This weekend, Manchester is celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in all its different facets, via The Big Weekend – a four day series of events to mark Pride. Over the course of the Bank Holiday weekend thousands of people (and then some) head into the city to take part in activities, to watch the ever-expanding Pride parade or to just share the love.

If you’ve never visited the city during Pride weekend, I urge you to drop on by. The event – which takes place every August Bank Holiday weekend – is one of the longest running Pride events in the country and is a whole heap of fun.

Earlier today I took a walk through the city centre and I couldn’t help but feel the love that Manchester and the people of Manchester have for Pride. Many of the high street stores (Tesco, Costa, H&M etc) are proudly flying the Pride flag and lots and lots of people (of all ages) are decked out in rainbow garlands, Pride T-shirts and so on.

It’s so good to see.

Embracing the love

221679_5585281613_4090_nI’ve lived in Manchester for 11 years. The first Pride I attended was Manchester  Pride 2007.

That’s me, back in ’07, being all proud and such.

Back then I wasn’t all that familiar with Manchester Pride or Pride events in general really. The weekend this photo was taken was my first real experience with Pride – the first time I attended the four-day party in Manchester’s Gay Village and the first time I watched the Pride parade.

I remember that weekend very clearly. I’d not long moved to Manchester, so everything was pretty new to me, and I was still getting my head around the idea of a city being so open and friendly.

Watching the Pride parade that year I couldn’t quite believe that this event was taking place through the centre of the city. Roads were blocked off, people were lining the streets and countless members of the LGBTQ+ community were banging drums, waving flags and making themselves known.

To put things in simple terms, the gays had taken over the city and everyone was OK with it. In fact, they weren’t just OK with it, they were cheering them on!

I’m originally from a town where Pride parades simply didn’t happen and gays were few and far between, so it was as if I’d entered another world. I liked this world.

This was a world that I instantly felt more comfortable to live in and Pride ’07 was a big factor in why I decided to stay in Manchester. Manchester is where I felt safe (I still do); it’s the city I got married in; and it’s the place I call home.

Manchester Pride

Each year, I’ve watched Manchester Pride get bigger and bigger and become more of a celebration which is welcomed by all walks of life. Sure, there are still those that throw out the usual comments of “why isn’t there a straight Pride?” and various other statements that I won’t repeat, but that’s life unfortunately.

There will always be some people who take issue with Pride. Some comments are very unkind, but it won’t stop Manchester from celebrating and that’s all that matters.

This year, I’m not taking part in the Pride events that are going on in the city; I’m taking a break from partying – although, it must be noted that as I type these words I’m wearing a fabulous shirt, so I could easily party at the drop of a hat. Instead, this year I’m observing Pride from the sidelines and I’m celebrating Pride in my own way – looking back at photos from past events and immersing myself into LGBTQ+ history and entertainment.

I’m starting with the Netflix docu-film, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) – which looks at the story of the activist and drag queen, Marsha Johnson. LGBT rights activist, Victoria Cruz describes Johnson as “the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement”, so I’m interested to find out more about her story.

In addition to learning more about Johnson, I plan on delving into a few more LGBTQ+ stories which are available on streaming services. Netflix has a number of LGBTQ+ films & TV shows within its catalogue, so I’m pretty sure a few episodes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race and a re-watch of 2014’s Pride will also be on my weekend watch list too.

Being proud is very much the order of the weekend.

Whatever you’re doing for Pride, I hope it’s a good one for you. And if you’re not taking part this year in any way, shape or form, maybe start planning for 2019 – Manchester will be here, waiting for you with open arms.

Next year, Manchester Pride will be getting a new look, with many of the events taking place in a new location, but I expect the city to continue to demonstrate tolerance, diversity and love. For now, have a Happy Pride weekend.

Alex