Thursday, 18 September 2014

Pride Fringe 2014

The first sign that Pride is on the horizon is usually the fancy dress shops. Gone are the ubiquitous paper masks of Harry Styles, replaced by feather boas and stripy rainbow hats. In one auspicious corner of the Arndale Centre, a woman stands decked out like a gaudy Pearly Queen, occasionally dropping handfuls of colourful wigs and hats on the ground. “Get your Pride merchandise! Pride this weekend!” she exclaims uninterestedly. I suddenly feel slightly underdressed when I arrive at the station on the way to work, as hundreds of ticket holders mill around waiting for friends. I am not one of them.

It’s not like I’ve never been to a Pride event. Over the past decade, I've lined the streets of central Sydney with thousands of others to cheer on the processors, joined the after parties in Bristol and ridden the rickety old rides in Brighton. Just not in Manchester. Well, there was the once, but I drank too much in preparation and passed out behind a kebab van somewhere near the Village. I swore this year would be different.

My mini Pride Fringe adventure began the Thursday before the fences were put round the main area. I was to be taking part in an LGBTQ art trail around the Village to showcase art made by members of the community and to socialise and have a drink. It turns out that art suits the Village. Seeing paintings hanging in your regular watering holes gives them a whole new edge. In particular, Via Fossa felt like an established gallery with its wooden walkways and hidden nooks and crannies. It was a resounding success. I could feel the kebab van moving steadily away.

The main weekend arrived and I stayed away from the city centre in case I was tempted by the bright lights or hypnotised by Anastacia’s wailing siren call. Sunday was to be the second part of my toe dipping into the fringes of Pride. I stepped out into the bustling city centre, narrowly avoiding an inebriated group of Pride-goers running away from a Princess Street Chinese restaurant without paying. One member was pulled back sharply by her glow-stick wristbands as I reached Bangkok Bar and my night’s entertainment.

I should take this moment to say that I had friends on the inside: wristband holders who had spent the weekend taking in all Pride has to offer. I waited for them as the soaring voice of Conchita Wurst rose majestically out of the car park behind Portland Street and told us all that her heart will go on. A small amount of envy at the crowd’s cheers was quickly dissipated when I closed my eyes and saw the kebab van backing up. Back to reality, my friends and I spent an entertaining evening making ‘Queer Art’ (the Tate won’t be calling anytime soon) and listening to bands performing. Simple, yet effective. Talk of all the other Pride alternatives (Drunk at Vogue, Homoelectric) remained just talk, as we threw shapes on the dance floor. Next time. It may have been a paddle in the shallow pool rather than full immersion in the Pride Fringe, but it was a start and set the ball rolling for future years of exploring what the weekend has to offer. Sadly, however, I still had a kebab on the way home.

Words: Andrew Collier

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