LIVE: Manchester Pride 2013

The August Bank Holiday is probably the best weekend there is. Reading and Leeds, Creamfields, Carnival… there’s a party for everyone. Mine was something completely different this year. I’m honestly not exaggerating – it’s taken me two weeks to recover from Manchester Pride. It’s one of the UK’s longest running and biggest LGBT pride festivals bringing thousands to the infamous Canal Street and the surrounding ‘gay village’.

Big Gay Jesus

Big Gay Jesus

The Parade

I arrived in Manchester on Friday afternoon and headed straight for the press launch where the first face/booming voice I encountered was that of Christopher Biggins. This essentially set the tone for my entire weekend. He’s one of the festival’s patrons and he also fronted Saturday afternoon’s parade, which saw tens of thousands of people line the streets of central Manchester to watch and support.

If you want to understand the concept of pride, make sure you find a parade next summer and marvel at the sheer scale and emotion of the celebration.

I had a prime view at the end of the parade route, which of course was the point closest to the bar. A big shout out to the EasyJet float and the big gay Jesus.

The Music

You needed a (reasonably priced) wristband to access The Big Weekend, which took place in the village with all the bars and clubs and food stalls and more bars and drag queens and the main stage and more bars. The main stage offered a varied line up of gay icons mixed with gay performers! The bank holiday Monday consisted only of favourites from X Factor, BGT and The Voice. Also performing were The Feeling (“Fill My Little World”) and Sam Sparrow (“Black and Gold”). A brilliant touch was having someone on stage for all the acts performing the lyrics in sign language. I just feel sorry for the guy who had to sign Kate Nash’s set…

Manchester Pride

The main stage!

Her stage set up was cutesy, her band had pigtails and Kate was covered in big love hearts that made her look like a giant strawberry. But, my gosh, her music changed. Heavy guitars, loud drums and a punk attitude that had the crowd completely stunned. When did this happen?! No longer camp pop and not a sign of “Pumpkin Soup”, this certainly wasn’t what I expected, but I liked it a lot. There was an especially strange part where Nash stopped singing and delivered a lengthy monologue (well, basically a soliloquy). The absolute highlight of the performance was when she had to restart the second verse of her biggest hit, “Foundations”, because she had forgotten the words. At this point my shock at the whole thing had turned into pure joy.

Headlining the Sunday night Mutya Keisha Siobhan (or MKS or the ones that were the original Sugababes). My worry with (big) reunions like this is the temptation to make new music. That’s actually been MKS’ intention though and hold the phone, it’s quite good! ‘Debut’ single “Flatline” is a cracking pop song. Looking around, even those who hadn’t been convinced by the show were hooked by this as the finale. Mashing it up with a bit of “Push The Button” didn’t hurt.

Take an NCP car park. Close it off with a big, black curtain. Fill it with smoke. Put in a massive sound system. Here we have your dance arena and something that should be repeated EVERYWHERE WITH A MULTI-STOREY. The selector when I ventured in was Doorly. No doubt, you’ve probably heard one of his countless remixes here and there, but behind a turntable is where he really shines. I was sent into a frenzy, although I’m not sure how much of this was him being on point and how much of it was pure nostalgia as he was performing at my favourite nightclub on the night of my 21st birthday.

St. John's Ambulance

“Is this the gayest injury you’ve ever dealt with?” “Second gayest…”

It was at this point that my party had to take a trip to the lovely people of the St. John’s Ambulance service as a friend took a shot of glitter to the eye (not a euphemism). He wouldn’t appreciate it if I posted the video of these events, but I’m saving it for a rainy day (*looks outside* it’s a metaphor).

The Nightlife

All the bars and clubs are open basically all the time during the weekend and the only distinction between day and night I could find was that during the day people were drinking in the street, and at night people were drinking inside. Pride takes the notorious party atmosphere of Canal Street and injects it with rainbow coloured steroids. You go from bar to club to bar to club meeting the most diverse and friendly selection of people. There’s just too much craziness and too many stories for me to write here (most of which I’ve promised I wouldn’t write here to various people involved!).

All I can say is: find a hotel in central Manchester and prepare yourself for a truly fabulous weekend.