Queer Up North is an annual 3-week festival of films, theatre, comedy, visual arts and more, which takes place in Manchester's Gay Village. This year's festival ends today with a traditional Village Fete, complete with teas and cakes, bouncy castle, Test Your Strength, a coconut shy, a bake-off and, for one day only in the North West, yours truly running a Tupperware party.
I wouldn't normally go so far to run a party, or I would refer it on to my colleague Helen who is manager for the North West, but given the similarity to the Homo Homemakers event last autumn in London, and the fact that I haven't visited Manchester for years, I decide to go. The Festival has zero hospitality budget, and I am skint, so I travel up on the National Express coach (at £22 return, it's a quarter of the train fare) and stay in a backpackers' hostel (£18 a night). How the mighty have fallen.
It is raining and cold as mid-morning I haul the ailing trolley bag across the Canal Street cobbles into Sackville Gardens. The festival team are optimistically hanging bunting. They are also freaking out because the generator for the bouncy castle hasn't shown up -- it never does. With 2 full hours before the public can come in, I leave my bag with the team and slope off to Costa Coffee with my copy of The Observer. I am thrilled to see from the Observer Food Monthly that Hakkasan, the Chinese restaurant where I took my dear friend Bo for lunch yesterday before he went home to Korea for two years, has been named best one in the country.
The rain does ease off, and eventually stops, but there is still a fair wind, and back at Sackville Gardens I lash my tablecloth and banner to the trestle with strong tape and string before arranging my display. I snag a spot under biggest tree, in case the rain starts again, but I come to regret this choice of location when my display is regualrly augmented by bird droppings throughout the afternoon. One gets me square in the face, and another splatters on the poor Cheese Smart. We will both need a good soak when I get home.
Earlier in the Festival, a representative of Culture for Tolerance, the gay festival in Krakow, spoke about the awful hard time the gay community has been having in that city. As hosts of my Tupperware party, the Queer Up North organisers are donating their rewards to Culture for Tolerance. Sales are slow though, and sadly I can only make a £10 donation.
For the bake-off, two of Manchester's premier drag queens Bobbie Dazzler and Miss Whiplash dress down in twinset and pearls to judge the cakes (see main photo). My Tupperchef chef's knife is called on to slice the cakes, although I had earlier been told to keep it hidden in my bag, since it would be considered a weapon, and could get the event closed down. Bobbie Dazzler has her eye on my Salad Spinner too, which she says would be perfect for rinsing out her tights. Later in the evening, I run into the ladies again, now in post outside one of the Canal Street bars, and looking a lot saucier than earlier. "Ooh, it's the Tupperware Man!", Miss Whiplash coos after me.
Back home in London, my trolley bag has really had it. One wheel is twisted round completely, so I am practically pulling the bag along the ground like a dead weight. I toss it into the big bin and order another.