I’ve lived in Manchester for 10 years this coming December but I’ve never been to Pride. For some reason I have always been away working on August Bank Holiday weekend, but not this year. As the time approached and I realised it was unlikely I’d be working I decided to have a look into what would be going on over the course of the weekend. I had been invited out to a festival on the Sunday so Saturday was the only time I would be able to sample the delights of Pride. Luckily enough Saturday was also the day of the parade, ‘what better way to experience the event?’ I thought. Then, at a local branch meeting for my trade union, Equity, it was announced that we as a union had managed to secure a place in the parade itself – happy days! So not only was I going to go to Pride for the first time but I was also going to take part in it!
On the day itself we were told to meet at 11am to be ready to start marching at 1pm. Well, after hanging around for about 15 minutes a few of us got a little bored and decided to go for a pint. Or two. Anyway, we returned to our comrades in plenty of time before the parade began. In the holding area we were surrounded by a diverse range of societies, groups, costumes and themes, all happily chatting away, having pics with each other or playing games. The LGBT Tories had blue t-shirts with ‘I kissed a Tory (& I liked it)’ on while next to them in the parade the LGBT Labour group had red t-shirts with ‘Never kissed a Tory’ emblazoned on them! We were in the parade behind the Canal Street Blues (that’s Manchester City’s LGBT supporters club) and directly in front of the delicious Village Bakery group (who I’m still annoyed with as they didn’t give me any cake!).
The parade swept through the city centre and it took us about an hour and twenty minutes to make it to the end, not because it was a long way but because there were so many people to see, meet, wave at and greet! Honestly, it was at least 3 deep all the way round with crash barriers holding the majority of the spectators back. People everywhere were bedecked in rainbow colours and glitter and fabulous costumes… except us. Now, we had a little chat about this amongst ourselves as we were waiting to leave the holding area. As we were representing Equity, the Performers union (and yes I know we’re not just performers – bear with me on this!), you’d have probably been expecting us to have the best costumes there. Well, a handful of us were wearing Equity t-shirts and we had a few flags but that was it. I think we must have been really underwhelming for the people who came to see us! We justified it, however, by pointing out that we dress up in costumes most days of the year where as the people in the parade from say Natwest or NHS England or Tesco or Thomas Cook etc only get to do it one day of the year. This was us giving them a chance to steal our limelight for the day whilst still supporting them at the same time! That’s our story and we’re sticking to it…! We did say that next year we’d up the ante a bit, though, and maybe dress up a bit more but that’s for us to decide nearer the time.
As the parade came to an end the majority of us from Equity went to a pub and had a few celebratory drinks. The mood was happy, our spirits were high and we were bouncing off each other like kids at a birthday party. A fun evening followed with a few of us going out for tapas and then, you guessed it, a few more drinks. I’ve never encountered an atmosphere like it in Manchester. Over the course of the whole day I didn’t see any trouble, experience any negative feeling or have anything other than a wonderful, positive and life-affirming time. I want to say a big Thank-You to everyone who was there but especially to Equity member Hayley Cartwright for organising our pitch and to Jamie Briers from Equity for supplying the t-shirts and flags. Top people.
To sum up, I really can’t express to you how much I enjoyed myself at my first ever Pride and taking part in my first ever parade (as me, not as a paid gig). The best thing for me about the whole event was just how many families were there. There were kids all over the place clapping, cheering, dancing, supporting the floats, waving flags and dressed up in some amazing outfits, all of which were clearly having such a fantastic time. Just as it should be, all inclusive and proud.
When we passed Canal Street in the heart of the Gay Quarter.