Friday, 21 July 2017

Sparkle 2017

Well what a Sparkle it was this year!

We had been looking forward to it very much and even more so as Lucy had been doing behind the scenes work for the trustees so knew some of the arrangements in advance. We arrived on Thursday and were staying until Monday.

Last minute we changed our hotel from the Premier Inn to The Britannia Hotel as Jenny and Ethan were moving hotel and we moved too as we wanted to be near them. Originally Lucy booked a room with no windows (yes no windows in a hotel with no aircon – not her best idea!) so when we checked in and we asked to pay extra for a room with windows they gave a us a free upgrade to a room with windows on the 6th floor. All great except the lifts stopped at the 5th floor and we had to walk up 4 flights of tight winding stairs to get to the room. By the time we got there we were both hot and sweaty and a bit frustrated, it had been bad enough getting our multitude of luggage out of the car and into the lift in the first place let along lugging it up further stairs.

The room was tiny, tired and old but had windows that opened but was still very hot as we were in an attic room. Luckily we had bought 2 fans with us which helped. We decided that although we were not impressed with the room it would be ok as a base for changing and sleeping so started getting ready to go out. There was a huge painted beam over the top of the bed and while we were getting ready I happened to look up…… it was covered in THICK dust and written in the dust were the words ‘Clean Me’ which looked like they had been there some time. We were not impressed but we wanted to get out for the evening so didn’t say anything….. yet.

We went out that evening along Canal Street and visited lots of bars having a couple of drinks in each to get a feel for the atmosphere, price of drinks etc. It was just us but we had a great time and met up with a few people. Lucy’s name was on the window of Via for her DJ stint she was doing on the Sparkle opening night Friday evening and she was very excited and loved her claim to fame.

Friday we had a lay in as we got in very late and we knew we wouldn’t get much sleep over the weekend as Lucy was also helping out backstage at the Sparkle stage on Saturday and Sunday. By the time we got up and out it was about 3pm and we were starving. On the way out we visited the hotel reception to ask them to clean the beam and change our bedding as the bed was directly underneath and any cleaning would have messed the bed up. The receptionist was having none of it and wanted to move us into a different room straight away. The only disadvantage was that it had to be done immediately but they did eventually send a porter up to help with the cases. Lucy was rolling her eyes as she had unpacked everything for the weekend so it meant repacking everything and it was a hot day in a hot room too. Anyway, we packed up and I did several journeys from one room to the other which was on the 2nd floor while Lucy waited for the porter (it was hot and I thought best Lucy didn’t do too much in the heat and she was hot enough as it was). The new room was amazing! It was a large suite with a sofa area and a spa bath! Still no aircon but a much bigger space. It was the size of a large studio flat. Suffice to say at this point it was a lot of faff to move however we were glad that we had said something.

By the time we eventually got out it was gone 4pm and we still hadn’t eaten so grabbed a pizza at a restaurant down Canal Street and then had a walk around. We met up with a few people we knew and visited a few new places. Friday evening Lucy was dj-ing at Via and we had arranged to meet Jenny and Ethan and some other friends for a meal first so we went back and got ready.

We had a lovely Chinese meal, a bit later than planned, but it was really nice and the portions were huge! As well as Jenny and Ethan, our friend Paulette, who is a Sparkle trustee, and her partner Lorraine were there, as well as Shelly Webster who was the headline act for Saturday on the Sparkle stage. She had come all the way from Texas to play and was such a really lovely person. When it got to about 10.30pm Lucy was keen to get over to Via to get her stuff put in the DJ booth and get herself prepped for her big moment. Lucy DJs as ‘he’ and has been dj-ing for 30 years but this would be the first time as the real her. A momentous moment.

We met up with a few other friends in Via and had a couple of drinks while waiting for Lucy’s slot. Before we knew it, she was there dj-ing. The place must have had approx. 400 people in it and was heaving. Her music pumped out and she put in a few of her favourite old school garage tunes which went down a treat. Everyone was dancing and singing, the bar staff said they loved it and safe to say it was a resounding success. A trans male DJ was after Lucy and his kit was not working so Lucy let him plug in his tunes into her stuff and we went off for a celebratory drink with our friends who were waiting.

The new DJ had only been on a few minutes when the owner of the bar came and dragged Lucy back…. The music was not in keeping with the bar and customers were leaving and he was not happy as he was losing money and was worried that in 10 minutes the bar would be empty. He insisted that she had to come back and DJ for the rest of the night. Lucy felt bad for the other DJ but there was not much else she could do. She got right back on to it and people stopped leaving and extras came in. It was a long old night and I didn’t get to spend much time with her but it was very successful!

