By Davey Wavey
When you think of worldwide gay Pride destinations, a number of cities come to mind. Montreal, Madrid, Berlin, Sydney and Amsterdam—just to name a few. But what about Manchester, England? After spending a long weekend in England’s fastest-growing and third most populous city, I’m convinced it should be on any Pride traveler’s radar.
With 500,000 people in its downtown core, Manchester is a bustling city on the move. Many of the mercantile buildings that once supported the country’s burgeoning cotton industry are now experiencing new life as fashionable lofts, trendy restaurants (you must try Australasia) and sleek office spaces. In spite of all of this, the people of Manchester—affectionately referred to as Mancs—are warm and friendly. In fact, in stark contrast to London, Manchester often feels downright cozy. It all serves as a fabulous backdrop for their Pride celebrations.
Manchester Pride is a ticketed event. The city’s gay village—and the 72 bars and clubs therein—are fenced off for the holiday weekend and tickets are required to gain entry. Though the tickets only cost a few pounds, the funds raised support some 40 different LGBT and HIV organizations.
Truth be told, I’d not much of a clubber and I don’t drink. Sober as I was, I had an amazing time meeting new people, dancing and enjoying the festivities. There were clubs to suit every flavor—though I found myself spending most of my time in the twink bars called G-A-Y, Queer and Boys. Despite their rather unimaginative names, the bars were a lot of fun—and there was no shortage of fresh British meat for even the hungriest of Americans.
The festivities officially kick into high gear on the weekend with a parade in which I was delighted to march. Unlike many of the Pride parades that I have witnessed, this one was rather tame and perhaps a reflection of a more reserved people. Short on skin and speedos, the parade did have a few interesting moments, including a contingent of drag queens who mocked the conservative protestors who annually protest the parade. The drag queens, dressed in matronly blouses and skirts, held signs like “butt sex stinks” and “I’m so over the rainbow.”
With Monday being a so-called bank holiday, the weekend partying doesn’t let up on Sunday evening. In fact, with the weather cooperating and some large acts on the festival’s main stage, Sunday night was absolutely packed. It was gay on gay on gay on gay. Gays everywhere—as far as the eye could see!
Manchester Pride culminates in a sobering AIDS vigil on Monday night. Truth be told, it’s an extremely touching ceremony with music, poetry and a few short remarks. Candles are lit and a brief firework celebration lights the night sky. It shifts the focus away from drinking and partying to the many crucial community organizations that are supported by the weekend’s festivities.
And then there’s the rain. It wouldn’t be Manchester without wet weather, but even the showers couldn’t damper the spirits of the hardy Pride-goers. Yes, you’ll probably get wet. Maybe even soaked. But even the rain becomes part of the experience and, truth be told, part of the fun.
With more affordable accommodation prices than London and eight daily direct flights from seven different US cities courtesy of American Airlines, Manchester Pride is truly one of best and most vibrant up-and-coming Pride celebrations. It’s an incredible city matched only by the fabulous, warm Mancs that inhabit it.
Forever, I’ll ♥ Manchester. And I can’t wait to go back.