Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sparkle 2012

Thursday. So, after a few days being a sightseer in my own city (see below), Emma Walkey drove us both to Sparkle, the annual national transgender celebration in Manchester. We picked up Leila Collins on the way. Not an easy journey – Britain’s motorways at their finest – and it took us ages even to get to Leila who was waiting for us half way there.

As in previous years, I stayed at the Ibis Hotel in Charles Street, formerly referred to as “Tranny Towers” for this event. It’s close to the action and the rooms are large and well-suited to our purposes. It’s also had a makeover this year and the new reception area looks better.

Just arrived in my hotel.

Friday. Sparkle proper begins on the Friday afternoon, really with the Welcoming event, held this year at Taurus, the last (or first) bar on Canal Street. I met various friends there and it was good to catch up with people I hadn’t seen since last year. I had a male friend to meet as well, who works locally, so I took him to Velvet next door.

Then I got changed and went again to Eden for the burlesque evening. I managed to get the last table and was eventually joined by a whole variety of friends. The varied show was right at the other end of the venue and was not always easy to see so some of us left early and went to New York New York, preferring a quiet drink at the lesser bar to the dancing at the main bar.

Saturday is Sparkle’s main day and the Manchester’s Gay Village is carpeted with trans people of every kind. You could probably crowd-surf up Canal Street on TGirls if you wanted!

I didn’t rush to get up but gradually got ready in my new Pussycat coral pink lace dress which I’d bought for the occasion. The cardi I got the day before in Manchester’s excellent shopping streets. And the shoes have become my official Sparkle shoes as I’ve worn them every Sparkle Saturday! Thanks to my lovely friend Jan for her sartorial advice here (Gok Jan!)

My carefully chosen Sparkle outfit. Dress and belt by Pussycat of London in coral pink (this year's colour!), cardigan by Wallis, sandals by BHS, open-toe tights by M&S, hair by Rene de Paris; jewellery, nail colour, spectacles: model's own. Fashion advice by Jan de Londres. (I think that's how the fashion mags put it!)

My pal Maddy was also staying at the hotel so we walked together to Villaggio Italian restaurant where I was hosting the Angels lunch with the much-appreciated help of another lovely friend, Tina-Natalie Scott. We had 20 people attend, which was very pleasing (we had 16 last year). Food and service there are always good and I find it good value, too.

UK Angels lunch at Villaggio. Regular readers will spot Holly (head barmaid at Erotica), Maddy (Nottingham Invasion) and Tina (hostess) on the near table with Claire, Fran and Lucy. Receding into the distance we have Bobby, Sandy, Lucy, Margaret, Joan, Susie, Cora, Wilhelmina, Emma, Jackie and an empty space where I would be.

The main Saturday event is Sparkle in the Park, with its stalls and stage shows. It was very well attended – probably even more than other years. Singer January was impressive and the Drag Idol show was fun. I bumped into so many people I know, and for me that is what makes the whole weekend so enjoyable. Bought a red and black goth wig just on a whim and wore it in the evening with my new M&S London skyline tights. Friends didn’t recognise me at first!

A change of look. Red and black wig, with fabulous M&S London 2012 skyline tights. With my lovely friend Tina. Photo courtesy of Maddy Watson.

In the evening I dined with the a number of friends from Northern England who (because of the distance) I get to see only occasionally – Tina and KD, and also Mandy, Justine and Emma with their wonderful, supportive wives. This was also at Villaggio (again! – well, it’s the only proper restaurant in Canal Street), then drinks at Eden where I met Tina and Maddy again. Finally, off to the Molly House, a very nice place with excellent foreign beers (but where the younger staff have never heard of Diana Ross – the shame!), where I met up with Justine Time, Sophie Harris and Saffy Walton.

Sunday. Had brunch at an outside table at Taurus and was joined by Zazoo, my inspiring trans friend from Glasgow, whom I first met right here at Sparkle in 2010, and we pretty much spent the day together. She is the ultimate trans person to my mind, living her life as she feels appropriate from day to day. The sun came out and we enjoyed just sitting there for much of the afternoon, saying hello to friends walking past and being entertained by the Gay Gordons ‘Scottish’ dancers. It’s a good way to spend the time. We went back to Zazoo’s apartment at the Atrium (which was lovely – must book in there next year) to change shoes and have a glass of wine. She and I then went for dinner at the New Emperor restaurant in Chinatown, which was pretty good and was patronised by the Chinese community, which is usually a good sign of quality. After, I went to freshen up and joined Emma and her wife Jackie at Eden’s before rejoining Zazoo briefly at Via. I went to bed early. A nice day but altogether I wasn’t going to overdo it. A restful time with close friends is just as good as the best celeb party, I reckon!

Last day of Sparkle. Ready to hit Canal Street for brunch and a lazy day in the sun at an outside bar table.

So there you have it: Sparkle 2012. For me, a quieter affair than in the past, but a thoroughly nice one. Sparkle is what you make it. You can go to lectures and events organised officially, or you can relax and do your own thing. I was happy to be co-hostess for the Angels lunch, my one commitment, but then just play it by ear after that. For me, it’s the lovely friends I meet there who make it.

Sue x

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