Manchester Pride Preview: Who we’re looking forward to seeing

Manchester Pride is just around the corner once again and there are some great artists who will be gracing either the main stage, Sackville Boutique stage or Gaydio Dance Arena. Here’s a few of our must-sees!

10. Kelly Wilde

Kelly is no stranger to Manchester Pride, having performed several times before and is a very popular act on the gay circuit. As well as some of her songs like “Gloria” and “Maria”, she is known for including covers of classics such as “Holding Out For A Hero” and “(I’ve Had The) Time Of My Life” in her live sets, which you can watch from when she was at Manchester Pride in 2012 below:

9.Jade Ellis

Jade was a finalist on the 9th series of The X Factor in 2012 and was mentored by Tulisa (who will also be performing at Manchester Pride). She has a daughter who she raises with her girlfriend and received a lot of positive reactions when she was very open and candid about her sexuality. Here is one of her best performances from the show:

8. Katy B

Katy has spawned a handful of top 20 hits on the UK singles chart and her debut and sophomore albums reached No.2 and No.1 respectively on the album charts. Over a few short years she has already got to collaborate with some big names, including Miss Dynamite, Craig David, Tinie Tempah and Mark Ronson.

7. Jordan Gray

Jordan certainly made a big impression when she enchanted coaches and the public on series 5 of The Voice earlier this year as the show’s first transgender contestant. We are very interested to see how she progresses as an artist in the future.

6. Sophie Ellis-Bextor

A veteran to the pop-dance and nu-disco music scene, Sophie is probably the biggest global name on this year’s bill with 3 top 10 albums and 6 top 10 singles on the UK music charts and several entries on Australia and many European countries’ charts too. She has a new album out in September called “Familia” but here is her most famous hit, “Murder On The Dancefloor”:

5. Frankmusik

Vincent James Turner – a.k.a. Frankmusik – is one of Britain’s top synth pop artists who has been an ally of the LGBT community for many years and will be performing at Manchester Pride this year.

4. Will Young

One of the biggest names to come from any of the UK’s reality TV competitions and one of the UK’s biggest gay celebrities, Will Young has come a long from when he won Pop Idol in 2002. All six of his albums have reached No.1 or 2 on the UK albums chart and 11 of singles charted in the top 10 – four of which went to No.1. This will be his first time performing at Manchester Pride. Below is our favourite song of his. “Switch It On”, in which he channeled Top Gun in the video:

3. Groove Armada

Arguably one of the UK’s best dance acts of all time, Groove Armada will be rocking the Gaydio Dance Arena on the Saturday. Here is one of their most famous worldwide hits, “I See You Baby”:

2. MNEK

MNEK may only be 21 years old but the openly gay singer-songwriter and producer has already been nominated for a Grammy and worked with some huge names, including Beyonce, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Naughty Boy, Bastille, Little Mix and JoJo. This will be his debut performance at Manchester Pride. Listen below to “Never Forget You”, which was a top 5 hit:

1. Heather Small

Heather Small is THE voice of dance act M People. It’s been almost a decade since she last performed at Manchester Pride and we’re glad to see this gay icon return to the city where M People originated. With one of the most distinctively soulful voices the UK has ever heard, Heather is a legendary force to be reckoned with.

Check out the full list so far of who is set to perform here. Who are you looking forward to seeing most this weekend? Let us know!

Queens of Clean: Puffs With Polish

Gay Homestays is proud to be the first LGBT-run online accommodation network for gays and lesbian travellers and hosts and as a company we are always keen to work with and help promote other start-up companies that also target this niche segment of the community. Puffs With Polish is the UK’s first openly gay cleaning service that employs LGBT cleaners that you can hire to help clean your home or your office.

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Founded by Neil Ralphs, who has nearly 3o years of experience in the cleaning industry, Puffs With Polish is – like us – based in Manchester and works primarily within private houses and with LGBT-owned businesses or businesses operating in the LGBT market throughout the northwest of England. And it’s not just cleaning services that they provide: Puffs with Polish can also provide laundry (including ironing), painting, decorating, security personnel and companionship to the highest standard for all customers.

For Neil though, Puffs With Polish is only is newest endeavour – he is already a well-respected entrepreneur who owns several other national businesses, is the winner of the Mayor’s Oscar and Young Business Person of the Year, is a Business Mentor for Richard Branson’s Virgin Start-Up and even had his own BBC documentary entitled “Dirty Work”. Neil is also a host with Gay Homestays and lets out his spare guest room in his luxury (and perfectly clean, we’re sure) apartment in Manchester.

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Just like Gay Homestays, Puffs With Polish aims to provide LGBT customers with a product tailored to their needs and preferences. So if you’re a busy professional or own a gay company and would feel more comfortable with another LGBT person cleaning your property without being embarrassed by anything they might come across or even judged, then Puffs With Polish is the ideal company for you to use. Puffs With Polish also wants to help create friendships and mutual understandings between the cleaner and the owner rather than a typical maid service where nobody talks except for orders being given so if the cleaner also identifies as LGBT that means if you’re around when they are working, you are more likely to have things in common that you can relate to and talk about.

