ANTWERP PRIDE | Geert Van Praet succeeds retiring chairperson Bart Abeel

As announced in this year’s Antwerp Pride Magazine, Antwerp Pride vzw chairman Bart Abeel is stepping down. His successor is Geert Van Praet

Antwerp Pride is both the name of the event as of the organising – uhm – organisation behind the event. 

It wasn’t shocking news to the assembled volunteers of Antwerp Pride. Last Saturday, there was a get-together of people who work hard and less hard to make Antwerp Pride happen. There the succession and new Board of Directors were presented.

Bart Abeel steps down. In the future, he will coordinate the Love United Festival and the Closing Festival of Antwerp Pride. His successor, Geert Van Praet, already has been a Director for five years. 

The Board doesn’t change radically. It’s more an evolution than a revolution. 

Bart Abeel.

What Antwerp Pride says

Bart Abeel: “Fifteen years is a good time to take this step. I look back with great pleasure, gratitude and pride at everything we have achieved in Antwerp since that idea in 2007, when it was not as obvious as today to immerse the city in rainbow colours”, Abeel says in a statement on the Antwerp Pride website.

“I am very happy that Antwerp Pride has grown into a widely supported and loving event of connection. There is a huge road that I have not walked alone, of course. My sincere thanks go to everyone with whom I have had the opportunity to work on Antwerp Pride over the past fifteen years. Being chairman was a special privilege. I will still be working behind the scenes with the organization of the festivals and the business network, but I know that I leave the organization in excellent hands. I wish Geert and the whole team every success. love united.”

Gazet van Antwerpen broke the news to the general public on Sunday. There Van Praet says: “Under Bart’s presidency, Antwerp Pride has become the event it is today and of which we can be very proud. These are big shoes to fill, but with the reshuffled board, employees and volunteers, we have a top team ready to make Antwerp Pride a meaningful party for the entire LGBTQIA+ community.”

Abeel’s legacy

Many things can be said about Abeel’s tenure as chairperson of Antwerp Pride. Depending on who you ask, he was very successful, very directing and very (in)consequential. 

But Abeel’s legacy is mostly he leaves behind not only a popular event, but also well-organized and well-governed event. 

Compared to The Belgian Pride in Brussels or the one-time events of Queer Pride Ghent and Trans March Brussels or even the Fiertés Namuroises in Namur, Antwerp Pride is a well-oiled organisation.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions of public life, Antwerp Pride kept communicating and organising. As queer press, you know you can get hold of a spokesperson and you will get answers. Even if those answers are sometimes ‘very marketing’. 

Each year there is a theme. Each year there is a New Year’s Reception, there are scheduled press conferences, there’s Antwerp Pride Magazine. You can count on Antwerp Pride communicating well in advance. There’s a routine which gives comfort. 

I’m also told participating stakeholders recognise who well things can go. Even when on the day many things go very wrong, Antwerp Pride has a team of people to work on these issues. 

Improvement?

Are there points for improvement? Of course there are! Antwerp Pride gets some flack for being too commercial and too ‘party’. Which is not untrue. Antwerp Pride is less political than the Belgian Pride. It’s closeness to the corporate world and (Antwerp) politics are both a strength and a weakness. 

The old and the new Board(s) of Directors are very gay, very male, very cisgender and quite white. 

I feel the Board is aware of that and more efforts must be made to diversify. 

It’s quite a challenge. Not only on a ‘human resource’ level to find those people. But also not to dilute the decision making process too much. Abeel’s tenure was maybe sometimes directive. But at the other end of the spectrum there the indecisiveness of The Belgian Pride. The Belgian Pride doesn’t get things done, it seems.

More pride organising committees are (too) cis white gay male, so Antwerp Pride vzw is not alone in that predicament.

Who is Geert Van Praet?

I don’t know Geert Van Praet. He’s the owner of pharmacies and of Hessenhuis Café, a gay hotspot in Antwerp. He has big shoes to fill. 

Antwerp can be sometimes very small, with close personal connections. Sometimes that’s good, sometime’s it blocks action. 

As he has been on the Board for five years, Van Praet knows what he is in for.

Bring on Antwerp Pride 2023. 

Geert Van Praet

Queer Antwerp

Antwerp Pride 2023 & Antwerp Queer Arts Festival 2023

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