Manchester Pride: Protest held over festival management

More than a thousand protesters have marched over concerns about the management of the Manchester Pride festival.

The annual event returned this weekend after it went online last August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Demonstrators were complaining about changes to funding by Manchester Pride regarding two charities, the LGBT Foundation and George House Trust.

Pride organisers have said they will conduct a review in autumn.

They added: “We always conduct a review of the charity each autumn, but this year’s will be bigger and further reaching.”

Protesters said they believed Pride had moved away from its campaigning roots and become too commercialised.

Protest organiser John Proctor said: “The whole board of trustees need to look at what they’re doing with Pride and who they’re doing it for and listen to the strength of feeling from the community.”

He said too much money was spent on marketing and executive pay and not enough was spent on charitable activities.

People watch Manchester Pride perfromanceIMAGE SOURCEGETTY IMAGES
image captionCrowds returned for the first face-to-face music events at Manchester Pride since lockdown

On 4 August, Manchester Pride said it would no longer fund the distribution of free condoms and lubricant to promote safer sex.

The charity has supported the scheme, which has delivered more than 31 million safer sex packs to people in Greater Manchester, since its launch by the LGBT Foundation in 1994.

Mark Fletcher, chief executive of Manchester Pride, said: “Like many other charities, we have had to take some tough decisions as we focus on recovering.”

However Pride organisers were criticised for the decision and following a meeting on 12 August, Manchester City Council said it would work with the LGBT Foundation and Manchester Pride “to ensure the continued survival of the safer sex pack scheme”.

Paul Wheeler, chair of trustees for Manchester Pride, said: “We are keen to find ways to continue supporting the vital work of the LGBT Foundation and George House Trust.”

protesters march with flags and placards
More than a thousand people attended the protest

A recent BBC Radio Manchester investigation found that, in 2019, Manchester Pride gave 3% of its income to other charities – half the level of the previous year.

Manchester Pride has said: “In 2021, despite being unable to deliver a physical festival in 2020, we still gave both organisations [LGBT Foundation and George House Trust] £10,000 each.”

A meeting will be held after the festival to discuss how Pride can continue to support both charities, it said.

Protesters also expressed concerns about the cancellation of this year’s Pride parade even though a ticketed music festival was being held.

Manchester Pride said it would be “socially irresponsible and a risk to public health to deliver a large-scale event that does not allow us to check the Covid status of the attendees”.