Birmingham Pride 2012

Last year saw my first Birmingham Pride, after having spent seven years living in Manchester and having Manchester Pride on my doorstep. I enjoyed it, but only to a point, as last year I was living out in the sticks of Sutton Coldfield and was not properly able to immerse myself in the event to the degree to which I had become accustomed during my years in Manchester. At the end of it I vowed to myself that I was enjoy Birmingham Pride 2012 much better, having set myself the goal for moving into the city centre in the year that followed.

I achieved that goal five months later, and so this year I was able to deliver on the promise I made myself and I had a Pride much more along the lines of what I am used to, being able to dip in and out of it and be able to quickly and easily return to my home base as needed and use it as a rendezvous point for with my friends. Indeed, I am fortunate enough to actually live on one of the streets that the parade passes down. Although I could have viewed it from my sixth floor balcony I chose not to and instead view it from the roadside with everyone else of course. I was grateful for the handy access to a toilet once it had finished, however.

Enormous Glide banner outside iHost (formerly DV8)

This year I got much more involved. The company I work for, Glide, sponsored the iHost bar. We paid for the events banner on the outside of the building and also branded up the inside of the bar, where some well known DJs from Birmingham and Manchester played classic house all weekend. The bar was constantly busy from morning right through to when the main club opened and beyond. It’s impossible to measure any direct impact on sales or web traffic, and that was never our intention, the whole point of the exercise was brand proliferation and given how much it cost Glide definitely got bang for buck and we received a lot of respect from our industry peers for having got involved.

Outside the “Glide Pride Bar” Pride itself was much like it was last year except for one major difference and that was that this year was the first year that an entrance fee was levied for the “entertainment arenas”. Up until and including last year Birmingham Pride was the largest free music festival in the United Kingdom, but at a tremendous cost to the local businesses who paid for the main stage, the cabaret tent, the dance tent and other entertainment features. The rest of the event was largely funded by various grants, including generous support from Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police. This was not sustainable, however. Many believed that the venues who put on the entertainment were able to pay for it out of drinks takings, but these takings did not cover the cost, and so it was decided this year that although the Pride event itself would remain free (unlike for example Manchester Pride, where you need a ticket merely to enter the village cordon), there would be a £10 charge for the entertainment to cover the cost of running it.

James makes Jon his honorary boyfriend for the weekend

There was outcry over this from some factions, typically skint students who expect everything for free anyway, so that came as little surprise. I had no problem paying £10 for the weekend (although admittedly Glide paid it for me, I wouldn’t have otherwise hesitated) and I noted that it had the added benefit of dissuading less desirable Pride “guests” who had been known to spoil previous events from coming. As one drag act Baga Chipz put it succinctly, “it keeps the fuckin’ riff-raff out”. I spent most of the weekend in the Village Cabaret Tent as this was the most entertaining and social of the venues. I didn’t care much for the main stage acts. On Saturday I went to Poptastic, a well-established club night run by a friend of mine in Manchester who was running it for the first time ever at Birmingham Pride.

I had proper Pride blues the day after. I always do after Pride, I used to get them when I lived in Manchester and went to Manchester Pride too. It’s always a sign that I’ve had a good weekend. I don’t know if I’ll go to Manchester Pride this year or not. I didn’t go last year and I can’t honestly say I really missed it. If I do go it’ll all be very last minute.

More photos on Facebook.


Mac gaming spree

I’ve recently been surrendering large amounts of my spare weekend time to playing computer games after a hiatus of several years. Back when I had a PC I used to play computer games quite a lot, but since switching to Mac it has, until recently, been more difficult to do so, in part due to inadequate graphics hardware but mostly due to the fact that traditionally there simply wasn’t that many decent games available for Mac OS X.

I have two computers, a Mac Mini with a 2.53Ghz Core 2 Duo processor and a 256Mb Nvidia Geforce 9400 graphics controller and a Macbook Pro with a 2.8Ghz Core 2 Duo processor, which actually has two graphics controllers. It has a the same controller as the Mac Mini for “normal” operations and then it has an extra 512Mb Nvidia Geforce 9600 GT controller which you then switch on (requiring a logout instead of a reboot) when you want some serious graphics grunt. The reason why it doesn’t just have the super-duper one is that it absolutely hobbles the otherwise excellent battery life, so you only enable it when you really need it.

I’ve mainly been playing Half Life 2, which is available for the mac along with a plethora of other games via the Steam platform. Half Life 2 really puts my Macbook to the test, but it fares very well as I’m able to play the game at full screen resolution with nearly all the graphics settings turned up to maximum (meaning that it renders very pretty scenes) and still get a consistent frames per second (FPS) rate of between 30 and 60, which is good enough for me. The computer gets jolly hot whilst it’s doing this but appears to be designed to deal with it.

The other thing I’ve been playing is an old favourite from the turn of the century, Quake III Arena, the source code for which is now freely available and can be easily compiled on Mac OS X. All you need are the PAK files from the original game disc (as the content in these files are still under copyright). This game runs at a consistent, unwavering 90 FPS even on my Mac Mini’s relatively humble graphics controller with all the graphics settings turned up to maximum. It’s by no means a clever game, but it’s an awful lot of fun if you just want to blow off some steam in an unapologising shoot-em-up.

