Reykjavík Pride: “Of course it’s bananas”

The Reykjavík Pride festival is just around the corner, starting tomorrow on August the 2nd and ending with a bang on the 7th. Ásta Kristín Benediktsdóttir and Vilhjálmur Ingi Vilhjálmsson are in the management team for the festival but the theme this year is History.

They both agree that it’s crucial to look back on the queer rights battle through the years to appreciate how far the battle has come. They also believe that even though some rights have been won, those rights have to be constantly guarded so they won’t be taken away.

“We are here because of what happened in the past. We have to know this history, study it, respect it and find ways to move forward and not dwell in the past,”

“We are here because of what happened in the past. We have to know this history, study it, respect it and find ways to move forward and not dwell in the past,” says Ásta Kristín Benediktsdóttir, a member of the management team for Reykjavík Pride and the editor of the Reykjavík Pride Magazine, alongside Jón Kjartan Ágústsson. Photo/Davíð Terrazas

“Often we have looked back on the festival and thought: Can we take a closer look at how history matters to us? Not much has been published about the queer history in Iceland and we wanted to make much of it now,” says Ásta about this year’s theme and Vilhjálmur agrees.

“I think the Reykjavík Pride festival has to do with history every year even though the theme has never been dedicated to it. This year we want to respect our history and explore it. Events this year, for example the terrorist attack in Orlando, have reminded us that we’ve come a long way in many parts of the world but definitely not far enough. The queer rights battle has not been won and what we have achieved can easily slip away from us if we’re not careful. I have not experienced fear of losing my home or my job, even my life, because of my sexual orientation. We live in a society in Iceland where queer people have basic human rights but it’s such a short time since that wasn’t the case. I think the theme also reminds us that these rights cannot be taken for granted.”

“We are here because of what happened in the past. We have to know this history, study it, respect it and find ways to move forward and not dwell in the past,” adds Ásta.

“This year we want to respect our history and explore it. Events this year, for example the terrorist attack in Orlando, have reminded us that we’ve come a long way in many parts of the world but definitely not far enough.”

The program for the Reykjavík Pride festival this year is diverse and you can catch everything from a movie screening to a queer cruise, from concerts to educational lectures. But can we expect anything out of the ordinary?

“There are of course always some fixed points like the opening ceremony, the Pride Parade and the Pride Ball. This year we have a lot of educational events that are in connection to this year’s theme. For example, we have a historical walk and a hi(story) night. In addition we have lectures and discussion events about the queer rights battle in Iceland in a historical light.

"The exhilaration that I feel for having had my part in making this explosion of joy is indescribable,” says Vilhjálmur Ingi Vilhjálmsson.

“The exhilaration that I feel for having had my part in making this explosion of joy is indescribable,” says Vilhjálmur Ingi Vilhjálmsson, who is also on the Reykjavík Pride management team.

I would also like to mention that we are showing the famous documentary “Hrein og bein” (“Straight Out Stories From Iceland”) which was released in 2003. Much has happened in the queer society since then and after the screening of the movie we will have a panel discussion about the film’s importance and the fact that it became outdated. A few of the young people who were interviewed in the film, who are of course older now, will take part in the discussion and we ask them to look back to the year it was made and how things have changed,” says Ásta.

Countless days, weeks and months go into planning a festival like Reykjavík Pride but Ásta and Vilhjálmur not only have to make sure everything falls into place, they also publish the Reykjavík Pride Magazine. Don’t you have to be a bit crazy to take on this work load?

“This work is extremely rewarding and extremely demanding,” says Vilhjálmur and laughs.

“Especially during this time of year where all the pieces are coming together and the festival is drawing near. I doubt that we will win the award for employee of the month in our day jobs. Fortunately we get a lot of support from our employers when we have to run errands and take care of this and that but I personally feel guilty at the end of the day when I realize that half the day has been spent sorting things out for the Reykjavík Pride. But the exhilaration that I feel for having had my part in making this explosion of joy is indescribable,” adds Vilhjálmur with a smile.

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Go to the Pride site here.

Ásta of course feels the pressure as the festival approaches, having some odd one hundred volunteers making sure everything is how it’s supposed to be. “Of course it’s bananas. It takes the management team months to prepare the program and the magazine and keep all the balls in the air. We all have day jobs so it’s a lot of pressure but extremely fun.”

So I guess your social life is out the window?

“We can say that July is not a month where I plan a lot of extra curricular activities,” says Vilhjálmur and laughs out loud. “But it’s totally worth it.”

“The people that take part in the festival are just lovely and I’m working alongside some of my closest friends. It’s fun and very rewarding to work with people who are donating their work for the cause and aiming for the same objective. Then it’s not really an issue that you don’t have a lot of spare time on your hands,” says Ásta.

The Pride Parade is a powerful weapon

One vital part of the Reykjavík Pride festival is the Pride Parade which has been criticized the last years for either being too political or too glitz and glam. Ásta and Vilhjálmur both believe that the criticism is just.

“It’s a grass root parade. It’s a parade that many queer people and many straight people have an opinion on. I understand the disunity regarding the parade and we listen to everyone’s opinion. But at the end of the day it is a grass root parade, like I said, and we don’t even have a say on who takes part in it. We don’t have the slightest idea who takes part in it until the week before the parade,” says Ásta.

