Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sparkling at Sparkle 

Every year I try and attend Sparkle in Manchester with my friends, and have a long weekend partying and having fun with like minded others.
However due to my work rota it’s not always possible to attend, so this is a little note on one of my adventurers at a previous events.

History and back ground

For those who don’t know, The Sparkle Weekend celebration is held in the English city of Manchester annually and is probably the biggest TG related event in the world now, and will be celebrating its 12th anniversary on 7th July 2017.

It was originally conceived by Kimberly Angel as a simple free festival in Manchester, where members of the TG community could get together and party. The present organisers, have continued the momentum and developed the event into a 3-day extravaganza of music, dancing, exhibit stalls and workshops to create a vibrant atmosphere for the 6000 attendees per day. (and its still free!!)
The Sparkle Weekend currently attracts around12,000 visitors and brings circa £2.8 million into the Manchester economy, so its now seen as a major event and has gained a solid reputation for being well orgnaised and a safe venue for all aspects of the TG spectrum.

The event management has developed over the last couple of years into a committee. It is now a registered charity and hopes to continue to progress and improve each year. Sparkle is held in the northern city of Manchester, which is home to Canal Street, the best known LGBT area in the UK, with hotels, restaurants, night clubs and a lovely park -- all in the heart of the former industrial revolution city.

The ethos behind sparkle has not changed over the years, but has expanded.  The management have a committed mission to promote a positive public image of the Trans community within the UK and beyond. Their  aim is to build confidence and resilience, to develop understanding and cohesion in society and to challenge stigma.
They believe that by continuing to deliver Sparkle – The National Transgender Celebration here in the UK, they facilitate a spirit of trans inclusion and acceptance within a quality festival-style event, and want to continue to work with and promote our local LGBT venues, whilst engaging with wider audiences to involve carefully chosen community-minded businesses and larger organisations across the UK.

The management believe the key values of the event are to ensure the Sparkle Weekend remains a FREE to attend event. To actively encourage those may have lower incomes to feel welcomed and be involved with the celebrations whilst feeling they are a part of the ever-growing Trans community. They have made it a key part of the sparkle vision to include everyone across the Trans spectrum; trans women, trans men, non-binary people, and those who are within sub-sectional minorities due to secondary identities, such as those with disabilities and those from 'Black Asian & Minority Ethnic’ (BAME) communities.

Whilst continuing to provide a marketplace over the weekend, they endeavour to increase the inclusion of trans-owned businesses and food concessions as part of their objectives. A solid direction which aims to create new and fresh ideas each and every year going forward; including the continued development of the Family Zone in association with key partner charities and community grass roots organisations.

So … now you know !!
But what’s it like being there ??? Here is a mini mumble of mine from 2014, which was the last time I was able to attend.

I sometimes miss Sparkle due to working, but when I am able to attend I always look forward to the event, planning a 4 day getaway. As usual I drove up from Cornwall collecting friends on the way, starting with Jemma then Ginny and Nicky, we all sat snugly in my landrover, the back pilled roof high with all the bags (oddly Nicky had the largest and heaviest bags but tends to wear the least clothes!!)

Heading North
It’s about a 6 hr drive to Manchester from my home in the south west, and we aim to get there in time for dinner and dancing on the Thursday night. The UK had another exceptional summer that year, with high temperatures and clear blue skies making the drive very pleasant. We only needed a few stops for leg stretches and food. Our hotel bookings were handled by Jemma as usual, so on arrival it was a quick shower and change then out on the town in light summer dresses.

Food Glorious food!
We had our first meal on Canal Street, the Gay Village in Mancester and found the every venue decked with the Trans Rainbow flag made for the event. A lot of girls had arrived there already, so we were soon chatting and touring the venues, dancing and enjoying the nightlife.
There are lots of very good venues on Canal Street and in the surrounding area, providing various standards of food to suit all tastes and depths of pocket. Many have great dance floors. But what makes Canal Street so much fun is the many tables and chairs along the road where you can sit and sip a drink whist people watching and chatting. So to rest our toes and enjoy the balmy evening we found a nice spot to sit for a while and enjoy the passing crowds. That night we danced till late and then headed back to the hotel for some rest before hitting the city for breakfast and shopping!

Friday is our shopping day. Being from the rural countryside we miss the big shops of the city. Our first port of call after breakfast was Long Tall Sally, where you can find clothes for taller women, and the staff are very TG friendly. Jemma and I managed to pick up some real bargain’s there and I even managed to buy something for my partner!
Nicky and Ginny then headed for the nail bar to get their nails done for the event, whilst Jemma and I took to the shops to top up on our makeup and a bit of pampering: I had my eyebrows threaded, which produced a fab result – but made me sneeze a lot!! Meanwhile Jemma had a professional MAC make over in preparation for our night out.
Friday night has a special meet and greet session for all the people who are new to Sparkle. There were welcoming hostesses positioned along the street to give out information and direct them to a special Chinese banquet meal, and the official welcome party for the event. Many of the venues had free entry for Sparkle, so no excuse not to party till very late!
There are also special events, such as the Sparkle Ball, but my traveling companions had arranged for us to have a meal on the Street again in a fabulous Italian Restaurant, followed by more dancing.