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All Puffs With Polish employees are friendly and skilled or trained in the tasks they do and with experienced Neil and his partner Pete at the helm, you can be assured that you will be receiving the best service possible that your require. For a full range and quote of their domestic and commercial services, check out their website.

Top 12 Donna Summer hits

On 17th May 2012, Donna Summer – a.k.a. “The Queen of Disco” – passed away after losing her battle with lung cancer at the age of 63. She was one of the most influential artists, particularly for a female, of her era – the 70s. She was inspired by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, her contemporaries at the time included Diana Ross and Gloria Gaynor and she herself paved the way for other divas including Madonna, Whitney, Janet Jackson and Beyoncé.

Because of her impact on modern disco and for helping to kickstart the craze of dance-pop and electronica genres that followed in the 80s and 90s, Donna not only cemented herself as one of the greatest musical legends of all time, but also became popular with the LGBT community, despite controversy surrounding things she allegedly said about gay men. She was still recording music well into her 50s and within the first two decades of her career, which were her most successful years, notched up 19 Number One songs on the Billboard Dance and Club Songs chart and sold over 100 million records worldwide. Here is our list of our top 12 favourite hits by her:

12) She Works Hard For The Money

11) Could It Be Magic

10) This Time I Know It’s For Real

9) MacArthur Park

8) Dim All The Lights

7) No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) – with Barbra Streisand

6) On The Radio

5) Bad Girls

4) Love To Love You, Baby

3) Last Dance

2) Hot Stuff

1) I Feel Love

What do you think of this list and what are your favourite Donna Summer songs? Let us know in the comment box below! And if you want to check out some of her best but rare and lesser-knows tracks, then click here.

Gay marriage: 7 countries you can travel to to get married

With the gay marriage bill in the UK currently in the process of hopefully being passed by the House of Lords soon and after the recent news of New Zealand and France legalising gay marriage, equality for LGBT people around the world is slowly but surely becoming a reality in some countries. At present, there are 14 countries that recognise same-sex marriages and allows same-sex couples to marry, while in other countries it is legal in some states and areas (such as the US and Brazil) or same-sex marriages from other countries are recognised but not performed (for example, Israel).

So if you want to go abroad and get married, which of the 14 countries are the best place, not only to get married in but also travel to? Here are our top 7 picks and why:

7) The Netherlands

The Netherlands who was the first country to extend full marriage laws to include same-sex couples. The Netherlands is a very liberal country in general and Amsterdam, its capital, is known to be one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world.

6) South Africa

While many countries in Africa are very much against homosexuality, South Africa became the first in the continent, the second outside of Europe and fifth overall to legalise same-sex marriage, which will hopefully set a good example to the rest of Africa. South Africa has a lot to offer tourists, especially those who love outdoor adventures and wildlife.

5) New Zealand

The thirteenth country to legalise same-sex marriage, New Zealand seems to have always kept quiet when it comes to equal rights, especially when its neighbour, Australia, is still hotly debating over the topic. While Australia is of course a very popular travel destination, New Zealand is often forgotten about, but does in fact have a lot to offer travellers – and with it being close to Australia, you can easily visit both while you’re “down under”.

4) Argentina

Being a predominantly Catholic country, Argentina may seem like an unlikely place where gays are accepted but it is in fact becoming more liberal and isn’t as strict as it may seem, especially its capital, Buenos Aires, which is now known as one of the most popular gay travel destinations.

3) Canada

Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first in the Americas and outside of Europe to legalise gay marriage in 2005. With Canada being such a huge country, there are so many different areas to visit, that you could spend ages travelling around experiencing it, from the French-speaking area of Quebec in the east (where it may almost seem like a completely different country) to the southern provinces which are more modern and more concentrated, to the mountainous northern parts which are usually blanketed by snow.

2) Iceland

Iceland is one of the best gay-friendly countries in the world but is probably one of the least known by people. Icelandic geography, culture and history is extremely rich and interesting if you look into it and travel around the country to learn more and Reykjavik’s Pride event is very popular. The country’s Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is an open lesbian who is legally married to her long-term partner. The couple became one of the first to become legally married (after being in a civil union in 2002) and surely became a pioneer for LGBT rights and politics in not only Iceland, but around the world.

1) Spain

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005, becoming the third country in the world to legalise it. Spain is undoubtedly not only one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, but also well-known as a hotspot for LGBT travellers, with its big cities having some of the most vibrant and famous gay scenes and hosting some of Europe’s and the world’s biggest Pride events, such Maspalomas in Gran Canaria, Madrid, Barcelona and Tenerife.

