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Pride organisers in Finland’s Bible belt struggle to find sponsors

Organisers of events that support the rights of sexual minorities have not had an easy time finding financial backing in Lapland and Ostrobothnia.

Sateenkaarilippuja Kokkola Priden kulkueessa.
Image: Noora Haapaniemi / Yle

The organisers of Pride – the event that celebrates sexual minorities and draws attention to their rights – have struggled to find sponsors in western and northern Finland.

The region is sometimes known as Finland's bible belt as it is home to large communities of adherents to the Laestadian evangelical Lutheran revival movement, as well as Pentecostal congregations.

According to Martu Väisänen, who is in charge of Oulu Pride, the event has found a decent amount of financial supporters, but some timidity is also obvious.

“The way people used to think in the 1970s and 1980s is still evident here,” Väisänen said.

“First [businesses] pledge to support us, but in the end they don’t have the guts for it The fear of becoming labelled is too strong,” Väisänen adds.

Oulu Pride, which has been on a six-year break, will return this year from 18 to 22 July.

Producer Jenny Rosberg from the Border Pride event in Tornio-Haparanda in norther Finland says her organisation has also experienced trouble attracting sponsors. Overall however, the event that takes place across the bordering towns in Finland and Sweden “has garnered more support than last year,” she said.

Calls for "neutrality"

Meanwhile, Yle reported in June that businesses, cultural associations and city authorities in Kokkola, western Finland have been more outspoken about their opposition to Pride. The city of 50,000 inhabitants in Ostrobothnia called for “neutrality” on the issue and many organisations refused to back the event.

Despite the antagonism, Kokkola Pride was organised in June and attracted 2,000 participants.

In contrast, Arctic Pride in Rovaniemi has seen the number of backers increase over the past two years. Producer Mari Mäki says this is likely due to the number of higher education institutions in the city.

“A university town acts as a kind of cultural melting pot,” Mäki said.

“The most common explanation we hear from a business that refuses to support us, is that they fear sponsoring Pride could have an effect on their customer base,” she added.

Five separate Pride events will be organised or have been held in northern Finland this summer.

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