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Manchester Pride 2021 - First Festival Post-Restrictions

Overview (out of 10):

Friends: 10

Travel: 8

Tickets and Passes: 2

Cost: 3

Accommodation: 5

Location: Canal Street Party 6, Venues 8, Main Stage 4

Gay Factor: 8

Fun Factor: 7

Overall: 7

After over a year in lockdown, me and a bunch of friends have been eager to go to our first Pride since the pandemic. With Brighton and London cancelled, we watched our inboxes with caution to see if the same fate was to be of Manchester Pride.

Travelling up to Manchester was quite different. Usually, we would be on a train direct but as anticipation of a go-ahead for the festival arose, so did the demand for train tickets. We had to be smart and we used a trains split service that had us interchange at Crewe, have a pint in the internal station pub (this shocked us too!) and then on a short train to Manchester. This return ticket cost us only £30 compared to a direct train costing about £180 due to demand. We made it work as we drunk our tinnies and had a great laugh doing regular things like looking at Which magazine and doing a crossword together.

Once we arrived at Manchester Piccadilly, we were greeted with regularity of festival-goers and busy-ness that was refreshing and long-missed. After several attempts to get an Uber big enough for all 5 of us (1 of which had gone first class direct... ooo la la so is not in the photo above), we arrived at our accommodation. A bit of a panic booking as AirBnbs were flying away due to demand. We arrive at the Victoria Mill. A re-purposed mill for what we considered to be an old textiles mill, given that it was close to the canal. Having just googled it, it was a cotton spinning mill. So wasn't far off!

The place was spacious and there was an underlying reason. This mill was quite far from civilisation. The nearest shops were a petrol station and a newsagent (Sonias). We were in desperate need of liquid sustenance and so Sonia with much joy, received our pink pounds.

Inside, the apartment was nice at a glance. We soon discovered that the owner wasn't quite a savvy host. The smoke alarm was running out of battery and there was only 2 rolls of toilet paper between 5 people (gasp!). The apartment itself was constantly warm, with the sun glaring in and creating a glasshouse effect. We were cooked.

Saying that, it was fine. With a nice 25-minute walk (with drinks in hand) down the canal where 1000 ducks had a war as feathers and poo was strewn all over the path, it was actually quite pleasant in the sun.

One of the conditions for entry, was to have a COVID pass. This was the way for festivals to follow guidelines and ensure that allowing 100s of gays congregating on a single street was at least considered to be COVID-secure. Having had my 2nd vaccine on the 15th, my permanent COVID pass was not due until 2 days into the festivities. So I had to do a lateral flow test and submit it to the NHS to get a temporary pass.

Once we flashed our passes in the queueing system and after a huge debacle with Ticketmaster about missing tickets (many emails and tweets later), we were decorated with our festival wristbands.

The Festival

Canal Street

This was hustling and bustling like any regular Manchester Pride. With the usual bursts of colour, outfits and lively crowds in any pride. It felt good to be back. As with normality, there were people drinking in the street listening to music being blasted from each bar. Each bar enticing punters to come inside and spend their time and their money inside. Drag queens handing out stickers, drag queens performing on a stand outside and On Bar had an interesting bubble machine which spewed out smoke bubbles which rather than coating revelers in soap wetness, it just coolly dissipated. On Bar was where we spent most of our Canal Street time.

Main Stage

Equipped with tinnies, we traipsed to the main event. Security was a bit lackluster and we could have brought anything in as they seemed quite chilled about it. Met with friends, went to the bar, the usual festival ground activities, and then found a spot to watch the main stage. As the acts came and go, it was relatively pleasant just dancing with friends in the sparse, dusty grounds. Music danced through our bones and alcohol flowed through our body. I recall a moment of throwing skittles into my friends mouths (at least trying to!). Then came the act we were waiting for... Example. An odd choice for a Pride festival but nonetheless, the name brought the anticipation.

That's when it happened...

An announcement told us that Example had cancelled and the gays were not happy. There was a distinct booing droning from the rabble and as they tried to stick a plaster on it with random air hostesses from Virgin shooting random merchandise into the riot. We decided that we had enough. The line-up of Manchester was relatively pedestrian and to have the big name drop out, we would rather party it up in Canal Street. We took a whizz and left immediately.

Example posted an apology saying that he had gone too hard at Creamfields the day before because it was his first gig in a long while. That's a poor excuse and a bad "example" of how to control yourself as a singer.

A majority of our time was spent in Canal Street. We had popped into BarPop on the Friday and that was fun. Another night we were in GAY, which is classically a great bar and our go-to in London. The final night, we went to Thompsons for a bit of variety.

Regardless of bar choice, The night always ended with us sitting on the side of pavement and eating chicken and chips from McTucky's. From here, we had a unique perspective of other drunkards and club-goers. There was special incidents where chicken was supposedly thrown and a head was kicked as well as a woman perching at the side of the road and taking a dump. Oh joy!

In conclusion, regardless of the mishaps and disappointments during the weekend, it was something we could expect no less from a Pride festival. I had great company, danced until my legs were on their last brinks and indulged in so much chicken and alcohol to last me for days.

Oh, it's so good to be back.

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