020 iteration, Villi explains, to dive down into the festival’s roots. “We started to think: What is the meaning of Pride? What is the core identity? What are we really trying to do here?” The answer, he emphasises, was visibility. “It’s acknowledgement. It’s seeing people showcased that you can bond with or see yourselves in. It’s education… It’s a community coming together.”

Reykjavík Pride

Villi Vill. Photo by Art Bicnick

Inviting everyone in

While Reykjavík Pride will have a parade this year, Villi reiterates, it won’t be centralised physically. “We will all walk at the same time, but not in the same place. So each group is together mentally but—for safety reasons—going separate ways,” he explains. The unexpected benefit of this, though, is that it’ll bring Pride to a wider audience. “We can reach neighbourhoods that have never seen a Pride parade and people that don’t come downtown.”

“We started to think: What is the meaning of Pride? What is the core identity? What are we really trying to do here?”

So the focus on this year’s festival will be less on massive entertainment spectacles and more on educational and cultural events. Yes, there will be the traditional Opening Ceremony, but it’ll be less focused on what performers are on stage and more on bringing people together socially.

“We want to create the space of people in the community seeing each other. It’s a family gathering,” he says. “It’s one thing to invite people in and say that you invite everybody in, but it’s another to create an environment where everybody feels invited. That’s what we need.” Along with that, Pride will also be lowering the ticket prices and allowing those in difficult financial positions to request free admission, with Villi explaining that the team is “listening to the criticisms that we got last year.”

In terms of educational events, Pride 2020 will feature lectures and conversations on Black Lives Matter and transphobia and particularly the bigotry of TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). It’ll also look at LGBTQIA+ individuals in the school system, as well as put on networking events for queer people in the job market.

Other outreach events will focus on queer immigrants. “Maybe we haven’t been looking enough into the foreign demographic in Iceland,” Villi admits. “How are they integrating with the Icelandic queer community? Are they? My feeling is that we aren’t always reaching them, so maybe we aren’t as inclusive as we think we are.”

That’s Reykjavík Pride!

Villi is excited about the revamped pandemic-Pride and hopes the festival will bring as much magic to others as it first brought to his life many years ago. He first walked in the festival only months after coming out. “I came out in May and then walked that year with the queer football club. On that day, I did an interview with one other member and it was in the newspaper, so in the span of three months I kind of jumped out of the closet,” he laughs.

His most magical moment, though, was the first time he walked in the parade as a member of the Pride board. “At that time, the board didn’t usually walk in the parade, but that year we arranged it so we could,” he explains. “My friend and I got high heels—we had never walked on heels before so it was quite interesting—and I met my friend and her son.”

“Her son likes to wear dresses to kindergarten. He wakes up, plays with his Hulk action figure, and then likes to wear a dress to school sometimes. He was waving to me and I realised I represented something to him—that he could mix and match and it was OK,” Villi says. “In that moment, we were someone that he could relate to. That’s Pride.”

Photo by Art Bicnick

Info: Reykjavík Pride 2020 will be from August 4th to 9th. Check out the complete programme here.

Here’s three of our festival highlights:


The Reykjavík Pride Parade

Reykjavík Pride. Photo by Art Bicnick

Don your finest rainbow garb and don’t forget the confetti cannons for the annual penultimate event of Pride: the Reykjavík Pride Parade. The beloved spectacle serves up dramatic floats and marches from nearly all LGBTQ+ groups in the country—can we say representation? This year, due to COVID-19 and its subsequent restrictions, the parade will be altered to ensure the safety of everyone involved so make sure to check out the Reykjavík Pride website for updated routes and info. Most importantly, stay conscious that you don’t lose your voice from singing too much Páll Óskar. Just kidding. There’s no such thing as too much Páll Óskar.

Memoirs Of A Valkyrie

Photo by Dominika Milek.

The bitches are back for a special Pride reunion, so serve up some Valkyrie realness with drag queens Agatha P., Faye Knús, Gógó Starr, and Sigga Eyrún in this romp through the multiple tales of the beloved shieldmaiden Brynhildr—who you might know from stories like Wagner’s Die Walküre, Sleeping Beauty, and more. Through the mediums of beauty pageants, opera, rap, and a hysterical take on contemporary dance, the four divas will show you history like you’ve never seen it. The show will be at 19:00 on August 7th at Tjarnarbíó. Tickets are 3,900 ISK pre-sale and 4,400 ISK at the door.


Photo by Aleksandra Wierzbowska.

2020 has had one silver lining: it saw the biggest worldwide protest ever as Black people and allies stood together to demand the end of police brutality against Black people. But what effect has the movement had in Iceland? At this special event—the first of Pride—queer people of colour share their experiences of racism in Iceland and give their recommendations on what can be done to rectify these ills. The event will be in English on August 4th at 12:00 at the National Museum. Free admission!

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