History of Mr Gay UK

Every year, hundreds of lads compete at venues around Britain for the title of Mr Gay UK, but what exactly happens, and what is Mr Gay UK?

For many, entering the contest is a fun evening out, meeting other lads, being centre of attention for an hour or so, and maybe coming away from the Finals with a big money prize and the title of Mr Gay UK.

The first step is taking part in a heat, held at clubs and pubs all around the UK during March, April and May. Many of the heats have their own prizes for first, second and third places, but the prize on everyones mind is getting through to the Grand Final.

The format is almost the same for the heats and the final. Each contestant is interviewed on stage about their likes, dislikes, hobbies and job to give a feel about their personality, then a panel of judges choose their favourites.

At previous years Finals the contestants had the additional task of modelling their 'fantasy' wear - plenty of firemen, sailors and leather lads that night!!

The judges select a winner, who is then crowned by the reigning Mr Gay UK. A full and hectic social calendar ahead is guaranteed as magazines, venues and promotors each try and get you onto their front covers or at their events. Pride celebrations are the biggest PA's - sometimes going on stage in front of crowds of over 150,000!

Pride is also the real motivator behind Mr Gay UK. Pride in who we are as gay people. Mr Gay UK is about being visible, with journalists and TV crews attending from both the UK and overseas, reporting the event around the world, hopefully giving every gay man a feeling of belonging and community.

Our gay American cousins cottoned on to the idea of showing off the male form a bit sooner than we did. But, back in 1982, a fledgling Adult Mailorder company, in an effort to promote a new product, pioneered the first national male beauty contest.

Named after their brand of aromas, the 'Mr Hardware' competition was launched to build up the profile of the company and also to find a hot, spunky male to claim the title. BBC 2 filmed the event at Heaven in London (albeit under the title of 'Something For the Ladies') and the male beauty pageant was born. It was a first of many firsts and the sudden publicity of the event captured the imagination of the gay press, and gay men
in particular, everywhere.

In 1984, promoterBryan Derbyshire took control and changed the competition name to 'Mr Gay UK'.

He held the event in various clubs up and down the country until he sold the title to two
enthusiastic young guys. Enter Terry George and Michael Rothwell.

It was their determined aim to make Mr Gay UK a truly nationwide competition. In 1993, twenty-one venues from around the country staged a heat with the winner going on to represent his pub or club in the Grand Final.
The Flamingo in Blackpool played host to this fabulous extravaganza and the lucky winner, Anthony Morley, received £1000 in cash, plus a holiday and clothing. He also walked straight into celebrity status, appearing on stage at London's 'PRIDE', being the guest of honour at many gay fund-raising events, officiating at special club nights and even opening a new Gay Complex in Gran Canaria.

The build up to the final was recorded by the prestigious 'Man for Man' video company and caught the contestants pumping muscle and having a great time at a local health club prior to the main event. On its release, 'Mr Gay UK 93' went straight into the HMV Video Top Ten. The event had arrived. The following year,
over 30 venues were keen to hold heats of what was fast becoming an integral part of the gay calendar. So much that Channel 4 despatched a video crew to follow Ralph Hutton, one of the contestants from his home in the Lake District through to the final.

Ralph was a little nervous about the media interest but decided that is was 'as good a way as any to come out' and during the filming that's just what he did.

After the programme, Passengers, was transmitted Ralph received letters from all over the country from other young gay guys who had identified with his predicament or who were asking for advice. However, Ralph was not to be successful as the Grand Final returned to it's earlier roots by taking over Heaven. With Lily Savage acting as Mistress of Ceremonies and a selection of Gay personalities including Jean Paul Gaultier, Michael Cashman and East 17 manager, Tom Watkins. It was Mancunian David Jackson who gained most votes and walked away with the title and £3000 cash.

1995 saw even more pubs and clubs wanting to become involved in the gay event, as capacity crowds filled the venues at each heat. Keeping with the idea of making it a truly nationwide competition a trip to Northern Ireland received maximum publicity when a group of religious fundamentalists tried to get the competition banned. They unsuccessfully picketed the Parliament Bar in Belfast, where the heat was being held and a 'packed to the rafters' crowd whooped and cheered their winner.

To fulfill the concept of taking Mr Gay UK to as many places as possible, the organisers have always been keen to get support in the form of sponsorship from as many companies as possible. Clone Zone, Hom, Levi's, Uranian Travel, Lee Cooper, Absolut Vodka and Don't Panic have all added to the success over the years but
1995 saw the biggest single sponsor in the shape of phone line operator Gay X Change. Their involvement made for a very spectacular final at Manchester's 'infamous' Hacienda as a packed to bursting point club watched the hunky and horny 35 year old, Lance Trimble take home the now massive first prize of £5000 in cash.

Over the past few years the Mr Gay UK competition has grown in stature and importance as it is the only gay event that travels the country giving everyone an opportunity to be part of the fun. Hundreds of brave souls have paraded their hunky frames to literally thousands of happy and enthusiastic customers all over the UK.
Thanks to Gay X Change who again become the main sponsor, in 1996, we offered Mr Gay UK as an opportunity to revel in the positive aspects of being gay, have fun, and be confident in our own style and sexuality.

London's Astoria was home to the 1996 final, with Jason Donovan ditching his coat of many colours to present the event. The packed venue saw 19 year old Roy Fairhurst scoop the honours.

For the 1997 Final Birmingham was chosen, helping boost the first ever Pride event held in the city. Host Mark Little, aided by judges Danny La Rue, Scott Neal & Jonathan Kerrigan voted lift engineer Shaun McVeigh the winner.

1998 and 1999 saw the competition of Channel 5 with viewing figures of over 1 million.