Manchester Pride is back!
The festival began yesterday, and to mark the occasion, the organisation held a lovely little launch at The Midland. An interesting choice, perhaps, what with the hotel hosting the Conservative Party Conference, but it’s a gorgeous venue which has fully embraced Pride, with oversized rainbow feathers decorating the lobby.
The event began with a bit of a social. I chatted to a patron and was then introduced to a good-looking man in a gorgeous green suit.
“What are you? How are you involved with Manchester Pride?” I asked.
“I’m the CEO of Manchester Pride,” he told me. It was Mark Fletcher…
We were then treated to an in-crowd performance by two Ghetto Fabulous dancers, one of them being the stunning Rajan Das, a stunning, long-haired South Asian dancer who appeared onstage with Tom Aspaul the following evening.
The event then kicked off, with Fletcher delivering a passionate speech about the importance of Pride. He discussed changes this year, including a line-up which is mostly queer, with a huge number of trans and non-binary artists. He also discussed the Queer South Asian Takeover – the first of its kind – which came about after the horrific racism experienced by Lucky Roy Singh and the House of Spice in Gay Village last year.
The double marginalisation of queer South Asians is what inspired me to create the BBC documentary Bend It Like Bollywood, and several of the artists involved in the film at different stages. are set to perform at Manchester Pride tomorrow: lead star Vinay Jonbanputra (of Bollyqueer), Val The Brown Queen, Miss Jalebi Bebe, Jason Patel (who appeared in the taster tape but was sadly cut from the film), Bolly Illusion (who was sadly cut), Lucky Roy Singh (who appeared in the taster tape), and The BollyWitch (who we had spoken to during development). It is incredible getting to see them shine.
Some of the above star in the upcoming queer South Asian film Unicorns, alongside Ben Hardy.
Mark spoke candidly about how much he loves Manchester; it’s an incredibly queer-friendly city. He can walk down Deansgate with his husband and their kid and not have any problems.
Mark was followed by somebody else involved with Manchester Pride; I think it was the Chair.
Next up were Councillor Bev Craig (the first woman and queer person to become Leader of Manchester City Council) and Mayor Andy Burnham (a huge ally to the queer community). They spoke about the importance of Manchester Pride, with Burnham joking that it brings the money on!
The pair called out hateful politicians, weaponising queer issues for their political advantage. Bev told us that Manchester City Council had voted unanimously to pass pro-queer legislation, a reflection of the progressiveness of this city (i.e. not a single Tory council).
The final guest was a representative of Booking.com, an official sponsor of Manchester Pride (and also the Eurovision Song Contest – they love the gays!). The representative told us about their “Travel Proud” initiative, which they launched because of the problems faced by queer travellers.
Mark, who has faced criticism during his tenure as CEO of Manchester Pride, spoke openly about the criticism Manchester Pride has received for “commercialising” Pride. He asserted that it is important to have sponsors, for financial reasons, and there are corporations that do genuinely care about the queer community, as is the case with Booking.com
Indeed, Manchester Pride cannot win. When Ariana Grande headlined, in response to the Manchester Arena attack, Manchester Pride was criticised for mainstreaming Pride. The line-up was made up mostly of straight white women, such as Cheryl, Bananarama, Tulisa, Becky Hill, and Pixie Lott. Of course, these women are all queer icons and allies but their presence took opportunities away from queer artists.
However, when Manchester Pride prioritises the inclusion of queer artists, they are criticised for having a mediocre line-up without huge names, like the ones you see at Brighton Pride, e.g. Britney and Mariah.
You can’t possibly please everyone but the folk at Manchester Pride have worked hard to make this year’s festival even more diverse and no less spectacular.
After the speeches, there was a social, with cocktails and canapés, and a couple more performances from Ghetto Fabulous, with Derren Pritchard on the mic. I even caught a glimpse of queer South Asian icon Dr Ranj!
Manchester Pride 2023 runs until August 29 2023.