I’d really love to get Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas working too. There is a way, apparently, but it’s flaky, difficult to play on a laptop and I can’t play that game and enjoy it without all the mods cheats that I used to use, none of which will work on a Mac even if the game does. It’d be fabulous if other games publishers in addition to Aspyr used something like Steam to distribute their games to multiple platforms. It’s clearly a system that’s working very well and I think that publishers need to take the Mac platform more seriously as it gets more and more popular, especially amongst younger people who are their principle market.

If I had more time I would probably play games a lot more as they’re a great (and relatively) cheap way to escape and blow off some steam. That said I wouldn’t want to spend every spare minute playing them, I know what happens to people who do that.



I’m thoroughly enjoying the BBC’s new science fiction drama series Outcasts. Although I regret the premature demise of Survivors, which Outcasts replaced after just two seasons, I think think it’s a worthy replacement and more than fulfills the BBC’s obligations regarding science fiction drama that isn’t mostly aimed at kids (i.e. Doctor Who). Despite this it is receiving what I consider an undeserved panning by critics, although this panning has dwindled a little now that we’re half way through the series and I think people have warmed to it a little more.

Outcasts is based a number of decades in the future and tells the story of a colony of humans on a distant planet that they have named “Carpathia” (after the ship that came to the rescue of the survivors of the Titanic disaster), established for a number of years and because Earth has become uninhabitable due to an as yet unspecific catastrophe, although several characters have already mentioned nuclear weapons and catastrophic earthquakes. The big budget for the series allowed the BBC to shoot it all on-location in South Africa, which makes a welcome change for a Stargate fan who’s very used to almost all alien worlds looking exactly like British Columbia.

Star actors include Hermione Norris (Ros from Spooks), Eric Mabius (Daniel Meade from Ugly Betty) and Liam Cunningham, who’s been in a number of films. I think the inclusion of Eric Mabius in particular was an enlightened decision given that the BBC sells much of the programming content it makes these days to the US market via the commercial BBC America channel. I believe that having to take this market into account has made it up its game regarding the quality of its content which will allow it to capitalise on the BBC’s already excellent reputation abroad.

The BBC have already changed its weekday prime time schedule spot to a less prime-time spot at the weekend, which I think it a little bit ominous, frankly. Good as I think it is, I don’t expect it’ll see another season and will therefore be even less successful than Survivors was. It will be a real shame. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts though.


Who is the most famous person you’ve met?

I bumped into GLS or whatever they’re called in Hilton Park services on the M6 once. That really is as good as it gets, I’m afraid, I don’t seem to be a celebrity magnet like you are :)

I *have*, however, told a number of celebrities to fuck off. These include (but are not limited to) Jack Dee and Jools Holland. I’m not sure that counts as “meeting” them, per-se.

I also sat next to Joan Rivers in a New York restaurant and endured several hours of almost constant swearing throughout the meal. It was hilarious, but, again, this probably doesn’t count as meeting since I never actually spoke to her.

Decided to give Formspring a go. I will answer most questions but if you want to insult me then please do it to my face.


Stephen Gately dies

main_imageI woke up this morning to the terrible news that Stephen Gately has died in his apartment in Majorca, of causes unknown at this stage, although police say there are no suspicious circumstances. Stephen was 33 years old, exactly the same age as me, so to imagine what might have possibly killed him boggles the mind.

I can’t say that I was ever a fan of Boyzone, I’ve never been into boy bands, but I always did have a huge amount of respect for Stephen Gately himself. He came out in 1999 in the The Sun newspaper stating “I’m gay and I’m in love,”. This was a tremendously brave act and established him as a supremely positive role model for young gay people. Many gay stars remain “in the closet” for fear of their sexuality damaging their careers, but Stephen refused to accept that as a risk. Indeed, Louis Walsh, the manager of Boyzone, was unaware of Gately’s sexuality when he selected him for the band and has said that, had he known, he would have thought twice before picking him, citing that “it wasn’t cool then to have a gay guy in a band”.

The postmortem is expected on Tuesday.

It’s a terrible, terrible shame. Rest in peace, Stephen.

Update 17/10/2009: The postmortem returned a verdict of death by natural causes (fluid on the lungs). However, the vile Jan Moir of the Daily Mail disagrees, which has provoked extraordinary outrage. The funeral took place today.


Manchester Pride 2009

mcr-pride-09Another year, another Pride. Four days of hard work, hard play and general excess have once again come to an end. It wasn’t the best Prides I’ve had but all things considered I wasn’t disappointed with it. A combination of recession and bad weather meant that it was never going to be the best Pride ever, but despite that, everyone made the best of it and there was a great turnout and a fantastic atmosphere all throughout the festival. I’ve little to complain about, all told.

I spent Friday night in the Village and saw the opening events on the main stage before spending a couple of hours flyering for Manfest, an event that took place on Sunday run by a friend. I didn’t stay out late on Friday because I needed to be up on time on Saturday to prepare for the parade, with the Manfest float. The weather just about held off for the parade, which is good because the parade is hard work enough without having to deal with rain at the same time.

