Now one of the biggest Pride events in the UK, Manchester Pride was born back in 1985 when Manchester City Council funded a two-week celebration in the city centre for Manchester’s queer community.
Fast forward almost 40 years, and now tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ people and allies gather to celebrate Manchester’s vibrant queer culture and join the protest for LGBTQ+ equality across the UK.
Manchester Pride takes place across the British August Bank Holiday every year and spans not just the city’s infamous Gay Village, but right across the centre of Manchester’s many incredible venues, as well.
Here are 13 things you can expect to happen at Manchester Pride
1. Pride Parade
Manchester Pride helps attendees remember that Pride first began as a protest with its annual Pride Parade. The parade takes place on the Saturday of the bank holiday event and sees thousands of queer Mancunians and queer allies grind the city to a halt by marching through the centre in a vibrant sea of color.
With roots in the huge anti-Section 28 protest that was held in Manchester in 1988, the Pride Parade has since grown into one of the largest LGBTQ+ demonstrations in the UK.
Put simply, it’s a chance for both the queer community and its allies to shout loud and proud about queer rights, queer culture, and queer love.
2. Gay Village Party
Undoubtedly one of the greatest things about any Pride event is the party. And Manchester’s Gay Village Party is one of the best in the world.
Held across a variety of stages and venues in the city’s iconic Gay Village, the Gay Village Party has an incredible line-up of performers who take to the stage for Manchester’s queerest celebration ever.
Manchester Pride works hard to invite a diverse collection of artists, and in 2023 the line-up consists of 96% queer performers, 54% female performers, 51% people of color, 42% trans and non-binary performers, and 34% performers being disabled or neurodivergent.
Together, this incredible group of performers provide one hell of a Pride party.
3. Free Arts and Cultural Events
Manchester Pride doesn’t just end with the parade and the party. There are also tons of free arts events that celebrate the city’s extraordinary queer talent and give them a platform to showcase their talents and latest projects.
These events are part of Superbia, Manchester’s arts and culture programme. While Superbia has a year-round offering of shows, they also hold an unforgettable series of alternative events each year as part of Manchester Pride.
Whether it’s music, filmmaking, dance, or workshops, many of these incredible events are held in accessible and alcohol-free spaces across Manchester’s city centre to keep inclusivity and acceptance at the core of their Pride programme – and provide a culturally rich way to celebrate Pride.
4. LGBTQ+ Trail Walking Tour
Given the origins of Manchester Pride, it’s unsurprising that the city has a rich queer cultural history. The LGBTQ+ Trail Walking Tour invites both Manchester locals and those that have traveled from further afield to learn more about this history by visiting landmark locations in the city, like the Alan Turing Memorial.
This two-hour tour is led by playwright Chris Hoyle, and includes some other famous faces in the queer and allied community; RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Cheddar Gorgeous, activist Paul Fairweather, Hollyoaks actor Annie Wallace, Trans Creative’s Kate O’Donnell and drag queen Anna Phylactic.
This walking tour is extremely important for keeping the queer history of the city alive, and ticket proceeds all go to the Manchester Pride charity.
5. Queer Raves
Manchester is known for its rave scene. Which of course, encompasses Pride weekend, too.
For those that like something a little more electronic or a bit more disco than the more common cheesy queer hits played at the Gay Village Party, the various queer raves held around the city mean that there’s something for every type of party-goer at Manchester Pride.
Be it a 12-hour blowout at a renowned rave pit in the city, or a two-part party session in a lo-fi former garage, Manchester Pride sees hundreds of renowned DJs taking to the decks and playing all night long.
6. Candlelit Vigil
The Candlelit Vigil marks the culmination of Manchester Pride weekend. During the vigil, participants gather together in Sackville Gardens (a public space near Manchester’s Gay Village and home to the Alan Turing memorial) to remember those lost to HIV.
This moment of quiet reflection brings together both Manchester’s queer community and its allies to honor those that have lost their lives to HIV, as well as those that are still suffering today.
