Northern Soul attends the Wedding of the Year with Girl Gang Manchester
Housemate and I wish there was a Tinder for mates. Preferably an app where you can sit in your PJs with no make-up and swipe right.
Joking aside, how do two women in their 30s make friends outside of the workplace? Housemate is a teacher, I spend half my time in my pyjamas working from home and just thinking about having to ‘people’ gives me the sweats. I thought I’d be over all that friend-xiety by the time I reached adulthood, but instigating new friendships sees me harping back to that shy, pig-tailed girl on the playground.
Enter the lovely team at Girl Gang Manchester, whose immersive screening of the 2011 hit Bridesmaids is a headline event for 2017’s Wonder Women Festival. The satirical comedy, which turns the chick flick genre on its head (thanks to its brilliant ensemble cast of female comics and hilarious observations of the nature of female friendships) is bound to draw a big crowd due to its exploration of friendship, sex, love and life.
After roaming Deansgate for a cash-point, we finally make it to 53Two, Manchester’s newest arts venue, and head inside to be greeted by one of the organisers and handed pink party-boxes. Her face is coated in glitter-gel and I’m immediately transported back in time to getting ready for the Year 9 school disco.
“Are you guests of Helen Harrison III?” she asks. Housemate looks at me blankly.
“I think so,” she replies. It’s been a while since she watched the film.
We drop off our coats and as head into the main room, a flute of pink lemonade is proffered as we cross the threshold.
The famous Deansgate tunnels have been transformed in to what can only be described as the best girl party ever. Not that it’s exclusively female – if you take a good look around, there are fellas dotted about and enjoying the festivities. Paper flowers abound and curtains are draped across doors. The work put in to transforming the space is phenomenal.
We’re a little too late to sign-up for the second round of workshops. There’s a couple of spaces on the Comedy improv programme but, being a bit awkward, that’s not really my bag. I wanted to have a crack at the ‘Seeing you look ugly kind of makes me happy’ workshop designed to discuss, and replace, competitiveness among women. (Later, I overhear a conversation between two girls at the bar. “That was the most powerful thing I’ve ever been to,” one girl says. “I actually cried.” Damnit.) When it says ‘get there early to avoid disappointment’ on the advert, it’s usually wise to heed the warning.
Instead, we mooch around the various stalls. There’s badges and zines and merch galore. I’m a badge fiend, my trusty denim jacket is adorned with the things, and I purchase a couple along with a cute postcard from Fernandes Makes to add to my collection (nicknamed ‘the wall’). There’s all sorts of fascinator making and paper flower fashioning going on. There’s also a nail bar, communal hair straighteners, and a fantastic replica of the Eiffel Tower.
On closer inspection, the Eiffel Tower is a sort of guest-book, asking revellers to pop self-love notes on little cut-out locks (a cute play on the iconic landmark’s love lock bridge).
Housemate and I then pose for snaps, adorning ourselves with photo-booth props (Housemate picks a hat and a bouquet, I whack on a red trilby and clutch a stuffed toy) and have our caricatures drawn by very talented twin designers, Buttercrumble (“We reckon that’s an excellent name for a Chihuahua,” Housemates tells one of the girls). We are delighted with the results, so much so that we spend a good 15 minutes selfie-ing them when we get back home.
The screening is preceded by a lecture from Dr Kirsty Fairclough, senior lecturer in media and performance at Salford University, about the appeal of Bridesmaids, and what – despite some of the usual clichés – makes it such a great representation of female friendships and fears. Then there’s a bit of funny improv from Maids of Dishonour.
We giggle our way through the movie. Lines like “I didn’t know that was your diary. I thought it was very sad, handwritten book” resonate heavily, and Housemate hoots with laughter when Megan, after mistaking a party-goer as Annie’s fella, states “I’m glad he’s single because I’m going to climb that like a tree.”
Unfortunately, Housemate and I have to leave early to catch the last train back to Stockport (via The Village for emergency chips ‘n’ cheese) but we sing Wilson Phillips songs en-route.
So, if you’re new to the city, or simply looking to hang out with brilliant women-folk, you need to check out Girl Gang Manchester. They’re all about celebrating female friendships. To quote Becca in Bridesmaids, they’ll help you feel “more beautiful than Cinderella”.
Northen Soul Awards 2017
The Northern Soul Awards 2017, hosted by Lemn Sissay MBE, will celebrate and reward cultural and artistic excellence in the North of England.