This year Manchester welcomed a new bar to its Gay Village by the name of G-A-Y. An extension of its London brand, this was the first time the video bar had left its Capital hometown, and it has settled in nicely in a matter of months. This week Manchester Pride caught up with the man behind the brand - owner Jeremy Joseph - to discuss the move to the North West, his role over our 2011 festival and any future plans for G-A-Y, whether in London, Manchester or beyond...
So, Jeremy, what was it about Manchester that made you want to bring the G-A-Y brand here?
I don’t think it was just Manchester . . . we’d been looking at venues across the country and it is about finding the right venue that will fit the brand. I’d looked at Canal Street in the past and seen venues that we thought could fit it; we’d come for a drink at Spirit and thought “this is the venue I want”. And now we’re here!
Obviously our 21st birthday was the first Manchester Pride you had been a part of whilst having your own bar in the North West. How did you find that?
Well, everything is really hard for us at the moment as with everything we are doing it’s the first time we’re doing it here in Manchester. The people on Canal Street, such as Polly from Taurus, your guys’ Entertainment Co-ordinator Ian Hyde and Festival Director Jackie Crozier have been extremely helpful. They gave us advice on what it would be like at Pride, and they were pretty spot on, even with things like staff hours, how much change to order etc. It was hard to work out everything in time but we got good advice and it worked out really well.
As a huge part of this year’s Manchester Pride G-A-Y presented your good friends Alexandra Burke and the Sugababes. Was that special for you all?
It was fantastic. With Alex especially, we were really pleased. What I think is extremely important is to have a headliner who is not necessarily promoting something but wants to perform because pride is important to them, and this is the case for Alex, and she’s got a great relationship with G-A-Y.
After checking that she was available, her dancers were etc, she said she 100% wanted to be a part of the event. I thought she was perfect at Pride – the standard of pride events around the UK has not been, like, “wow” to everyone... When Alex was added to Manchester’s line-up I think it solidified it as fantastic.
What were your main highlights from this year’s Manchester Pride?
I think the highlight was getting through it! We [G-A-Y] had London Pride as well as, so I couldn’t make it up for the Friday and Saturday and it was killing me . . . and I wanted to get up here, it was really frustrating. As soon as Mel C had gotten off stage in London, I got a car up to Manchester for the remainder of the Big Weekend.
Despite the fact G-A-Y was shut by the time we arrived, and a lot of the bars were, there was a real atmosphere. It was surreal, last time I was at Manchester Pride it was not closed off and it had a very different set up. I had just done London Pride and I thought, you know, London could learn from Manchester. There are certain parts of London Pride that aren’t safe – and as annoying as it is to have to show your wristband when you come in and out of the gates, I think that they are a great thing. Manchester Pride must be one of the best organised Prides in the UK at the moment.
Who would be your dream line-up for Manchester Pride 2012?
I can’t answer that because it’s a long way off and a lot will happen . . . If I had the day to schedule it, a G-A-Y day, I would love to put Steps on... Otherwise, I think it is more about putting acts on who are in more of a mood to party, not there to promote but to have a fantastic time with the audience and create some excitement. When Alexandra Burke came on the crowd went wild! I’d like acts like Alexandra again, who have a good relationship with the gay community. It’s all well and good having lots of hits, but only if you have a good relationship with the gay community should they be performing at Pride.
I think the public should have a bit of a say; I mean obviously we have to have a realistic idea of budgets and availability, but public polls etc to see who people want to see would be great. People pay for Pride, it is a community event, so perhaps the community should have a bit of a say.
What makes you Proud to be a gay person in the UK today?
That’s a really hard question! Who said I am?? (Laughs)
I think one thing that makes me proud to be gay as that, when something bad happens, the community all comes together. I remember with the age of consent and Section 28, the community come together to support one another. There is a real purpose for why there is a gay pride and why we have one; gay pride for me is about looking out for one another and supporting one another, it is not just an excuse to all get hammered. Gay pride is how we can educate the newer generations, be there for each other and also support those being bullied for their sexuality and gender. There is even bullying in our own community, including those living with HIV who we must also support. Pride is all about us coming together in unison.
What does the future hold for yourself and G-A-Y?
It’s hard because a lot of things you don’t plan... I think most importantly for us, we’d like to expand and have more venues, but it would be good to do some big club events in Manchester. I’d like to get winter out of the way first as I have not been looking forward to winter in Manchester!
The rest of the year is going to be all X-Factor, with the acts performing at our venue in London as well as us showing it on the screens in Manchester... And then it’s onto New Year’s Eve!
If you could describe G-A-Y in five words to anyone who had never been, how would you do so?
I’ve never done anything in five words...
“Cheaper – than – any – other – bar – on – Canal – Street” – that’s eight!
It’s an extension of the London brand but is not an attempted takeover at all; our brand is a video bar with Manchester staff, trying to keep drinks prices at an all time low. People need to understand with bars is that we are going through rent increases at the minute; many things are including and affecting the bars all the time, so it is important to support the bars so we can keep the drinks prices as low as possible for you all!
G-A-Y has £1.50 drinks offers Sunday – Thursday, £2 drinks offers on a Friday and various offers on Saturday. We love ideas from people on how we can grow, do things, everything – a lot of what we do comes from the customers . . .
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes! G-A-Y’s charity is The Elton John AIDS Foundation, which you can donate to by visiting www.justgiving.com/G-A-Y - we have raised £82, 000 so far and want to make that £100, 000 by the end of the year!