The Candlelit Vigil is a powerful and emotional event and one of the most important gatherings put on by Manchester Pride to raise awareness of the continuing fight against this virus.
7. Youth Pride
Another way that Manchester works hard to make its Pride event the most accessible and inclusive as can be is Youth Pride. Aimed at 14-18-year-olds, Youth Pride provides a space where younger members of the LGBTQ+ community can explore queer culture and be their most authentic selves.
There are a variety of workshops and events throughout this smaller part of Manchester Pride, all aimed at helping younger LGBTQ+ people build confidence in their queer identity and to thrive.
The best part is that Youth Pride collaborates with two UK youth charities, The Proud Trust and AKT, to support these young people during these events and make sure they feel safe, comfortable, and most importantly, seen.
As well as Youth Pride, Manchester’s Family Pride also seeks to appeal to another (just as important!) demographic within the city’s queer community.
Family Pride aims to celebrate the diverse nature of families in today’s society. Whether that’s LGBTQ+ families, single-parent households, same-sex parents, adoptive families, foster families, and multiple-family homes, this event was created as a safe space for families that don’t always see themselves reflected in heteronormative society to meet.
Expect festive parties, performances, music, party games, sing-a-longs, and even a rainbow disco!
9. Human Rights Forum
The Human Rights Forum is another great educational event at Manchester Pride that also helps remind us that pride began as a protest, not a party.
Taking place on the Friday, attendees can watch influential speakers and inspiring changemakers discuss the myriad of issues currently facing the LGBTQ+ community, including issues facing the trans community and LGBTQ+ mental health.
The Human Rights Forum is a space to open a dialogue and reflect on key issues facing the queer community. It welcomes some of the most prominent queer activists and queer allies currently fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.
10. Commnity Lane
A slice of peace among the bustling Gay Village, Community Lane is a small pop-up market with stalls from a variety of LGBTQ+ and HIV community groups and organizations, not-for-profit entities, independent Manchester businesses, and public sector organizations.
Community Lane gives you the chance to find out more about all the incredible work these groups are doing for Manchester’s queer community. Several stalls also sell unique gifts and clothes from local artists in the city.
11. Alt Pride
For those in Manchester’s LGBTQ+ community who enjoy more alternative music and culture than the traditional offering at the Gay Village, Alt Pride is the place to be.
Held at Big Hands, an iconic student hangout in the city, Alt Pride invites a range of DJs and live bands to play everything from punk and 60s to garage rock and grunge…. There’s even folk music!
12. Afflecks Palace Pride Weekend
Speaking of alternative culture, Afflecks Palace is also holding a variety of events outside the traditional Pride offering.
An indoor market in Manchester’s vibrant Northern Quarter, Afflecks is known for its many independent stalls and small shops that offer alternative clothing for the very edgiest of Mancunians. And over Pride weekend, Afflecks also puts on some great alternative Pride events like pop-up galleries, queer quizzes, and also a Pride-themed swap shop.
This is before even mentioning the many beautiful murals and infamous umbrella installation Afflecks has become known for!
13. Feel Good Fest
Owned by a wife-and-wife team, queer-favorite brunch spot Feel Good Club is known for putting on year-round LGBTQ+ events like open mic nights and queer book clubs. And they don’t drop the ball on Manchester Pride, either.
Feel Good Fest runs from the Wednesday before Manchester Pride right through to the Bank Holiday Monday. As well as the main Feel Good Fest event on 26 August with music, crafts, talks and markets, visitors to Feel Good Club that week can enjoy other entertainment like an all-female stand-up, a pre-weekend warm-up DJ set, banner making and pampering and even a clothes swap!
Manchester Pride is undoubtedly the city’s biggest date in its LGBTQ+ calendar. For 72 hours (or even more for some venues!), Manchester finds itself wrapped in rainbow flags and surrounded by even more colors than before.
From pride parades and parties in the Gay Village to inspiring talks about queer history and culture, Manchester Pride truly does have it all. And as such an important city in UK queer history, who can blame the city for having such a jam-packed schedule celebrating all things LGBTQ+ in Manchester!