the history of
In The Beginning…
The Great British Bear Bash was born in 1998, but has its origins way back in 1998, and was organised by Manchester bear group ‘Paws’. This group was formed by Seamus McAteer, Gerard Hall, and Chris Blunt. Seamus writes… Around 1995 there were only two bear groups in the country (that I knew of) - BearHug in London, and BCUK for the rest of the country. BCUK ran a series of local meetings in various cities (I remember Sheffield and Warwick, but there were others), and eventually a monthly bear night run by them was established in the basement bar of Napoleons, in Manchester. Gerard Hall and I took over as the local BCUK reps in autumn 1996. Early in 1997, we took a decision to split with BCUK, and along with Chris Blunt, set up PAWS and moved the monthly night to Chains nightclub (now Legends). PAWS was a membership group which charged an annual fee, but allowed members cheaper entry to the club nights. The club nights grew slowly and began to attract 100+ bears, cubs and admirers. In the summer of 1997, I went on holiday to the US and Canada and took in 2 very different 'bear runs' while I was there. One was held in a barn and campground in the Pennsylvania countryside and the other in the city of Toronto. At that time there was only really one bear event in the UK, (i.e. in the country!) the Mr Bear UK final held at Ilam Hall in Derbyshire, run by BearHug. But I came back from holiday with the idea to run a city based bear event - and the idea for the Great British Bear Bash was born. Ilam Hall
The first Great British Bear Bash We decided to run it on the first weekend in May in 1998 to try to get some sort of reasonable weather not to clash with any Pride events and to be at a different time of year to Ilam Hall which was September (I think!). The first Great British Bear Bash meal The first few GBBB's had a series of events for the weekend including a sit down meal sauna (rare at the time!) two club nights including a fixed fee night where drinks were free Mr Bear Manchester competition canal boat trip We even hired a cinema for private screenings, everyone also got a badge and a T-shirt. The biggest difference from today was that we included an option for a hotel in the costs. The full event (*including* hotel) was a massive £50 for the weekend! GBBB1
Mr Bear UK The winner of Mr Bear UK (held at Ilam Hall) was traditionally sent to San Francisco to participate in the Mr International Bear competition at IBR. BearHug and PAWS had previously raised money for this to happen, but in 1998 the PAWS team came up with the idea to hold a fund raising night to help with this. We invited BearHug and the newly formed Bears of the North East (BONE) to a club night in November which we imaginatively called 'PAWS BONE BearHug'. This is the forerunner to what is now Pre-HiBearNation. PAWS kept going till around 2003 when Manbears took over…
In 2003, after successfully establishing a bear night at what would become The Outpost, Gerard Gudgion, Paul Atherton, Scott Owens and Chris Blunt, were asked to reboot The Great British Bearbash which had foundered at number 5 the previous year. The Bear Bash was rethought, rebranded and GBBB6 relaunched with Outpost/Legends as its core venues and with it an embryonic Manbears was born. The success of the relaunch lead to a Manbears walking entry in the Pride Parade of 2003. The idea to have a proper float the following year resulted in the winning, Bears in a Bathtub entry and the subsequent video which went viral around the world. The development of a Comedy Sunday afternoon segment of the bear bash together with the creation of comedy videos effectively set the bear bash apart internationally. British Bearways, Bears Scene Investigation, Dr Woof and many more videos, some musical effectively promoted the event and Manbears around the world. As GBBB grew so did the active support of Manchester City council’s marketing arm, Marketing Manchester and soon the event was being promoted across the world. Bears from all over the world started to make it a bear event destination of choice.
The two main events we organise, have gained in numbers attending each year, and in 2007, we held a 10th Anniversary Bash, where well over a thousand guys from all over the world, attended the weekend. In 2007, Manbears moved the Sunday afternoon event, including the Mr Bear Bash Competition and hosted by the fabulous Jonathan Mayor out of the gay village to The Birdcage on Withy Grove. This was due to increased numbers wishing to attend, making it necessary to find a venue large enough to hold getting on for a thousand partying bears and cubs! This has been the most successful of the daytime events, and was greatly enjoyed by all who attended. Bears at the Birdcage
Today, whilst GBBB remains the same, and brings together Bears, Cubs, Chasers and Daddies together for a weekend of fun and frolics, the event has developed into a more social event. We now hold a well-attended Bear Sauna session. The Market and the Pool Party on the Saturday afternoon are firm favourites and we try to offer variety with different events each year. As Manbears, 2015 sees the start more social events away from the scene to bring guys together, including pub crawls, film nights, and other activities.
From its early roots to the present day, the community has always been a core part of what the Bear Scene in Manchester is about. From PAWS to Manbears and beyond. Why not give us your thoughts and contact us, or come along to one of our events.