The director and founder of LGBT radio station Gaydio looks forward to Manchester Pride ’11, looks back to Pride Festivals past, and tells us why the event has such a special place in his heart.

It’s fast approaching the last bank holiday of the summer, which for many people across Manchester only means one thing – everyone’s in final preparation for the Manchester Pride festival and with this being the 21st birthday of the annual celebration, it’s set to be a special one.

For us here at Gaydio, the UK’s only FM radio station for the gay and lesbian community, the anticipation is building just the same as it does every year. The office tends to become a place filled with deadlines, meetings about deadlines and making sure that we do something that builds on what we did last year.

Manchester Pride has a kind of special place in my heart, not least because I have been coming every year since 2000 (making this my 12th event), but it was the thing that introduced me to Manchester. I remember getting off the bus by Piccadilly Station and for the first time coming face to face with the Gay Village and all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) sights down there. Coming from a small midlands town, it was like nothing I’d quite seen before, making it the perfect time to come out to the girls that had brought me down for the event (I still suspect that’s why they invited me – something they deny to this day).The sheer openness of the city inspired me in a way to make Manchester my home and I’ve not looked back since.

Fast forward six years and Pride 2006 was a very different experience – a friend and I had this crazy idea to support the festival with a two week radio station. To be honest we had no idea if it would work or not, but there is something quite special about how Manchester embraces new ideas and before we knew it we were repeating it, making it bigger and better and then applying for a full time licence – launching June 2010.

The past year has been a bit of a whirlwind, setting up a new station, working to make it sound good and attracting both a gay audience and a quickly growing audience of non-gay people that pick Gaydio as their station of choice. We have an amazing team of talented people around us, many of whom will be out on the streets over the Pride festival collecting stories and promoting the station.

So this Pride will be the 5th festival that we have covered (we didn’t broadcast at Pride ’09) and once again we will be partnering with BBC Radio Manchester to make sure that we offer great coverage of the Parade on the Saturday afternoon and also the candle -lit vigil on the Monday evening. We will also have loads of exclusive coverage, with our backstage show and all the latest gossip and what’s on at the event. We want to use the station to connect people to the festival that can’t be there, or make sure that they stay connected when they go home – with the all the best bits of the weekend.

Once the festival’s finished, when we’re dusting down the glitter remnants and packing away the bunting for another year, we still have an excellent line up of competitions, great music and engaging presenters to keep us going throughout the year.

I would like to wish everyone a very happy 21st Manchester Pride and if you have never been to Pride before, then above all I would encourage you to head down to the Pride Parade as it winds its way through the city on Saturday afternoon. If you can’t though – it’s covered all weekend on 88.4fm, at or by downloading our fabulous iPhone app.

Ian Wallace – Director and Founder of Gaydio