This weekend, Manchester continued its tradition of the longest-running pride celebration in the UK with the annual four-day party known as The Big Weekend. While rainbow flags flew throughout the city, from the top of Town Hall to storefronts everywhere, the majority of the festivities were held in the city’s Gay Village—several blocks of gay bars, clubs and restaurants, spanning from Canal Street northward—where streets were mobbed and parties raged around the clock.
Headline sponsor Thomas Cook Airlines hosted daily concerts at the mainstage with acts ranging from Clean Bandit to former Spice Girl Mel C, while Gaydio converted a nearby parking garage into a sprawling dance club with nightly DJ lineups drawing major crowds.
Mel C performs at Manchester Pride Big Weekend 2017. (Photos courtesy of Manchester Pride)
Outside the Village, the rest of Manchester wasn’t about to be left out of the fun. The Refuge, one of Manchester’s can’t-miss bar/restaurants, revived its popular Come As You Are party with three days of music, dancing and love-inclusive revelry with nearly nonstop action. A bit further from the village, Hidden threw its Homoelectric party with three floors of international DJs spinning everything from techno and house to pop and UK garage, proclaiming that “sexual orientation and music genres are irrelevant” at the venue.
Like most prides, the highlight of The Big Weekend is its parade, which continues to grow. This year, more than 3,000 participants from 100+ groups marched, strutted, sang, werked and twerked their way through Manchester, drawing crowds in the tens of thousands under the Class of 2017 theme, marking 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalized in the United Kingdom. The Radisson Blu Edwardian, the official hotel partner of Manchester Pride, teamed up with Gaydio to present a parade party at the property’s Opus One bar, directly on the parade route. The hotel’s windows were decked in original LGBTQ art installations by local artist Christian Taylor, who took inspiration from Manchester’s traditions of pride and industry when creating the Manchester Pride Bee—a rainbow iteration of the city’s iconic worker bee symbol.
A drag queen marches at the Manchester Pride parade. (Photos courtesy of Manchester Pride)
Manchester Pride is a charity organization that has raised hundreds of thousand of dollars for LGBTQ causes, with the majority of income stemming from the annual August pride festival. The culmination of The Big Weekend is the emotional candlelight vigil, in which thousands stand together in Sackville Gardens to commemorate those lost to HIV/AIDS and to inspire continued research in controlling the global epidemic and ending the stigma surrounding it—a sobering conclusion to a frenetic festival, and a reminder of the difficulty that persists in varying degrees around the world. In Manchester, the struggle appears to have paid off, as this is a city that has embraced and incorporated its LGBTQ community without diluting and devaluing it. Here, everyone is Manchester Proud.