Saturday we were up and out relatively early (well early for us!). Lucy was helping Paulette backstage and I spent most of my time in the Sparkle lounge with friends sitting in the sun. It was a glorious day unlike the rainy days from Sparkle last year. The acts were good and Shelly Webster was an amazing guitar player. There was a great lesbian hip hop group called Ajah who were fantastic too. My only criticism would be that the majority of the acts were influenced by rock and it would have been good to have had a bit more diversity in the music style but in any case it was far better than the year before when it seemed that the only attribute you needed to be on the stage was to be trans rather than have any talent. I met up with some friends and also a blogger friend Amy who I have been friends with on Facebook for ages and whose blog I love reading. It was great to actually meet her properly at last!

For Saturday night it was the Sparkle Ball at the Mercure hotel. Champagne reception and a beautiful ball room which was air conditioned and looked the part (unlike the ball at the Britannia the year before). The food was lovely although somehow we missed out on the ice cream desert but to be honest we were busy enjoying ourselves with the friends on our table. There was a pianist who played beautifully however the sound was not amplified so was difficult to hear at the back of the room where we were. Later there was a singer and people were up dancing.

We left at about 10.30, got changed and went off down Canal Street where we met up with lots of friends and had another fun night out. We went to a few bars and ended up in Via with friends dancing and drinking…. Unfortunately our time in Via was marred by a complete d**khead bouncer. Lucy had taken her shoes off to dance and he came over and aggressively told her to put them on. Just at that point another friend arrived and as Lucy went to greet her seconds later the bouncer told her even more aggressively to put her f***ing shoes on. Actually there was no need for this attitude and we felt miffed by the fact Lucy had bailed the bar out the night before. The owner was not around that evening and the duty manager was not bothered so we drunk our drinks, left and went off to GAY with some friends (we will be complaining about the bouncer as he was unnecessarily aggressive). I like the downstairs of GAY but not so keen on upstairs where it seems to smell of pee! In any case the drinks are amazingly cheap and although they don’t have a DJ they play good music. It does seem to be a predominately male gay place but we still had a good time.

Sunday we had to be up, out and at Richmond Tea rooms by midday – no mean feat when we probably rocked in at gone 5am! We met Jenny and Ethan and while they had a lovely Queens Tea, Lucy had an English breakfast and I had poached eggs. It is a great themed tea room with lots of mis-matched china and tea cups but all added to the charm. We need to go back to have a proper tea and they also have mad hatter themed days where everyone dresses up so we would be keen to go on one of those days too.

We made our way over to the park and the Sparkle lounge. Jordan Gray was the host for the day as well as performing later in the day. She is just amazing and is so talented and was a great choice for the job. It was another hot day. Lucy helped present some of the awards on the stage. The day just flew by and before we knew it the trustees and helpers were up on the stage finishing the event with a rendition of Amazing Grace.... a fantastic finish! Jenny and Ethan were leaving that evening and had put their stuff in our room when they checked out so came back for a cuppa and a natter before they left. They are such a great couple and exactly as last year we sat there chatting for ages before they had to go.

By the time we got out it was gone 10pm so we grabbed something to eat from the chippy and made our way back to Canal Street. It was much emptier as many people had gone and last year the Sunday night was a bit of a wash out for us. This year there seemed to be more places open later which was great and we went back into Via as the bouncer wasn’t working that night. We met up with our friend Sonya and ended in Eva which is a basement bar with karaoke. It was a nice little place, shame about the sodden toilets but we met some great people in there. Lucy and Sonya sung Wonderwall and transpires it was Sonya’s first time at karaoke and she has shared the video on her Facebook much to Lucy’s amusement. Once they closed we ended up in Napoleons which was still quite busy and again made some new friends in there too. Our Sunday night had been a blast and nothing like the year before.

We had paid extra for a late check out on the Monday and once we were out and stuff packed in the car (2 taxi’s had problems finding the car park we had parked in but that is another story) we went off for our last stroll down Canal Street and grabbed some breakfast. Kiki did an all day breakfast which wasn’t bad. It was weird being in there when it was light, quiet and relatively empty apart from a few people dotted around grabbing meals.

For us Sparkle this year was so much better than last year. The talent on the stage truly was talent even if it wasn't all to our taste, the Ball was far superior, the Sparkle lounge had been given a great face lift and the park was not so muddled. The effort that we know that was put in to laying on the whole even was tremendous. The bars on Canal Street were busy. Despite being a community event there was the odd idiot we came across but just chose to ignore. You get idiots everywhere sadly.

The drive home wasn’t too bad, 4 and half hours I think. When we got about 20 mins away from home Lucy started to change back to him. Last year this was an incredibly emotional time for us both and this year was just as bad. 10 minutes from home we pulled over in a quiet area so she could fully transform back…. We both stood there hugging each other overwhelmed with emotion. I feel like this every time she goes back to him even if we have only been out for one evening and this had been 5 fantastic days 24/7. Emotionally it breaks us both….. she needs to go full time to everyone soon…. we can’t keep going through this…….

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