It’s one of the less well-known gay hotspots in Amsterdam, the gay&lesbian kiosk PinkPoint, located on Westermarkt – right next to the Homomonument, Westerkerk church, with the Anne Frank House around the corner.
What is it, since when is it there, what do they do and what can you get here?
With the 20th anniversary in sight, it’s time for a little interview.
We had a chat with the current owner of the kiosk, Hennie Klein Gunnewiek. Location: the small table in front of the kiosk, where you can have a coffee or tea.
Note: the interview was conducted in Dutch – translation into English (with a free hand) by GayLinc.
Since when has PinkPoint existed?
It all started with the Gay Games, that were held in Amsterdam in 1998. We had an ice cream stand, and decided to give information about Gay Amsterdam. This was only for 10 days. Later on we had a container with information, and from 2003 we have had this kiosk.
I got involved in 1999, as a volunteer. In 2012 I bought the kiosk.
Why this location?
It is right next to the Homomonument. And Westermarkt is a place that is always busy with tourists, one of our main target groups.
What is PinkPoints structure? Is it a company? How many people work here?
It is a company that I own myself. There are currently 4 persons who work here, and I am the only one making a full salary. The others have temporary contracts, sometimes they work here voluntarily.
I work together a lot with the owners of Club Church and the NZ Sauna. We are a bit of a collective, though formally we are completely separate companies. I see it as ‘the Queer Amsterdam scene’.
One of the things we never do is borrow money from banks. Always from (business) friends. We used crowd-funding before the word was invented. We don’t want to become dependant on commercial parties, like banks, but rather borrow money from persons who sympathize with what we’re doing.
We’re all commercial, and are not subsidized by any government.
Some 60% of what we sell is ‘rainbow’ articles, the rest is general tourist merchandise and cool drinks.
PinkPoint is officially a market stand, similar to those on a street market. We pay per day to the City, which is different from ordinary shops, that pay rent per month. Shops pay more rent, but they can heat (or cool) their shop, we are much more dependant on the weather. We can place a electric heater, but warms the place only a bit. If it’s cold, we have to wear thick clothes. Oh well, you get used to it.
With cold weather we also sell hot chocolate. We can sell common drinks, such as tea, coffee, cold sodas and the like; we can’t sell alcohol.
Are there sometimes negative reactions by the public?
Hardly. We’ve never experienced real aggression. The worst that happened in the past 20 years is ‘funny’ remarks by passing teenagers etc. But this does not happen very often.
And sometimes there are tourists who don’t know how to react when they notice it’s a gay information point. Sometimes you have to deal with drunk or homeless people.
At times this makes the work here a bit difficult, and that means that working at PinkPoint is not for everyone.
What kind of people come here for information?
All kinds, really. We have our longtime clients, who come here to pick up the Gay News, or for a chat, or to buy one of the gifts or souvenirs in the shop. Also, we get young people who ask where they can go, or what there is to do. And of course there are tourists, who come here for the gay map of Amsterdam (that is published by Gay News). The tourists come from all over the world. It is sometimes funny to see how tourists react when they discover the kiosk is gay/lesbian. Sometimes we give information to asylum seekers.
We send young people ordinarily to ‘easy to handle’ gay bars like the Prik, Queens Head, or the Queers Cafe, not to places like Club Church (sex club) or the NZ Sauna. Although, this depends on the person. We can also give information about the more alternative places. These would be e.g. the Wednesday evening in Vrankrijk, Spellbound parties at OCCII, the Trut disco, the queer parties on the boat Odessa in Amsterdam East (https://www.facebook.com/events/1737677193181820/), and similar places.
We have only limited time to talk to people. If possible, we give them brochures (e.g. about the Homomonument). Or if the questions become too many, we send them to Tours & Tickets at the other side of the street. Or if the questions become too difficult, we also try to refer them to the COC (Hollands main LGBTI activists’ organization).
You sell a lot of gay postcards, gadgets, gifts, flags, clothes etc. Where do you find all these items? Who makes them??
We get our gadgets from all over the world. Sometimes manufacturers approach us for selling articles, sometimes we hit upon something by coincidence, and sometimes we just search on the internet.
For example, we started this year with rainbow-coloured moustaches. They are marketed by a gay couple in Jeruzalem, who live in the Jewish orthodox neighbourhood with their 2 adopted children. They also sell rainbow contact lenses. They, in turn, get them from factories in India and China.
There are many other companies with more main-stream rainbow articles. I like to choose the more different ones.
Another example are the t-shirts made by tattoo-artist Rudi, from Holland. These t-shirts are made of organic cotton, and have prints of tattoos he makes.
Other items we sell are some gay books. It’s just a few, but we have been selling books since the beginning.
Do you think Amsterdam has become more conservative?
People complain often about Amsterdam becoming less tolerant, less alternative, less interesting in general, but I think there is still enough to do. I already mentioned places like Vrankrijk, party boat Odessa, the Trut, OCCII, etc. Especially Amsterdam has this sort of places to go.
Some things have gone because they went out of fashion, for example the leather scene. Places like the Argos closed down because of that.
Also, bars and clubs have become more mixed (i.e. men and women mixed).
And: there used to be more people out of work than nowadays – this also makes a difference with regard to the number of people you have in a bar. When I still worked in a bar, long time ago, I could go to the Cockring club on a Wednesday evening, 3 am in the night, and the place was packed. This does not exist any more. People are busier nowadays, and don’t have so much time for these things.
What are the most important changes in the past 20 years?
The most important change is that the AIDS-era is over. People used to die of the disease, but this is no longer a great issue. But we still sell cheap condoms, for 15 cent apiece.
Another change is the decrease in international gay tourism. 1998 (the year of the Gay Games in Amsterdam) was the busiest year of Amsterdam gay tourism ever, but then the decline set in. The number of gay clubs and bars has gone down considerably. But we don’t see much change in the turnover.
Has the internet changed a lot for PinkPoint?
The internet has not changed very much for us. Although, there are now less magazines, brochures and flyers. The Schorer Foundation, with its many brochures, booklets etc. has gone, that also makes a difference. Most of the information is found on the internet, nowadays.
There are still people coming here for the (free) GayNews magazine, there are still a few flyers available, Club Church publishes a programme leaflet. And of course, there is the (free, published by GayNews) Amsterdam Gay Map.
How do you see the future of PinkPoint?
Next year, in 2018, is the 20th anniversary of PinkPoint. There are no plans for a party or anything, but I hope someone will make a documentary.
Hopefully, Frederic can take over the shop, so that I am able to travel to SE Asia more often.
I would like to go to university again, to take up religious studies. I already studied anthropology in the past, with majors in South-East Asian cultures.
About our future: there are no plans really – today is today, next year is next year.