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The Story Behind Manchester Pride’s 2023 Anthem

Pride Classical, a pioneering organisation dedicated to commemorating LGBTQ+ history and culture through the enchanting medium of music, is set to unveil its latest groundbreaking venture: "My Pride Song."

This initiative aims to foster a celebration of Pride and allyship by inviting LGBTQ+ community members and allies to contribute heartfelt video messages, sharing the stories and significance behind their chosen Pride anthems.

“My Pride Song” is extending an open invitation to LGBTQ+ community members and allies to share personal anecdotes about their chosen Pride anthems.

These video messages will delve into the reasons behind their selections, the songs’ significance in their lives, and the broader importance of Pride-themed music.

Contributors from various walks of life will join forces with esteemed LGBTQ+ figures and allies, such as Dame Joanna Lumley, Danny Beard, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Keith Doran, Dolly-Rose Campbell, Jason Manford, Alison Jiear, and Matt Henry MBE, all of whom have thrown their support behind this movement.

Dame Joanna Lumley, a passionate ally of the LGBTQ+ community, revealed her chosen Pride anthem, saying, “My all-time favourite Pride song is I Am What I Am by Gloria Gaynor.

I just think it’s enchanting because it’s what I believe about everybody, we are just people, all of us across the world, and I love people being proud in exactly what they are!”

In her signature style, Patsy Stone of Absolutely Fabulous fame cheekily chimed in with her gratitude, saying, “Cheers, sweeties! Thanks a lot!”

Danny Beard, the victorious contender of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s fourth season, shared their Pride anthem choice: “My Pride anthem is It’s a Sin by the Pet Shop Boys because I first performed it at Manchester Pride and it went off! I feel like it is a homage to the girls, the gays, and the theys that went before us and allowed people like me to do what I do at my age!”

We sat down with Rachel Whibley, co-founder of Carrot Productions, to talk about the Anthem and how people can get involved.

Manchester’s My Pride Song

Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind Pride Classical and how Carrot Productions became involved in making it a reality?

“It began late one night, in a bar on Canal Street. The four of us (Ben, Keith, Soohie and Bryony) began to imagine an orchestral extravaganza, a celebration of the music that we’d danced to at so many Pride festivals across the years. It had been done for the music of Bollywood, of Doctor Who – so why not Pride?

“Soon afterwards, Rachel and Daniel, fellow musicians and founders of Carrot Productions, agreed to make it a reality. And that was the beginning of Pride Classical – an event conceived by members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate the songs that form a soundtrack to millions of lives.

“From the start we all felt that it was important that this concert mattered to the performers as much as it did to us, and that the orchestra and singers were majority LGBTQ+. Many of them shifted other work, travelled up from London and beyond, and helped to spread the word – because they were excited by the opportunity to play their part in performing these Pride anthems as no-one had ever heard them before.

How did the collaboration between the LGBTQ+ community members in Manchester and Carrot Productions come about for Pride Classical?

“We’ve heard brilliant orchestral versions of songs from the Hacienda, club nights, even video games – but not for the songs and music that matter most to the LGBTQ+ community. But so much of this music works perfectly for orchestra, because it already expresses all of the emotion that the community feels – from historic injustices like criminality and Section 28, to the fight for trans rights and true gender equality today.

“That’s why it felt like the perfect project for Carrot Productions. The award-winning production company has created enormously successful shows combining film and live orchestra, including ‘The Snowman’, ‘Wallace & Gromit’, the works of Gerry Anderson and much more. Having a composer as part of their team, alongside their experience staging over 350 full orchestra performances (and a passion for saying yes to exciting new creative collaborations), it was a match made in heaven!

“All of their work is designed to use music to tell stories – and in Pride Classical, we’re telling the story of 50 years and more of pride, passion, and of course celebration. Working with a production team from the LGBTQ+ community, we’ve created the perfect lineup of songs and community activity to celebrate what Pride means today.

My Pride Song encourages LGBTQ+ community members and allies to share their personal stories behind their chosen songs.

What impact do you hope this initiative will have on the community and beyond?

“Alongside the two performances of Pride Classical – at Manchester’s Bridgwater Hall and Blackpool Tower Ballroom – we worked with LGBTQ+ communities across the North West to recognise what Pride means today.

“My Pride Song is a celebration of Pride and allyship, inviting people to share short videos with the story behind their choice, the importance of the song, and why the music of Pride matters to them.

“These videos are shared online and in a special digital exhibition at Manchester Central Library to showcase the diversity of voices and experience across the community today.

“Many of the videos describe seminal moments in the person’s life – when they came out, or first felt like they truly belonged – so we hope that, by sharing these stories, they inspire others in a similar situation. By making the videos available to the thousands of people visiting Manchester Central Library each day, we hope that these important stories will reach a wide and diverse audience.

Were there any particularly memorable or moving stories you encountered?

“The variety of videos has been outstanding, with a wide range of emotions portrayed, and sometimes filmed in unusual locations.

“A particularly poignant contribution was submitted by one of our violinists, James.

“He was filmed backstage at the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, moments before he went on stage.

“He describes how his choice of Pride Song originates from when he first met his partner, Simon, in 1999, and how they’d listen to it together on a loop.

“He goes on to say: “And now, 23 years later, yesterday we got approved to become adoptive parents. And I think that’s something to be proud of.”

How did you assemble such a star studded cast – and the significance of having prominent LGBTQ+ figures like Joanna Lumley, Danny Beard, and Julie Hesmondhalgh join My Pride Song?

“We’ve been lucky to have received contributions from so many amazing people. Danny Beard, Alison Jiear and Matt Henry starred in the Pride Classical shows, and were specifically chosen by the team for their ties with the LGBTQ+ community (and awesome talent!).

“Joanna Lumley, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Jason Manford have worked with Carrot Productions in the past, and are friends of Rachel and Daniel.

“To receive videos from them meant a huge amount, as it does for every contribution we receive. The generosity of spirit in supporting this project has been incredibly moving and life-affirming.

What do you think makes Manchester’s pride so special?

“Manchester’s Gay Village, centred around Canal Street, is an incredibly special and safe place for a queer person, and Manchester Pride is such a unique celebration; four days surrounded by so many LGBT+ friends and allies creates a positive and welcoming world for any and every person in the community.

“There is such diversity within the celebrations, that everyone can feel safe and accepted, and it is truly a festival experience with all that is going on.

“As well as incredible live acts (most recently majority LGBT+ artists), partying, drinking, dancing and general euphoria, at the heart is a real sense of togetherness and support across the community – the parade has become such a wide-scale event and truly shows our Pride and acceptance in the city; and the candlelight vigil at the close of the whole festival highlights where we’ve come from and how much has been achieved – but also the struggles that still exist, and how we as a community and with our amazing allies come together to support and help one another to keep things moving forward with love and acceptance.”

As “My Pride Song” paves the way for an even more resonant and inclusive celebration at Manchester Pride 2023, it stands as a testament to the enduring power of music to unite, uplift, and amplify diverse voices in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

To be part of My Pride Song, and share your own message, simply submit a portrait video to the official Pride Classical website, or via the via Storiboard app, or even visit Manchester Central Library to record it live and watch all of the other submissions on the interactive screen.

The videos will also be showcased across Pride Classical’s social channels and with key media.

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