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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The George House Trust Candlelight Vigil 2012

My name is Jayce Carberry, I am 22 Years Old, and I am living with HIV.

Last month I ventured up to Manchester Pride for the first time. I had spoken to my housemate, Gareth, who has been many times and he told me he always stays until the last night so he can go to the Vigil. He explained it is held in memory of those who have died from HIV and AIDS related illnesses and recommended that I go to experience it for myself. I knew it was going to be an emotional experience. I knew it would probably make me cry, but what I didn’t expect was how beautiful the whole thing would be. 

We walked through the park, which was basically just sludge and mud by this point due to all the rain, and made our way to the front. There were already four people on stage playing clarinets, flutes and other musical instruments. The more the park filled up, the more emotional I started to get, and it hadn’t even started! We were there about half an hour before the vigil started, and by the time it had there were people as far as the eye could see! Then they introduced a guy onto stage, Lee Peart.

Lee had been the victim of a homophobic attack inside the ‘gay-village’. His story was so moving; the fact he had the strength to report it, support a conviction and stand on the stage shouting that he was proud, was incredible! Lee was followed by a few more people on stage who raised many points reporting about the statistics, and the facts that affect people living with HIV – it was all very powerful. Then the Manchester Lesbian and Gay choir came on stage to sing ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ from the soundtrack to the British gay film ‘Beautiful Thing’.

It was time to start the minute’s silence and remember those we have lost to HIV and AIDs. The crowds went silent… the stage went silent… the city was silent. All around me I could hear the flicking of lighters, the sound of people crying, nothing else. I turned behind me and what I saw made me squeeze Gareth’s hand and lose my breath. There were thousands of lit candles, the entire park and more was lit up. It was overwhelming! West-end Star Louise Dearman came quietly onto the stage and started singing a beautiful version of ‘Time After Time’, which made me cry even more, it was so moving.

Then out of the blue, Alison Moyet was introduced onto the stage. She had performed the night before on the Main Stage but I didn’t know she was performing at the Vigil. She sang ‘Only You’, which I have never thought of in any relation to HIV, but then and there it could have been written to describe how it feels to be HIV positive. I know all the love and support I received when I was diagnosed, got me over the reality of being HIV positive, and to see all the candles, all the support, all the love in that park was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

When it was over, there was a huge fireworks display and we made our way to one of the sand boxes to place our candles. As we were walking out of the park, I tried my best to stop crying but seeing all the people placing their candles and witnessing how upset and emotional everyone was, along with the silence that still filled the park, I struggled! I had never been to anything like it before and the actual experience is so difficult to put into words; if you haven’t been, you need to!

Later on that evening I was outside my hotel and a man came and sat with us. He asked if we had been to the Vigil and we talked about how amazing we had found it. He then introduced himself as Adam Zane, the director of the Vigil. He is the guy that put the whole thing together, a guy that deserves so much credit for what he did that night. He created a magical moment that will stay with people for the rest of their lives; it certainly will stay with me!

Lots of love

Just Jayce