The Lord Mayor of Manchester
Whether in serious mode or otherwise, Manchester’s indefatigable, engaging Lord Mayor, Carl Austin-Behan, is true to himself. His flamboyance as Pride 2016’s pink-cloaked Grand Marshall and 2001’s Mr Gay UK – all pink hot pants and sash – is countered by an unswerving work ethic and non-stop commitment to civic and charitable causes.
Working from 5am till the mayoral duties kick in, Carl has clocked up well over 1,000 official events this year.
Fay Wertheimer: Have you always harboured political ambitions?
Carl Austin-Behan: None till moving into the city centre in 2005. I then decided joining the council was the only way to tackle parking and refuse problems – and made it at 38. I bid for Lord Mayor hoping to represent Manchester’s diversity, its youth, and raise awareness of the LGBT community — not Larry Grayson-style stereotypes but real people.
F: How about other minority groups?
C: I push for equality, diversity and integration. My tweet from a mosque at the end of Ramadan was retweeted by a rabbi and quoted in the Guardian as a sign of Manchester’s integration. Pride’s success is similar; it’s Manchester’s biggest annual weekend attraction, involving 130 floats and 3,000 participants.
F: What’s impressed you most during your time as Lord Mayor?
C: So much. Manchester’s history – we had the first hot air balloon. Amazing people. Volunteers who work quietly across the political divide and saved our libraries. World-famous scientists. Wills and Kate, who were so engrossed chatting with my husband Simon and myself, the Bishop of Manchester had to interrupt to introduce himself! The many children I’ve met in schools and the Town Hall, who were unfazed by the fact I’m married and shocked by my RAF discharge. I’ve only got one Drama GCSE. My message is: “Believe in yourself, you can be what you want to be – turn negatives into positives.”
F: Did you believe in yourself?
C: Well, until 2000, homosexuals were banned from the forces. During seven wonderful RAF years, I was promoted, awarded honours and even flown to the London Marathon from Ascension. When questioned about my sexuality in 1997, I didn’t lie – and within hours was discharged.
F: Tell me about your family…
C: My church-going Mum Vera, who’s 81, initially thought my homosexuality was a phase – she’s now happy visiting the Village with me. I’m lucky, older mayors rarely have parents around to share their pleasures.
F: What are your thoughts on Manchester’s 128year-old mayoral traditions?
C: I don’t want attendants opening my car door for me, so that’s sorted. Unless formal dress is appropriate, I wear coloured shirts, jeans and the chain – which for a prison visit, I’d leave at home, as it’d create unwanted barriers.
F: What are your pet hates in life?
C: Oysters, my impatience, my inability to delegate – and Brexit.
F: What are your worries for the future?
C: Will people let on when I’ve no chain?
F: You bet they will.
CARL AUSTIN–BEHAN LORD MAYOR OF MANCHESTER
1972-91: Born Crumpsall, two brothers, Abraham Moss High School, Boys Brigade, retail jobs
1991-97: RAF firefighter (UK, Ascension, Belize)
1992-96: Royal Society Humane Bronze Medal – rescued pilot from blazing plane, Good Show for Bravery, Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation, Queen’s Birthday Honours mention
1997: RAF dismissal for homosexuality – Manchester’s first openly gay firefighter
1999: His promotions company launches Manchester Metro
2001: Mr Gay UK
2010: Forms cleaning company with Dale Vicker
2011: Burnage Labour Councillor and Lead Member for Gay Men and Cycling
2016: Becomes Lord Mayor, weds Mayor’s Consort Simon Austin-Behan after 13 years together
Hospital Radio and Gaydio, fundraising since age of 10, marathons (London and Manchester) 10k runs, 2004 & 2006 treks raise £100k for ActionAid and Malawi HIV children, 2013 – Everest Base trek with Dale raises £25k for Alzheimer’s.