The amphitheatre at the Great Northern Warehouse was the venue for ‘Family Pride’, a new addition for this year to Manchester Pride, which has been running since 1985. Events were overseen by the likes of Ginny Lemon from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, one of the entertainers responsible for whipping up an excitable crowd of children with congas and musical statues before asking: ‘What’s my favourite thing in the whole wide world?’ ‘Drugs!’ shouted a Mum on her second pint.
Maybe, but Ginny Lemon was high on endorphins, as were the kids. The atmosphere at Family Pride was more Calpol than Class As. Times have changed not just for the attendees at Family Pride but for society as a whole, which has seen a marked increase in same-sex couples becoming parents, so the organisers of Pride are attempting to move with them.
As Mark Fletcher, CEO at Manchester Pride, explains: “We know that there has been an enthusiasm for the festival to become even more community-focused and we believe that the three stages in our Gay Village Party will provide a wide variety of artists that will relate directly to our Manchester LGBTQ+ community.”
But the communities within the LGBT community were mostly catered for outside of the Gay Village Party with venues such as the Feel Good Club hosting Superbia: Disabled, Queer and Hear and YES hosting Youth Pride Manchester with activities more aimed at teenagers including placard making, affirmations or a room full of giddy teenagers attempting to make shapes shouted out by the compere, such as “a gay dragon breathing out glitter!” The schedule had gone out of the window and proceedings, according to a volunteer, had become a bit more ‘organic’.
I probably wasn’t Youth Pride’s target audience so took myself off to Sackville Gardens to catch the Dog Show hosted by the ever-present Ginny Lemon. Unfortunately, by the time I got there the only panting being done was by men dressed in rubber dog outfits and a deadpan drag queen judging the participants and intoning again and again, “Oh lovely, very playful”.
Similar to the offerings at YES, I don’t think I was the target audience so walked down to Chorlton Street, or as it had become, Charity Street. There were stalls for charities such as the RSPB and the Black Trans Foundation but, given the drunken mayhem taking place 200 feet away, the stall which most caught my eye was the Sober Gay Socials.
The stall was manned by Stephen Wilkinson, who founded Sober Gay Socials after recovering from alcoholism. They set up booze-free socials such as roast dinners, picnics and country walks and I got chatting to a rep from Lyre’s, an alcohol-free drinks company selling cans of convincing imitations of classic drinks. He tells me that a poll taken amongst the LGBT community found that over 50% of respondents would be classified as alcoholics and that there is a pressing need to address this issue within the LGBT community. Despite this, he was selling cans of Lyre’s drinks at £2.50 a can and giving all proceeds to Sober Gay Socials, who are otherwise completely self-funded.
Pride, which still offered the usual fayre of deadpan drag queens, bountiful booze and dubious popstars, made an attempt at making the event more relevant to all sections of the community most notably with Family Pride, which in many ways was more enjoyable than the party on Canal Street! Hopefully the small steps to include different abilities, ages, races, and genders will become bigger and intolerance will become smaller.
However, sexuality does not dictate your tastes and views of the world and unfortunately there are still a lot of issues with racism, sexism and ableism on Canal Street, just like with society at large. The message of love and inclusivity at Pride does not always extend to other minorities, and engagement with the politics which bought us to where we are today in terms of gay rights and law changes, is in short supply.
This was demonstrated by a humble Socialist Worker stall manned by two people on the pavement beside the parade, yet the floats for Booking.com, Co- Op Funerals, Wickes and UPS were large, well-funded and took up the bulk of the march. It demonstrated how corporate interests have more of the limelight than the radical politics which paved the way for rights which the LGBTQ community benefit from today.
Maybe there isn’t a demand for this to be celebrated, but how would we know unless this is attempted? Information can be provided, not spoon-fed, through events like exhibitions or talks around LGBT history like the Section 28 protest, without which events like Youth Pride wouldn’t take place. As Edmund Burke once said, “The only necessary thing for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
Yes, this is a quote from a Christian white male in 1867, but as Manchester Pride 2022 demonstrates, it can evolve and accommodate people who want change.
A version of this article was originally published at emmaroywilliams.com
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