For the first year, Manchester Pride has burst out of its Village home and exploded all over the city. With a new 10,000 capacity venue, Mayfield Depot, organisers slapped an £80 price tag on the weekend and announced headliners including Ariana Grande, Cheryl and Years and Years.
Even Canal Street - the famous gay strip in the centre of the city - had ticketed entry. For a tenner, you had the privilege of accessing the only gay bars in town.
Doors were set to open at the Mayfield Depot at 12pm on Saturday, but at 3pm it was still closed to the public. At this point, festival goers reported watching JCBs and trucks leaving the site, sparking comparisons to Ja Rule and Billy McFarland’s painfully bad Fyre Festival.
By the time Years and Years took to the stage at 10pm, some ticket-holders had been kept outside waiting for three hours. When we arrived, a crowd were chanting “£80! £80!” at the top of their lungs to a team of impenetrable security guards.
It transpired that the 7pm final cut-off for entry was announced on Twitter on the day the first acts were due to appear; which was desperately unhelpful given that by that point we’d already been making the most of the weekend sun on Canal Street. The last thing I’d be doing was checking Twitter.
On Sunday, the day that Tulisa, Cheryl and Ariana Grande took to the stage - we were taking no risks. We turned up at 3pm to avoid a repeat performance of the night before and were swiftly ushered into the palatial venue. The Mayfield Depot was a concrete shell with a couple of street food vendors with mile-long queues and a few bars with about six people serving drinks. We waited over an hour for our first pint; but that was nothing compared to what we experienced later.
After sitting on the pavement for about two hours in the only shade we could find, we made our way down to the main stage in time for Tulisa (while waving at our pal on the accessible viewing platform which operated an outrageous one-in-one-out policy considering there was nowhere else for wheelchair users to view the stage). Tucked away at the side, it became clear that we were getting trapped into a corner of the festival by a crowd of people pushing forward from behind us, making it very difficult to get anywhere else.
After spending another hour and a half at one of the bars which had run out of water, cider, wine and spirits (yes - you read it right); I waded through the crowd to find my friends only to realise that the only toilets in the whole venue were near the entrance to the festival.
A combination of having to buy four pints at once thanks to the outrageous queues at the bars and the fact that I would have to fight through thousands of densely packed people to get back to my friends deemed visiting one of the 100 portaloos impossible.
And so, at 9pm on a Sunday night, I found myself standing in a polka dot jumpsuit in front of Cheryl, trying to pass a plastic pint cup up the leg of my culotte and pee where I stood. I was defeated, and I wasn’t alone. People were urinating behind every bin, in every corner and sometimes just where they stood.
It was unenjoyable at best; and downright dangerous at worst.
Manchester Pride haven’t responded to a single tweet from disgruntled customers (or even acknowledged the fact that TERFs hijacked the parade).
On Monday - the final day of the Pride weekender - my girlfriend and I wandered down a dreamily quiet Canal Street, popping in and out of bars and talking to anyone we happened to sit down next to. We shared our experiences of life as LGBT+ people, we laughed, we worshipped Cheryl and we talked about how terrible the toilet situation was at the Mayfield Depot the night before.
We watched a man on stage wearing nothing but a pair of pants and a mullet wig pour Sambuca into the open mouths of 10 people below, before slipping a single testicle out of his boxers and performing “We Are Family”.
It was brilliant, it was outrageous, it was fun, and it was everything I wanted from the weekend. It made me think about how Pride is about celebrating difference and otherness, and how Manchester Pride Live made us feel like we were just another tiny cog in a big money-spinning wheel.
We’ve seen London Pride being taken over by huge corporations who dress up their logos in rainbow flags and name sandwiches after us - it’d be a crying shame if Manchester followed suit.
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