The Bears come to Town

With no Pride or Mardi Gras event taking place in Bristol in 2008, it’s once again down to the Bristol Bear Fiesta to show the gay community that the city really does know how to party. BBF is now in its fifth year, and chief organiser Niall Milligan has lined up the busiest three days so far in the festival’s history, with more venues, more events and hopefully more people visiting than ever before.

Running from June 6-8, visitors to the city (last year the vent brought in around 500 of them) will be spoiled for choice, with a full-on club night (the first since the closure of JustWinns) at Flamingos, an extra outing for Come to Daddy Extreme at Club Orgasm (which, promoter Mitch tells me, will feature loads of giveaways and either a mud or oil wrestling session), dinner and bingo followed by a uniform party at the Stag and Hounds and loads more going on at the Cottage Sauna, Old Castle Green, Old Market Tavern, Prague and Starbooks.

It’s great to see the majority of the city’s gay venues working together on an event: Stuart and Russell at Flamingos have kindly co-sponsored BBF5 and given the use of Arena 2 free of charge, which should mean that this year more money than ever will be raised for local gay and gay-related charities.

Former organiser Stephen King has decided to take a back seat, handing over the reins to Niall. But that doesn’t mean that there will be massive changes to the already successful formula: Niall was involved in the event last year and Stephen will continue to keep close tabs on proceedings. Niall tells us that the weekend-long social will bring hundreds of guys into the city for three days of furry fun and frolics, with accommodation deals available (on a first come, first served basis) at the Marriott Bristol City and the Old Castle Green.

“On Friday we have a welcome party at the Old Market Tavern, which will give people a chance to catch up with friends they haven’t seen since last year. Then we have our big club night in Arena Two of Flamingos. Stuart and Russell have been very supportive, and have kindly given us the room for the night. We’ll have DJs and, of course, our Mr Cub and Mr Bear South West competitions. that will go on until about 3am, the on the Saturday the Old Market Tavern and Starbooks will be serving breakfast, followed by a tour of Bristol Blue Glass for those that want, or pub games and a barbecue at the OMT. In the evening we’re hosting a private party with dinner and entertainment at the Stag and Hounds, with the Stag and the OMT open until 2am. Sunday lunch will be available at the OMT, and things will round off with our regular wet fur party at the Cottage sauna and a barbecue at the Old Castle Green.”

As in previous years the Sauna will be open all weekend with discounted entry available, and any profits raised over the weekend will be donated to local good causes. Last year saw around 400 men attend the event, from as far away as Brazil and Australia, and Niall hopes that BBF5 will be the most successful yet. It’s a shame that the city’s new Bear Bar will not be opening until July, too late to get involved this year, but owners John King (Mr Bear South West 2007) and Gareth Taylor whose new enterprise will take over a unit on the corner of West Street and Midland Road – will definitely be involved next time round. With another couple of gay-owned and run venues opening in Old Market soon BBF6 is sure to be one of the biggest Bear events nationally.

“It’s a great social gathering,” Niall adds. “But it also showcases how much Bristol has to offer the Bear community.”