Peace, love & respect..."
We set off for Manchester at 6.30am not knowing what to expect in the day ahead. We decided to drive because at late notice hotels were approximately £200 a night and train travel would have been £70 return (not bad) but the last train left Manchester before 9pm. So we drove, arrived in 4 hours and paid a mere £15 to park right in the city centre for the whole day.
We arrived in good time, and just as well, as we needed to be there early to get a good spot to watch the parade. It was
fantastic to see a crowd 5 deep cheering and supporting the marchers.
Although we had to wait a while, it was well worth it, and we were very impressed to see incredible parade participation, from the range and size of groups marching, to the effort put in with costumes and music.
Once in the village - which was ticketed and gated entry (but cheaper than Brighton, supporting the gay venues, and safer & less penned in than Soho in London) we were pleased to find free wifi which meant we could upload recorded clips to Youtube and tweet throughout the day.
The range of activities laid on, as well as the offers from bars within the gay village, meant there was plenty for everyone, not only that, there was really positive approach to accessibility. The market stall was well laid out, and well attended, and the programme (if you could find one) for the whole event gave a clear sense of the line up for the stalls, food stands and stage performances. There was also an indoor community stand area that allowed all the parade groups to have an extended presence. Plenty of portaloos ensured we stayed comfortable and fresh throughout the day.
Due to limited access with our press passes and a simultaneous women's stage and main stage line up, we decided to stay in the women's stage area. We were pleasantly surprised that each stage had a dedicated accessible viewing spot, raised to give a clear view of the stage.
The women's stage line up was a mixed bag of known/headliner acts, Manchester Pride regulars and up and coming acts and opened by Alicya Eyo (of Bad Girls fame). All female performers, but not all gay. The stage was very ably hosted by Gaydio's LJ. Notable acts included Becca Williams who brought acoustic bliss to the afternoon and newly signed Mila Falls who got the adrenalin flowing with dance tunes.
However it felt a bit like the programmers had put all their eggs in the headline basket (however well deserved). The line up flowed well but ahead of schedule, leaving a large and strongly felt 45 minute wait for Heather Peace's performance. During which time, the security team had a panic that there was not enough barracades between the peaceful crowd and the stage for Heather's safety, and in overreaction reinforcing the barriers much to the offence of the crowd.
Despite the torturous wait, it was well worth it. Heather Peace is amazing. She dominates the stage with unpretenscious presence.
With a beautiful voice, singing heart wrenching love songs, this set offered a mellow, haunting end to the day. An amazing performance from Heather that demonstrated not only why she deserves all the accolades and support she receives, but also reminding us of why Pride is important and why big name acts should get behind the event.