Interview with artist Adam Pryce

You may have noticed on our Facebook page and Twitter and Tumblr accounts recently that we have posted illustrations by Manchester-based artist Adam Pryce. Adam is an up-and-coming freelance artist and illustrator who has worked with several magazines, publishers and websites such as Hallmark, Walker Books, The Illustrated Ape, Juxtapose, Design Week, Amelia’s Magazine and CreatureMag. In July 2012 he wrote and illustrated his first children’s book entitled “Mr Ordinary’s Prize” with children’s writer Emily Capstick, which was released in partnership with the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

He is now currently working on a his own new range of children’s books and a multimedia animation to be released later this year as well as teaching and leading workshops and painting murals in and around Manchester. We love Adam’s creative and quirky designs which follow an almost standard style throughout, no matter what he’s drawing or who his audience is, and the fact that they are something different and fresh that cannot be seen in other artists’ work. We caught up with Adam to talk more to him about his work, his artistic inspirations and his hopes and dreams for his future as an artist.

Adam’s first published children’s book, “Mr Ordinary’s Prize”.

1) When did your love of art start and when did you begin realising your talents as an artist?

I have always drawn and I’ve always got excited at the possibilities my imagination can create; I remember the thing that would make me happiest as a child would be to be given a pad of white paper and before I’d even draw on the front page I would think for hours of what characters I would draw and what adventures they would go on.

Growing up I’d always make my friends and family handmade cards, posters and comics and that’s when I realised that what I do is different from other people and then began to think about how to build a future that includes me drawing everyday. Luckily things went well and several years later I’m waking up each morning and drawing all day!

“Milo & Duke”.

2) Which artists or what animations inspired you when you were growing up and as you developed your skills and your own artistic designs?

Disney was a huge inspiration to me – I used to watch the animated films countless times and then practice drawing the characters by freeze framing old VHS tapes. These films made me realise my true passion was for character design and so I began designing my own characters and writing stories that I hoped one day would be made into a Disney film.

As I went through College and University, my inspiration changed as I found out about wonderful artists such as Paula Rego, Sara Fanelli and Grayson Perry – all of whom shaped the type of artwork I was creating back then. I then began researching outsider art and the works of Henry Darger and the possibilities of the type of work a person can create when they have limitless imagination and no boundaries.

When I began working professionally as a freelance illustrator, my inspiration found its way back to Disney and the fantastic works of Mary Blair and the bold colour and composition she uses. I’m also fond of modern day illustrators such as Marc Boutavant and Jon Klassen and the worlds they create in their books.

Adam working on his art and displaying it in public.

3) You mainly do illustrations for and write children’s books, but what kind of work have you done in the past that also appeals to a wider and older audience as well?

My work has fallen into children’s books as its a perfect vehicle for my characters to get from inside my head and onto a piece of paper. I also create posters, logo designs and most recently branded a local festival – from the banners to the T-shirts. I also design for Hallmark cards on a freelance basis and design artwork for friends’ bands and tour posters.

I’ve recently started taking pet commissions, which I have found to be a really fun creative outlet and reignited my love of drawing animals and I love seeing and hearing people’s reactions when they see my illustration of their pet. I have also experimented with animation and shadow puppetry – something I wish to continue doing more when I get some free time.

I feel as an illustrator you really can’t have a set way of working – my approach has always been to not disregard a commission if its something you’re not used to doing – do it and surprise yourself!

A selection of Adam’s “Happy Friday” illustrations.

4) Your “Happy Friday” pictures are quite popular with our Facebook fans and our followers on Twitter and Tumblr. Where did you come with the concept and how do you get ideas and keep it fresh and innovative every week? 

I used to draw these characters and then put them to one side and nobody would ever see them, until one day a friend remarked how much they loved them and said “why not create one character a day for a month and post them on Twitter?” So I did that and soon got a lot of interest on Twitter and Facebook and approached the website CreatureMag about becoming a regular contributor, and thankfully they loved my work and readily agreed.

The “Happy Friday” item was already a weekly thing on CreatureMag with contributions from several illustrators. The creators of CreatureMag felt my characters fit the brief so well that I’m now the main contributor and have been for the last year or so. It’s a great working relationship we have for in exchange for weekly promotion through social media sites, and for them we create a character.

The main inspiration is the world around me and when that fails to inspire me I either close my eyes and the character just appears or I simply start drawing and surprise myself by what character walks onto my iPad.

An image Adam created using his iPad.

5) Where do you hope to take your art in the future and what kind of work or illustrations would you love to do if you got the chance?

My dream is to be a concept artist for Pixar and Disney so that’s where I’m working towards at the moment and without intentionally doing so my work is becoming more and more “Disney”. I’m about to have my second book released later this year – both in the UK and America in digital and printed paperback so I’d really like to do more books and write some more stories. I’m really happy with the direction my work is going in and my work has evolved so much in the last 12 months I can’t wait to see what type of work I will be producing in 5 years time!

You can “like” Adam’s Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and Instagram or watch his art and music videos on YouTube.