The street was getting busier as more sparkle attendees descended on to the city, with a diversity of colours, heels, and styles. Chatting about the impact of Sparkle to the restaurant owners, we found all of them regard it as the main event of the their year, where, unlike other events such as Pride, the majority of the participants spend most of their time (and money) within the area of the event for an extended weekend.
The police were also very quick to praise the management and participants of Sparkle. There was very little concern with the event and the police presence was seen as a supporting role only.
We spent the evening dancing again and chatting to lots of new girls -- as well as catching up with old friends, but by 3am it was time to head for bed and get ready for the main event.

The Erections
Saturday sees us in our comfortable shoes and off to breakfast around 9am. Wandering past the park we see the stage and vendor stalls being erected in the morning warmth, as an army of people prepare the sound systems, the food stalls and the pop-up gazebos for many different products.
Directions for the various workshops and discussions were being posted, banners and fencing located and positioned, as the park becomes the focal point of the event. As the town clock struck 12 the park was decaled open and we all made our way in to see the stage come alive with the start of the Sparkle festivities.

This year (2014)had an outstanding selection of stage shows from the transgender community as well as the Miss & Mr Sparkle, and Ms Golden Sparkle events. We also saw a trans-specific fashion show presented by a wonderful designer (the clothes more memorable then the name!!) and there was even KIT the car from the Knight Rider series!
The numerous talks and workshops covered a whole range of subjects including facial surgery, make up, drag king workshops, aerobics, older trans people, wardrobe and styles, as well as police advice and political support from Press For Change. Truly something there for everyone !
I can only give a short rendition of the numerous fringe events that go on over the 3 days, so its better to have a look on the Sparkle website to see the whole list of everything that was arranged.

The park
The focal point of sparkle is Sackville Garden. The stage has a nonstop music and entertainment all afternoon, with the numerous stalls providing a wonderful array of products and services. Wig setting and trimming, nail bar, make up lessons, underwear and trade unions were amongst the many stalls adding to party atmosphere for the weekend.
We mingled with the crowds, chatting with those we knew -- and meeting new people -- watched the stage shows, had some food and enjoyed the good weather whist soaking up the lovely atmosphere.
By now the street was full of people and the party atmosphere had become infectious. After dinner we headed to the dance floor at New York New York, one of the premier venues, which was full of dancing people and partied the night away.

Sunday started with a somber period of remembrance. Sackville Gardens is the home to the National Trans Memorial where anyone can come and sit and remember those of our community who are victims of Transphobic hate crime, have ended their lives though suicide, or have been lost though other causes. Everyone should participate, privately or publicly, in a moment of Transgender Remembrance - it's good for the soul. 
We had lost one of our very good friends recently and we were able to take some time with others to remember all the good times we had together.

The park stage continued to provide some wonder shows all afternoon, including the LGBT Chorus, a tribute to Hinge and Bracket by Kettle and Black, as well as some great tunes from other performers.

The street was still full of people enjoying the festival atmosphere and we were sad to make our way back to the car and load it up for our long journey home. After we joined the motorway heading south I glanced around to see my three companions sound asleep, with happy smiles on their faces… it was a long quite drive home !!!
We’ve just booked the hotels for next year …. Who’s coming to join us?

Thanks and further Info
Many thanks to all the team for making Sparkle happen.
Take a peek at the sparkle website for more information and past events. It’s a wonderful safe place for newbes to attend as a first step into the wide world, to meet new friends and pick up information on the TG community as a whole.


  1. I have read about Sparkle in several places but your day by day account does capture the flavor quite nicely. I seems like the perfect time to be out and about in an open, safe and friendly atmosphere.

    1. Thank you Pat, The event is perfect for all new and shy individuals who want to spread their wings.
      We have been to most Sparkles, and enjoy the atmosphere.
      It’s not for everyone but I aways find something new to bring away from the event, as well as a host of new friends.

  2. After hearing the news about the terrorist bombing in Manchester I felt compelled to come back to this post about a very wonderful and special place that has been so brutally attacked and to let you know that I will keep the victims and this special city in my thoughts and prayers

    1. In deed it is a sad event that happened, however the resilience of the people of the city shines and powers through those dark times.
      Manchester has been in this situation before with IRA bombings in the past and now this. The city becomes stronger and pulls together in times like these.
      My thoughts go to the victims, the families and the emergency services who responded to the events, and the nursing staff who continue to care for the injured.


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