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Each year around one-third of the population shows up for the Reykjavík Pride Parade, making it one of the most popular events in the country. Photo shows members of sports club Styrmir.

“Everyone has a point and I think it’s positive and good that people have an opinion on the parade,” says Vilhjálmur. “We have never asked anyone to take part in the parade and I think the parade reflects the atmosphere at any given time. Three years ago Samtökin ’78 were holding up signs with homo- and transphobic slur that had been written on the internet and after that they were criticized for being too negative.

It is hard to find a balance between celebrating what we have achieved and reminding people what we have yet to accomplish.

We can’t turn a blind eye to prejudice and it doesn’t matter whether it is apparent on the internet or in the locker room after practice. There are a lot of issues we have to address and we are in the position to address them which is such a good feeling. And let’s not forget that anyone can take part in the parade. So if you think it lacks kink, bring it. If you think it lacks tinsel, bring it.”

Ásta agrees and celebrates the fact that the parade often reflects current events. “I think the parade is extremely important. We need to keep the rights battle alive but we also have to celebrate the things we have achieved.

The events in Orlando, for example, had a deep impact on many. It’s hard to digest that these sort of attacks take place and we can’t just write it off because it happened in another part of the world. It could have happened here. Iceland has been a relatively peaceful country and is considered quite safe but, I’m sorry to say that we can never be

“…we are lucky because most of us can walk safely down the street, holding hands with the one we love … that’s not the case in many parts of the world.”

sure that these sort of tragedies won’t take place here. We have to be aware that the battle changes but it’s never fully won.”

“Here in Iceland we are lucky because most of us can walk safely down the street, holding hands with the one we love and not have to worry about being sneered at. Unfortunately that’s not the case for everyone under the queer umbrella and in many parts of the world,” adds Vilhjálmur and continues.

“In Iceland we are in a good position to eliminate prejudice because the Reykjavík Pride is quite a mainstream festival. That gives us a powerful weapon because it means that we can get our point across to a larger group than, let’s say in the US. Almost only queer people take part in the Pride Parade in many parts in the US and then the rights battle never makes it all the way to people’s home. In Iceland our Reykjavík Pride is apparent in almost every mass media and that increases the chances that we can reach the people who really need enlightenment about the LGBTI+ community.”

The colorful groups of the queer umbrella

The queer society has changed a lot the last few years and now there are many minority groups under the very colorful, queer umbrella. Is it difficult to take all those groups into consideration when planning a festival like Reykjavík Pride?

“It’s always a challenge but it’s a joyous one. We want as many individuals in the LGBTI+ community to find something they’re interested in during the festival. The number of these groups is steadily increasing and that’s something to celebrate,” says Ásta.

“It’s a positive challenge because all of these groups are willing to work with us and we try to give the minorities within the minority some room. We are very aware that we are catering to a large audience and we plan the program so that it fits different groups. The umbrella is big and we can’t be experts in everything so when we aren’t sure about certain things or need help we turn to the experts in that field,” says Vilhjálmur.

This year the theme of Reykjavík Pride is history, so it was only fitting to have members from various groups within the queer community pose at Árbæjarsafn, the historical museum of the city of Reykjavík. Photo/Davíð Terrazas

This year the theme of Reykjavík Pride is history, so it was only fitting to have members from various groups within the queer community pose at Árbæjarsafn, the historical museum of the city of Reykjavík. Photo/Davíð Terrazas

Both Ásta and Vilhjálmur have been working for the Reykjavík Pride festival for a few years and when I ask why they go through this craziness many years in a row the answer comes without thinking almost. “It’s so addictive. It’s difficult to quit,” says Ásta and laughs.

“We want as many individuals in the LGBTI+ community to find something they’re interested in during the festival.”

“I’m a very social person and I wanted to make a difference in the queer community. One of the reasons for that has to do with when I came out of the closet as gay. My family was extremely supportive but I will never forget how I felt leading up to the time when I decided to tell them. I was struggling with my inner prejudice that were all in my head and was battling depression because of it.

Today there are still individuals who have a hard time coming out of the closet – whatever closet that may be. I know how hard it can be and it’s so rewarding to see people tell their story, stories that have in some cases been silenced for very long. To see them have a place to tell it in. To see how much of a relief it is for them to speak out and feel the solidarity and support, even though their stories are often times harrowing,” says Vilhjálmur.

The mysterious painting of the rainbow

I can’t let Ásta and Vilhjálmur go before asking them about what they are most excited to see in this year’s program, even though I know it’s sort of a Sophie’s Choice moment.

“This is such a difficult question,” says Vilhjálmur and Ásta agrees.

“I really can’t choose between the events. I’m so proud of the program. But I can say one thing. I’m really excited about the opening event because this year, like last year, we will paint a street in down town Reykjavík in the colors of the rainbow. It was a massive hit last year when we painted Skólavörðustígur but tomorrow, on August the 2nd, we will paint a new place, at 12 o’clock,” says Ásta, making me almost burst with curiosity.

Will it perhaps be a historical place, since the theme this year is History?

“Yes, you might say so,” says Ásta with a smile on her face. “We’re going to pick up our brushes and paint the path leading up to Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík, the oldest junior college in Reykjavík.”

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Last year Skólavörðustígur was painted in rainbow colors in honor of Reykjavík Pride.

Photos (top and in the middle): Davíð Terrazas

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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