Travel » News

Living Legacy: 25 Years of Manchester Pride, Part I

by Kelsy Chauvin
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jun 26, 2015

It's a wonder when a city of 2.5 million feels like a village. But Manchester has that appeal, thanks to its compact layout and bustling center. The city hums with commerce and culture, reflecting both the roots of a long industrial history and its more recent musical past. A walk across town can take you past intricately designed civic structures, gleaming skyscrapers, converted cotton mills and some of the United Kingdom's most dynamic cultural institutions.

Manchester also is home to one of the world's most vibrant LGBT districts. Unlike other cities, local maps proudly demarcate the Gay Village: 12 blocks of queer-centric restaurants, clubs, cafés and galleries in the heart of town. Not that the neighborhood is exclusive. On the contrary, it's the part of town where everyone from drag queens to dykes to go-go boys gather, inviting their hetero counterparts to the party.

Big Gay Weekend

In summer 2015, the city commemorates a milestone in its LGBT history with its 25th anniversary of Manchester Pride. True, locals may point to many gay and lesbian celebrations that occurred before 1990. But this year's Pride is meant to mark the citywide observance of a gayer-than-average past, with an eye on today's positively radiant queer culture.

Taking place August 28 to August 31, the "Big Weekend" is the core of Pride festivities. The Gay Village becomes something of a gated gay party, accessible for a reasonable ticket price (£22 regular adult admission for all four days), part of which goes to charity. Once inside, main stage shows, the Sackville Gardens stage and the Gaydio Dance Arena are all on the menu.

Headlining this year is multiplatinum Scottish band Texas, which coincidentally also is marking 25 years since its debut album, "Southside." (More Big Weekend performers will be announced on the Manchester Pride website throughout the summer.)

Because the Big Weekend area encompasses the Gay Village's many bars and clubs, most don't impose a cover charge. So in addition to the rampant flirting and dancing, queers can float in and out of favorite year-round hotspots.

Citywide Pride

Pride in Manchester has plenty to experience beyond the Big Weekend bash, rolling out the welcome mat to the entire city. Of course, there's the annual Pride Parade on Saturday, August 29. Starting from Liverpool Road in Castlefield on the west side, the route runs through the heart of town via Deansgate, John Dalton Street and finally onto Princess Street, where it lands in the Gay Village. This moving carnival of color draws tens of thousands of spectators of all stripes to witness Manchester's most outrageously fabulous floats, marchers and performers.

Manchester Pride has also launched Superbia, a new cultural program that expands the community-arts series formerly known as Pride Fringe. Superbia is Latin for "pride," making it a fitting moniker for a series of LGBT events running throughout the year, including exhibits, readings, theater productions, and social events like picnics and group runs. Many of the events are free to attend, independently organized, and "aim to encourage engagement, wellbeing and culturally enhance our communities," according to the Superbia website.

The culmination of the Big Weekend is a bit of reflection, with the George House Trust Candlelight Vigil. Sponsored by England's second-oldest HIV charity , the vigil serves as the spiritual heart of the Pride festival, bookending the celebratory weekend. Sackville Gardens becomes a sea of flickering candles, with community members taking time to remember those lost to the HIV virus, and to continue to fight the epidemic worldwide.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBT interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook