“This is Manchester. We do things differently here…”
Anthony H. Wilson
The dark nights are definitely drawing in. As I write this I’m decked out in my most wintery pair of pjs and nursing a hot chocolate, and my housemate is wrapped up in a blanket. Summer is most certainly over; it seems like it was never here at all, and the beautiful sunsets of Bali seem like a dream.
In between the prematurely autumnal evenings and the wet, grey days – where I’ve been spending my time temping in offices and dreaming of inspiring job vacancies to come and whisk me off my feet – a bit of summer made its way to Manchester last weekend.
The cobbled streets were filled with colour and glitter as Pride bought its fabulous arse to town.
So what is Pride?
Manchester Pride is an annual gay pride festival and parade held each summer in our fair city of Manchester. It’s one of the longest (and dare I say, best) – this year’s tagline is “25 years in the making” – and attracts a fair few thousand revellers. Most of the events take place on Canal Street – home to Manchester’s famous gay village – and you can buy paid-for wristbands for entry, but others, such as the parade can be watched and enjoyed by everyone for free!
Its currently ten days like (that’s a crazy long festival) and includes a ‘Pride Fringe’ boasting arts, music and cultural events all over Manchester as well as community events including poetry readings, quizzes and film showings, culminating in “The Big Weekend.” It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
A little history lesson.
The festival began in 1990 as a collection of bring-and-buy stalls outside a pub to champion gay rights. It has since expanded to a parade and festival, with a weekend of live music and a candlelit vigil to commemorate those who have died after contracting HIV, or are living with the condition.
Its been a few years since I’ve been able to join in the festivities but I’ve always had the best time hanging out with friends watching the parade and hitting Canal Street for dancing and cocktails afterwards.
This year we were a bit more refined, dragging ourselves from Stockport to the centre of town unsure if the heavens would open and the usual torrent of Manchester’s finest from the skies.
We were lucky enough to get some decent Intel from a friend of my housemates – and avid Pride attendee – and headed to the coveted ‘best spot’ to watch the parade go by.
Top tip: Deansgate not only has a brilliant atmosphere as people line the roads and wave flags, and children are hoisted on shoulders ready to watch the passing float, but its not as busy as watching it somewhere like the village. Its also at the beginning of the parade so you’re not standing around for a long time.
The parade set off down Deansgate from Liverpool Road, turning up Peter Street, on to Oxford Street, Portland Street and Princess Street.
Being overly eager, we got to our chosen spot early, and – being the British summertime – the wait became a pretty chilly one.
Tip: Be prepared for some serious noise courtesy of street vendors selling those little plastic whistles nearby!
By the time the parade started, we’d stop chastising ourselves for not wearing more layers, and the sound of music raised the excitement in the crowd and lifted our spirits.
First up was Burnley born Lord of the Rings actor Sir Ian McKellen who worked the crowd in a very white suit. An active LGBT rights campaigner, and grand marshal of the event, McKellen is always the star attraction and certainly had a lot of energy as he headed up the parade.
**sorry about the poor quality of the pictures – the McKellan moves pretty quickly. I have more pictures but the man in front of me was a little over excited and the top of his head ended up in most of them**
My friend is a huge Ian McKellen fan and was super excited when he came close to us. He really does have the friendliest face and seemed to really be enjoying getting the crown involved.
The usual – and a very unusual – mix of floats followed suit including the fire brigade, banks, LGBT organisations, HIV charities, supermarkets, local radio stations, the NHS and – bizarrely – the pop band Scooch.
And then there’s my personal favourites – the incredibly beautiful Spartans Rugby Team, the Coronation Street float, and this year’s absolute star, the police service – and one rhythmic police inspector in general who has become a bit of an internet sensation thanks to her moves!
She was fab as she clapped along and swayed her hips, and the crowd absolutely loved her. You can read about this unlikely star on the Manchester Evening News website here.
I always find the parade quite emotional. It’s such an all-encompassing event, everybody from all walks of life stood shoulder to shoulder and celebrating diversity. I event felt myself welling up slightly, especially when the youth groups proudly waved their flags and walked passed nervously and when the police force marched proudly with the rainbow flags pinned to their chests.
So if lots of colour, fun and a cheeky sense of humour is your bag, and you want to support and raise awareness of a very important cause (the “big weekend” also culminates in a candle-lit vigil in memory of in which Sackville Gardens is turned into a sea of flickering candles as we take a minute to remember those we’ve lost to the HIV virus and join together to fight the epidemic worldwide. The Vigil is the spiritual heart of the Manchester Pride festival and there is a truly magical and moving atmosphere of quiet reflection in the gardens. Top tip: wristband not required but arrive early) then come have fun with us up north!
Oh, and don’t forget there are a whole heap of amazing eateries nearby to grab decently priced food. We headed to Almost Famous to stuff our faces with huge burgers. Delicious!
Have you ever been to Manchester Pride? Do you have any memories of the past 25 years of the festival? Have you been to an event recently that made you feel part of the community or left you feeling emotional or proud?
Thanks for reading this post and welcome back to my new #itsnotgrimupnorth series! Expect photos, tips and tales!
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