6413_147355157577_532867577_3514943_2081892_nThe parade is a wonderful event. It brings thousands of people from all around in to Manchester to line the streets. It truly is the highlight of the Manchester calendar, nothing else comes close to it. Manchester Pride as a whole is the single most important annual event for Manchester, since it’s not just about promoting and supporting the LGBT community but also Manchester as a whole, which is why it’s so heavily supported by the city council and the Greater Manchester Police.

On Saturday evening I took a break from the festivities and met an old friend from university in Spinningfields for a drink before succumbing to the exhaustion of the day, meaning that I didn’t get to do Federation‘s University Challenge this year.

I didn’t do much on Sunday save for a mooch about the Village marketplace and lifestyle exhibition. I bought another leather cuff from Rebel Dogg who have a stall at Pride every year. Their products are beautiful and almost collector’s items; I intend to buy one every year from now on.

IMG_6200On Sunday evening I helped set up Manfest but I was unable to attend the event itself, unfortunately, because I was knackered again, but I understand that it went off very well. It was held at Satan’s Hollow next door to Cruz 101, which is normally a straight rock club and it’s a fabulous venue. The dark and spooky theming inside is outstanding, I’ve only seen better in Disneyland. A lot of money and creativity has clearly been put into it.

I got up at a decent hour on Monday and see some of the fantastic live acts on the main stage. The sun came out and it was actually quite warm for a while before the clouds came back. On Monday evening I attended the Candlelit Vigil in Sackville Park, which I like to do every year because it’s a very touching event and I love the feeling of togetherness that it creates.

I had some nosh and a few drinks in the Village after the vigil and then went over to AXM for Sugarpops (a cabaret show) before turning in at about 3.00am. Walking back home through the village was quite surreal, everything was being packed up, with various lorries and machines scurrying everywhere, yet still there were people out on the streets drinking and enjoying themselves despite the rain.

By Tuesday morning when I went back in to the Village on the way to somewhere, everything was back to normal and it was as if it had never happened. Back to reality for another year. Almost overnight it has become autumn and the world feels like a completely different place. Nevertheless, it’ll all happen all over again next year :)


Michael Jackson dies

PD*29717015By now the whole world will know the news about Michael Jackson’s sudden death from a heart attack in Los Angeles. The world almost ground to a halt last night when the story broke. Certainly, certain parts of the Internet, Wikipedia, Twitter and Google included, saw the sort traffic spikes not seen since 9/11. Twitter in particular apparently “crashed”.

I think it’s pretty obvious what killed him*. The stress put upon him by the upcoming 50 concerts in London must have been immense. What he should have done was stick to the original ten, and not go on to quintuple the number of dates. Whether he did this because he wanted to, or because he was under pressure from his promoters, fans or creditors, is another question of course. He quite clearly took on too much at a time when his health, both physical and mental, was questionable at best.

It’s hard to deny Jackson his accolade of music genius, despite his eccentricities. Love him or hate him as a person, he produced some quite outstanding music, entertaining millions for decades. He used his fortune to push the boundaries of entertainment, often to his financial detriment, and it’s people like him who force real progress in what is possible, even if it doesn’t turn a profit.

Very cynical people, of course, will suggest that he’s actually not dead at all. He was a very eccentric man, capable of almost anything, as we’ve seen many times over the years, so it’s not completely inconceivable. It goes without saying that, dead or alive, he will do very well financially out of this event, in terms both music/memorabilia sales and insurance. But even I’m not that much of a cynic, if I’m honest.

So rest in peace, Michael Jackson. I wasn’t your biggest fan by a long shot, but I’m genuinely saddened by your death and I think the world will be a poorer place without you.

* Update: Media reports are suggesting that his death may be due to an overdose of prescription drugs. Jackson’s doctor is apparently “missing”. The coroner’s report won’t be out for a number of weeks.

Update 24/08/2009: Turns out he was murdered with a lethal dose of an anesthetic. The scandal fallout will make Diana look like a cake competition cheating incident.


Double awards win for Winehouse

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Double awards win for Winehouse – okay, let’s ignore the fact that Amy Winehouse, a terrible role model for anyone, clearly isn’t black despite winning two “Mobo” awards, that isn’t the point I wish to make here. What I take issue with is this:

Kanya King, the CEO of the Mobo Awards, read out the names of all of the children under the age of 16 who had been murdered in the UK this year.

“Guns and knives have killed too many of our young people, especially our boys,” she told the hushed audience.

Cry me a river. It’s thanks in part to “music of black origin” that these kids obtain guns and shoot them at each other in the first place. Rap “artists” constantly bang on about their guns and their violence and their money and their “hos”, making obscene videos to accompany their “music” showing them dripping in cash and surrounded by glamorous women and stating that violence and “respect” were the means by which they obtained such trappings. They are hideous role models and it’s frankly small wonder that gun violence is so rife amongst the young black community.

Get your own house in order before making sentimental speeches like that, please.

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