Once a year, the little mermaid comes out as Copenhagen Mermaid Pride. Tarted up and provocative, she stalks through the streets of Copenhagen – on a Saturday afternoon in August.
Not without fear, the mermaid sets out for Norrebro to smarten herself up. Last year, she was attacked by young stone-throwers, and she’s actually hit again today, by a shower of pebbles. The police and the Fathers’ Group intervene immediately. After last year’s absence, the police have turned out in large numbers, prepared to fight, and fathers have during the past year tried to make their sons interested in healthier sports than throwing stones.
The Pride Unfolds
Ugly storehouses and a road full of holes – such surroundings aren’t worthy of a glorious Pride, so she gathers her troops and hobbles down to the main street, Norrebrogade. Smiling spectators, clapping and cheering, make the Pride unfold in an orgy of colours and pounding music, on double-deckers and trucks, on motor cycles, in cycle rickshaws and on foot as well. The Pride swings and dances, sings and plays the drum, exposes muscles, plays handball and does gayrobics, dripping with sweat.
Norrebro Circus is waiting for the Pride. Egocentric cyclists protest loudly against the police and the crowd who’re blocking the busy crossroads. Outside the local café, all the chairs are taken, and the lady in the hot-dog stand is out of cold cokes long ago, but knows how to dispose of warm ones. She opens the bottle, and when the money is on the counter, she confesses, “It’s the coldest I’ve got!” The coke has the same temperature as the air, just below 30 degrees centigrade.
“They’re so beautiful!” A middle-aged woman cannot hide her admiration for well trained male bodies in red swimsuits demonstrating their physical charms. She thinks her own fascination of muscles and bodybuilders calls for an explanation. “I’m a physiotherapist!” she says. Less impressed, though, she is by the physique of the roadworkers from Men’s Bar. Being out of work at the moment, they dance to pass the time, dressed in orange kilts and safety helmets.
The Royal Family
Like a queen, Britha from Cosy Bar is basking in the cheers of the crowd, surrounded by glistening dancers on a float covered with silver and white. Even a queen gets thirsty – a bottle of water juts out between the folds of her dress. The king comes in a smaller car, a prison wagon from Jailhouse Cph. A female jailer, armed with a water pistol and an authoritative look, keeps the audience at a distance. Her straight back, voluminous bosom and red hair make the king break into song,
“Come on and do/the Jailhouse Rock with me”
Dykes on Bikes rev up their engines and draw the Pride out on Queen Louise’s Bridge where she really does justice to herself. The countless balloons, probably a thousand, endow her with lightness and grace, as if she could take off from the bridge any minute. The drivers in the heavy cars, however, have everything under control and will make sure that the Pride stays on the ground.
“May we use your balcony?” calls a camera man to a couple enjoying the Pride from their balcony on Solvtorvet. “We’re from Denmark’s TV!” After pausing for thought, the couple let the camera crew in. The Pride is indeed being immortalized on film and photos. Photographers stumble over each other, even aboard the floats. Obviously, the Pride is a film freak herself as one of the floats is decorated with film strips, advertising a coming film festival.
A little boy in a baby carriage is experiencing his first Pride. Although stripped to the skin, he’s so warm that his mama must fan him with a newspaper. Less bothered by the heat are two men in their Sunday best, seated in a rickshaw with a sign saying “Just married”. Their honeymoon begins in the Pride – they’re let in right behind an enormously long rainbow flag which the carriers attempt to keep elegantly flowing.
A policewoman attracts great attention from male colleagues because of a box resting at her feet, filled with bottles of refreshing mineral water. She’s met with one grateful smile after another. Although peace and friendliness prevail, the policemen keep their eyes peeled, aware though of the admiring looks from Pride participants.
Back on the Rock
Just before the parade arrives at its destination, Town Hall Square, the rainbow flag is lifted up in the air, changing into a huge triumphal arch for the newly-weds, accompanied by shouts of joy. Another rainbow flag is flying over Politiken’s House, the home of a leading newspaper. The celebration is already in full swing on the Town Hall Square where the entertainment the next many hours will roll across the stage. The whole city seems to be here.
Double-deckers and trucks have now completed their task, and so has the little mermaid. While the cars are returning to their garages, the mermaid rolls down to the harbour in a rickshaw. At Langelinie, she jumps back up onto her big stone – muttering to herself, “Stone is not for throwing, it’s for sitting on.”
- Berlin’s Love Parade
- Coping with Copenhagen
Copyright © 2003 Terje Raa