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Manchester Pride 2011
(BlogMensGo, 02 October 2011) We are now back from Manchester Pride and Sitges Bear week! Far from rested.....This Pride being the 6th in Manchester I have attended. Having come out in London and in the past regularly going back for visits, I have never been able to comprehend how Manchester can turn pride into such a massive event spanning a week with a penultimate weekend of well known artists, entertainment, socialising and most importantly fund raising, an event that leaves London not even attempting to try and keep up.
This year, it was announced that the event is now being bantered about as ‘Gay Christmas’ and I would totally agree. We arrived on friday and were greeted by a press conference with wine and nibbles. The Pride organiser Jackie Crozier along with other speakers (patrons and local government members) gave speeches telling us how far they have come since they started with a small stand outside the Rembrandt Bar 21 years ago. They have raised nearly a million pounds and have expected this year to top this and Manchester Pride rightly brags that they are the only pride to contribute a large proportion of the monies raised every year without fail.
Before I go on with the line up for the weekend and what we got up to, I get something off my chest. If you are a regular attendee or used to be or know of Manchester Pride, you may have heard of issues regarding the cash flow of the event. I think there were some issues in the past as there are bits knocking about on the internet, but it’s something that has long since past. I have heard of people refusing to go now and even had a comment on my previous posting re the event along the lines of ‘why should we pay to go to bars that we never pay to go to normally’. To these people, stop for a minute. Look at how much you pay at the most £25 but £15 if you book early. Think how much it costs to shut a large area off to the public, hire car parks, set up sound stages, pay for acts like Alexandra Burke, Human League, Blue, Pixie Lott, Heather Small etc, have security manning the event, close the streets and clean up for the parade, a years worth of planning. I bought tickets for Human League a couple years ago, and paid nearly forty quid! I REALLY do not know how people can justify moaning at paying such a small fee for 4 packed days of events. How much would you pay for V Festival or Glastonbury? I know the scale is much different, but you get my meaning....Rant over!
So what goes on this weekend?
The Pride event in Manchester is split into four parts. The first being the week proceeding pride from the 19th - 25th the Pride Fringe, this is a range of events celebrating the diversity of LGBT life through art, sport, culture and more. I can not really comment much on this as I did not arrive until the Friday evening and have not attended in the past. You can find out more about this here.
Friday evening the gay village is closed off to members of the public, to gain entry you need a wrist band, if you book online or buy the ticket via a bar as an ‘early bird’ then you will pay about £15 but on the days you can buy either individual tickets or the weekend ticket with the top price being £25.
Within the village you have the following arena’s:
‘The gaydar main arena’ where the big acts play, Friday we had Angie Brown and Pixie Lott, Saturday: Soundgirl and Pixie Lott. Sunday: Alexandra Burke, Sugababes, Patrick Wolfe and a host of other bands and finally Monday (being a national holiday in the UK): Blue, Hazel Dean, 4 Poofs and a Piano, along with a number of other performers. Whilst there are no performers the crowds are entertained with the Gaydar DJ’s.
‘Sackville Gardens’ which is used for the slightly smaller acts such as Pet Shop Bears, Cosmo Jarvis, Elouise, Bruno Langley, Gay Games, Proms in the park and finally the Candlelight Vigil (more to follow later).
‘Village Square’ with another staged area and tents for ‘refreshments’ hosts more acts by the likes of the Manbears ‘Bear Explosion’, Bears Aloud (who I was privileged to act as their official photographer and they have allowed me to link to these from here), Kev Wright, Grizzly Sisters, Alfie Ordinary, Jason James, Zara and so many more.
‘Lifestyle Expo’ an undercover outdoor exhibition space with information from and about community groups, health, sports clubs, legal advice, travel and many more.
‘Village Market’ not the sort of Village Market many British folk would be used to, this hosts market stools from the likes of Not for Ponies, Proud Body Jewellery, Wonderland, Silver Bead Shop, Hog Works, Lovebomb, Wigs up North, Queen of Cupcakes, Mission Malawi, BBT Clothing, Killer Kilts and many others. You can buy anything here from Jewellery to Leather attire to arts and crafts.
(wow I am trying to sum all this up without making the article too long, but its impossible).
‘Women’s Stage’ This was previous called ‘The Women’s Space’, sponsored by The Lesbian Community Project is an area for the girls, I kinda wanted to go into this and see some of the acts as they looked quite good (obviously on an official basis) but was not sure if it would go down too well. Maybe next year. Some really good looking acts, from stand up comedy to live music to.....a drag king competition and the UK’s number 1 drag king Valentino King.
All these events are going on all the time, with the pivotal point being Canal Street and surrounding streets (any with a drinking establishment), with its host of bars for all shapes and sizes, there is a bar for every taste.
Saturday is the main parade: kicking off at 1pm and for the second year in a row, it stopped raining literally 5 minutes before kick off. The procession this year was bigger than it has ever been with floats ranging from 2 gay rugby teams, banks, government, police, fire service, charities, bars, clubs, even national television with the Manchester based soap Coronation Street, I think just about everyone had a part except for the military. When I spoke to Jackie Crozier she stated that she has been trying to get the military to march with Manchester Pride as they do with London but they are not playing ball at the moment. I guess we take it for granted that our services can march at all as they are not allowed to here in Switzerland and many other countries. The parade took the route starting from Liverpool Road, down Deansgate (one of the main shopping routes) St Ann’s Street, Cross Street, Albert Square where each float is announced as the Mayor of Manchester looks on, Princess street into the gay village where there are roars and cheers and finishing up in Whitworth Street. I have to say, along with the whole event, I think this pride has to have been so far the biggest and best.
Although slightly off grid, but only very slightly, and not officially part of the pride events, but VERY popular, I want to also mention the Outpost Bar and Legends. In particular the club night Bollox hosted for the gays who are not into the gay music. You will find my photos along with the others and thank you to Mr Connelly for allowing me in with a bulky camera (which I had trouble using due to my lens steaming up every time I took the cap off in the main dancefloor). Their motto ‘Bollox to the gay scene’ plays non mainstream music such as Adam and the Ants, The Knife, Gossip, Ting Tings and a lot of other bands that I have not heard of. Some amazing dress to be seen in here too! Well worth going to but get there before the doors open as there is often a big line outside!
So the whole event finishes off on a more somber note with the Candle Light vigil. At this point the gates are opened for general members of the public to enter and take part, as usual Sackville Gardens is over filled and people have to line Sackville street to take part and see/hear whats going on. The event focuses on not just gay people but also straight people who have been affected by the illness. There are performances by the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Choir along with various speeches by well known members of the community. Jonathan Mayor presents the vigil in his usual gripping way. Also mentioned was the campaign in America ‘It get’s better’ focusing on the recent suicides of bullied gay teenagers, the vigil is broadcast over the internet and on BBC Radio, Jonathan had the crowd shout to the people listening a message, telling them that it gets better, we are here and we love them. A silence follows, broken by a song at which point everyone there lifts their lit candles in the air. The whole event draws to a close with fireworks marking the close. Everyone heads back to the village for their final drink before heading on home.
Amazing to see early the next morning when you walk through the village, you would never believe how much had gone on over the weekend, its all cleaned up and ready for business.
If you have not been to Manchester Pride before, no matter where you are coming from, I strongly recommend it! even if you are heading over from far afield, its well worth it!
Please have a look at our photos from the event here I hope you like! Update: the video at the top is now from Pride 2011, the video below is Pride 2010.