The last time I left you, I was severely hungover and crawling my way to the cinema to watch Ghostbusters. A dark quiet room with Kate McKinnon on screen did make me feel better.
After the film, feeling refreshed (and it now being half past twelve) I made my way back towards gay village, to watch the parade. Usually there’s a big celebrity involved in the parade, like Sir Ian McKellen or Big Boo from ‘Orange is the New Black’. Our celebrity this year was the Manchester Mayor, the first gay mayor the city has ever had.
I stood for two hours watching the parade up against the barriers as colourful cheering crowds danced, ran and marched through Manchester. It was the biggest parade in the twenty-six years Manchester Pride has been running – it grows every year. This year had the returning cast of Coronation Street in their float, as well as all the usual fantastic men in drag, charities sandwiched between police, a rainbow fire truck and the NHS. After the parade, I stopped at Nando’s and made my way home. I was in serious need of a nap.
Then Sunday came and it was a day for shopping. With my new Manchester Varsity jacket equipped, I made my way back into the city centre. I did miss the ease of the hotel room but it was nice to go home (hungover) and sleep in my own bed for the night. I’ve always enjoyed the markets aspect of pride; it’s extortionate like any market place and you can buy most of the same tat anywhere, but it’s the people I enjoy talking to. I got caught up chatting to a couple at the cupcake stand about their night, and they confirmed what I already knew about the Saturday night. It’s messy, overcrowded and is usually a worse night than the other three that make up Manchester Pride’s Big Weekend. After buying some tacky pins for my badge, a new wallet (Zelda themed) and a couple of wristbands to join the growing collection on my wrist, I grabbed myself a BBQ Chicken sandwich from one of the street food vendors and headed home early.
On Monday I was joined by two unexpected companions – my mum and a family friend, Jacqui – for the last day of Pride. I was pretty spent by this point. Four days of partying, walking, talking and grinning had tired me out, so it was a nice change of pace keeping up with two middle-aged women who mostly wanted to sit and chat. And we did!
Our first stop was the Richmond Tea Rooms, an Alice In Wonderland-themed tearoom where we could sit and plan our day. My mum treated herself to a fabulous afternoon tea with tiny cakes, tiny sandwiches and an enormous scone. Myself and Jacqui had a slice of cake each – also enormous.
After the tearoom, we went to go look at the markets again. My mum is a fan of tat, and likes to fill the drawers at home with it. They were amazed at the cheap prices of the street bars that littered the village. And so, double vodkas in hand, we made our way to the main stage to see the ‘made it to the auditions of Britain’s Got Talent’ celebrities that are saved until the end of the weekend.
Lastly came the candlelight vigil. My first one, and definitely not the last. It mostly involved standing in a big crowd and listening. You walked into Sackville Gardens after donating money for your candle – all the money went into HIV+ charities – and then we waited in the crowd while a young man and his boyfriend played piano and violin. There were chats from people with HIV, about Orlando, about how the weekend went, about sadness and happiness and loss and life. The heart of Manchester itself grouped together in a tiny patch of green near a canal.
There was minutes applause, not silence, for those we’ve lost to HIV and AIDs and for the tragedy of Orlando and shortly after in Mexico.
The candles were lit as a beautiful woman sang in Latin. My mum cried and then the fireworks went off.
I chose my candle, not a lighter, for this photo, because it’s what Manchester Pride is: a light in the dark. Something warm to come home to.
Editor: Floss Hafter-Smith