Decca Aitkenhead on Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, Europe's biggest gay celebration, takes over Manchester's gay village this weekend for three days and nights of the finest camped- up carnival. Among the many eclectic entertainments lined up (this is, after all, an event whose own theme tune features a line-up ranging from Cindy Beale to Margarita Pracatan), are two nights offering something old and something new from the best of the city's gay clubbing tradition.

For some of the 80,000 "Fags, Fagettes and Friends" expected in town for the weekend, Flesh - the grand old dame of the scene - is hosting parties all weekend in the new venue of PragueFive. Traditionally held in the Hacienda, Flesh's new location at the heart of the village is a cavernous bar split into several levels looking out over the canal. The classic Flesh party runs from midnight on Saturday to 8am in the morning, with old favourite Tim Lennox as the resident DJ.

On Sunday night, Mardi Gras reaches its climax with the Freedom Gala, a hugely ambitious 12-hour extravaganza for more than 20,000 in the G- Mex centre. With five different dance arenas, funfair rides, a swimming pool, laser show, 50 stalls and mysterious "showbiz hosts", plus go-go dancers, drag queens, circus and trapeze artists and Rio-style flamenco dancers, the "biggest ever indoor gay celebration" leaves few, if any tastes, uncatered for.

DJs Tony de Vit and Malcom Duffy, from Trade in London, are joining Manchester's Paradise Factory DJs Dave Kendrick and Tasty Tim, with live acts from M People, Jocelyn Brown, The Beloved and many others. Clubbers arriving from London can travel up in the Discoloco, a specially chartered train complete with its own nightclub carriage, DJs, drag hostess and bar. Coaches with music and entertainment on board will be coming from all over the country.

Flesh: tickets pounds 8/pounds 7; call 0161-861 7270

Freedom Gala: tickets pounds 25 (pounds 5 going to North West Aids charities), call 0336-404959

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