Never a drag to be so busy...

This summer seems to be made up of one hectic weekend after another, and looking at my diary I don’t think I’ll get chance to put my feet up until at least mid September.

Last weekend was taken up with preparations for the 3rd annual Leeds Pride event which as usual I was heavily involved in.

But this year someone had volunteered me to decorate a float for the parade, however they should know better, as I’m no Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen when it comes to dressing a set.

Saturday evening saw me organising a pre-party parade through Leeds for my club night Federation at Victoria Works, and trying to keep a gaggle of stilt walkers, dancers and other entertainers under control is no easy task. My head gratefully hit the pillow at 5am and 3 hours later I could hardly believe I had to get up and prepare the float.

My idea was to decorate it as vibrantly and colourful as possible to fit in with the rainbow flag of gay pride so I had plenty of fabrics and armed with a staple gun set to work. My friend the Interior Designer Ben Huckerby and Charlie one of my Managers also helped me out.

In the cellar at my bar I had lots of props which had been used for theme nights in the past so I decided to use anything I could find including gigantic tropical fish. My friend Deborah from Hairy Lemon had kindly loaned me the same huge stilettos that Michael and I had used at our Moulin Rouge themed wedding a few years ago �" not to wear I might add as they are over 6 feet tall!

I was hoping that nobody would want to interview me about my float as I had no idea what theme to tell them I was working around.

In addition to the parade, one of the other highlights of the day was a world record attempt taking place on the stage in Millennium Square, where over 75 drag queens were needed to form a chorus line, the longest one ever.

I must admit that I’ve never been one for drag queens myself, years ago I always thought that they gave gay people a bad name as TV coverage always focuses on them whenever they feature Pride events and it’s not a stereotype I’m happy with.

As well as the screaming drag queens, there were so many professional people enjoying themselves including doctors, nurses, firemen ,police and footballers.

My partner Michael got into the spirit though and dressed up in drag �" I walked straight past him at first as I didn’t recognise him in his blonde wig and newly trimmed down waistline.

Despite the auditions we’d hosted for drag queens only 45 braved the chorus line so the record attempt will have to wait for another year. I would have dressed up if they were only 1 or 2 short but instead I pinched one of the other Queen’s wigs and wore that. It didn’t go down well though and she had a hissy fit about her hair underneath so being the joker I am I did it to a few others too.

Thousands had turned out on the day, and after the parade around the City Centre finished Lower Briggate was turned into a street party and my club, Mission became a market place full of stalls. Everyone had a great time and it was much more popular than last year, even my Mum was enjoying herself in her wheelchair.

I like the smaller pride events like Pink Picnic in Huddersfield, Hull ,Doncaster and Leeds as they have a better feel than the more commercial ones in London and Manchester. The emphasis isn’t as much about money, lots of local business make the effort by putting on bars and stalls rather than shelling out lots of cash on sponsorship fees.

I’ve already been invited to a planning meeting for 2009 but I definitely won’t be getting any recommendations for float design.

One hitch after after another

I’ve been listening to BBC journalist Evan Davis on the radio telling stories of his recent hitchhiking experiences, and it brought back some amusing tales of my own.

Evan was investigating how easy it was to hitchhike in Britain in 2008, and why not many people seem to be taking this option nowadays.

You hardly ever see people standing at the side of the road with a scrappy piece of cardboard now, and it would seem like an obvious thing to do with astronomical petrol prices.

About 6 of us commute from Huddersfield and Halifax into my offices in Leeds every day, and we’re all trying to reduce our carbon footprints by car sharing, but it’s not easy. We all keep different hours and everyone seems to prefer their own space, it makes us a less sociable lot but if more people did it then motorways and city centres wouldn’t be gridlocked so much.

In my younger days when I was a DJ in Leeds, I used to live in Morley and drive to my job late at night. One night I spotted an old lady at the bus stop and felt sorry for her so I stopped to give her a lift.

We got chatting away and when we reached the city centre I asked her where she wanted to be dropped off. ‘I have an appointment at the hospital at 4’ she told me, and as it was late at night I replied ‘what 4 in the morning?’ ‘No the afternoon she told me.’ ‘So why were you waiting for the bus so late at night?’ I asked. It then became apparent that the poor lady wasn’t quite with it . She thought it was daytime! So I was faced with the dilemma of being late for work or leaving her stranded. I felt so guilty that I had to take her all the way back to Morley �" so much for being a good Samaritan.

My other amusing hitchhiker experience is way back when my brother and I were driving home from South Wales. Anyone who has been on a car journey with me will know that I’m not the chattiest of passengers and usually have a nap most of the way.

On this particular journey I was lying on the back seat (years before seatbelts were compulsory I might add) fast asleep when my brother stopped at a service station. I woke up after he’d gone inside and fancied an ice lolly as it was a hot day so off I went to the shop.

In the meantime my brother came back to the car and as he drove out of the services he spotted a hitchhiker and picked him up. They had been travelling for quite some time when he spotted another hitchhiker. He told the first hitchhiker that ordinarily he would have gladly picked up the other one but he didn’t have room due to me being asleep in the back.

The guy gave him a really odd look as there was nobody in the back….

Meanwhile having re-appeared with my ice lolly to find that my brother had disappeared, I had no mobile phone in those days so after waiting for ages decided to hitch a lift myself.

I managed to get a lift as far as Burnley where I used a phonebox to ring my parents who were so relieved to hear from me. My brother didn’t know whether I’d fallen out of the car or when he’d lost me so he’d had some explaining to do.

Carnival in Edinburgh

This month I’m really thrilled to be exhibiting my large scale photos from the Rio Carnival during the world famous international festival in Edinburgh.

Being of Scottish descent I’m proud to be going back to my roots, and having never made it to this event which is the biggest arts festival in the world it’s about time I experienced it for myself.

If you’re planning a trip across the border this week, you’re welcome to come along to my launch party on Friday 15th at 7pm in White Cube Studio 1, GRV Project , 37 Guthrie St EH1 1JG.

The exhibition runs throughout August if you can’t make the party and I’ll tell you how it went next week.