Manchester Pride

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Sir Ian McKellen participating in the 2010 parade
Manchester Pride was, pre-Covid, an annual pride festival and parade held each summer in Manchester. It was one of the longest running in the country and attracted thousands of visitors to the city's Gay Village, centred around Canal Street. Events within the Village required a paid-for Pride wristband for entry, although this was successfully challenged and a ruling in April 2015 meant a wristband was no longer a requirement to enter the Gay Village area during Manchester Pride. [1].[2] [3].

The ten day festival has included a "Pride Fringe" with a series of arts, music and cultural events all over the city as well as community events including poetry readings, quizzes and film showings, culminating in "The Big Weekend", a 72-hour party during the August Bank Holiday weekend in Canal Street and the surrounding area, with a parade through the streets of Manchester.

Manchester Pride at No 10 Downing Street, 2010. Left to right: Paul Martin (Chief Executive of LGF), Jackie Crozier (Festival Director of Manchester Pride), Andrew Stokes (Chairman of Manchester Pride) and Toby Whitehouse (Station Director of Gaydio)

Early fundraising events

Fundraising events have been held on the August Bank Holiday weekend since some time in the second half of the 1980s, starting with a jumble sale outside the Rembrandt Hotel. although there is some doubt about the actual date.[4] In 1991 the event was expanded to include a full programme of activities from Friday to Monday and it was christened "the Carnival of Fun Weekend". The jumble sale moved into Sackville Park. On the Monday night there was a substantial fireworks display funded by the North West Development Agency and it was announced that good-luck telegrams had been received from Diana Princess of Wales.

It was not a Pride event in those days. This is confirmed by a booklet that the Village Charity published for its annual general meeting in 1994, which states: "many volunteers of the charity get upset when the press call our weekend the 'Northern Pride'. It's not and never has been." The purpose was solely to raise money for HIV and AIDS causes and in particular for a ward at Monsall Hospital.

Mardi Gras

Over the following years, the event grew and was known as Mardi Gras. It developed with support from the VBA (Village Business Association). According to a report in the Pink Paper just after the 1996 Mardi Gras, the Village Charity hoped to top the £77,000 raised with a further £50,000 from donations included in ticket sales to the Sunday Freedom GALA at the G-Mex centre.

Entry tickets and fences were first introduced during the council-run event in 1999, but despite a large income, there was no money for charity that year.[5] The event reverted to community control in 2000. In 2000 and 2001 it was called "Gayfest" and was organised and managed by a committee of volunteers led by local businesswoman Julia Grant. In 2002 the event reverted to the name MardiGras and was organised by a committee of the Village Business Association. The event was cancelled in a row about the limits of the area where open-air drinking was allowed, but the cancellation was overturned and the event went ahead.[6][7]

During these three years, no entry fee was charged, yet money was still raised for charity.

Europride 2003

In 2003, about 37,000 people paid for tickets for EuroPride which was hosted that year by Manchester. This can be gleaned from the fact that Operation Fundraiser sold the £10 tickets and gathered £388,946 from tickets and bucket collections, with a final figure of £127,690 for good causes.

Manchester Pride

At the closing ceremony in 2003, it was announced that the event would be now be known as "Manchester Pride" and in 2007 it became a charity in its own right (charity number 1117848). One reason for this change was because in 2006 Customs and Excise had tried to charge back VAT for several years, because, in their view, Manchester Pride was no longer a charity fundraiser. Increasing commercialisation meant that a dwindling percentage of the income reached a final good cause. By 2010 just over 11% of Manchester Pride's total income was reaching a good cause in the end. Since Europride 2003, the event has been organised by a Pride committee, in conjunction with Marketing Manchester, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, and George House Trust. The area is once again cordoned off and gated, and wristbands must be bought to gain entry to the "compound".

The event has had a turbulent history due to disputes between Manchester City Council, police, the community itself and local gay businesses and charities. As a result its name has changed a number of times.[8] Arguments often centre around how it is run and how funds are raised.[9][10]


Before Covid-19 in 2020,during the August bank holiday weekend of Manchester Pride, the city's gay village became a gated area; attendees paying for a wristband in order to gain access to the village. The gated system and entry fee were in place since 2003,[11] however, the candlelight vigil held in Sackville Park each Pride did not require a wristband for entry.[12] Additionally, the parade, starting on Deansgate, was free for anyone to watch and did not take place within the gated zone.

An 'alternative' Manchester Pride parade 2021 event was marred by ugly scenes when a gay man was abused and assaulted simply for wearing a LGBAlliance T-Shirt. A mob surrounded the man, 'the crowd chanting ‘Trans Lives Matter’ in the same way football hooligans chant their thought-terminating mantras' [13].

External links


  2. Denise Evans, Manchester Evening News "Your guide to the 2012 festival"
  3. In Birmingham Pride organisers still charge people to enter the public streets of the Gay Village
  4. In 2011 a colour photograph on the Manchester Pride website showed a jumble sale on Canal Street; Solway House on Aytoun Street could be seen in the background. Research by the Facebook group "Facts About Manchester Pride" found that Solway House had been demolished by August 1990 to make way for the tram system and court extension.
  5. BBC North-West Tonight report - "no charity money in 1999"
  6. Manchester Pride Cancelled 2002
  7. David Bell, Mark Jayne, City of Quarters: Urban Villages in the Contemporary City page 169
  8. The Independent: Fury over £50 charge to join gay pride march
  9. Manchester Pride Investigation
  10.< Body Positive Blog Manchester Pride 2007
  11. Jordan McDowell, "Jackie Crozier Interview" Manchester Confidential 2011-08-31
  12. "The Festival"
  13. Accessed 31 August 2021