Updated: Saturday, 18th November 2017 @ 8:06am

Manchester Pride 'right of way' row: Campaigners hoping to access Big Weekend without tickets hit road block

Manchester Pride 'right of way' row: Campaigners hoping to access Big Weekend without tickets hit road block

| By Josh Willacy – MM exclusive

Protesters against Manchester Pride who were hoping to exercise their ‘right of way’ over the Big Weekend and pass through the festival without tickets may find themselves shut out.

Event organisers have put in an official request to the Department of Transport to ensure that the right of way be suspended and that the road be closed over the bank holiday weekend.

Campaign group Facts about Manchester Pride had obtained a letter from Manchester City Council in response to an FOI they submitted – which confirmed to them that that the general public have a right to walk down the street if they so wish.

But if Manchester Pride’s application is granted, it would revoke any right of way.

Co-founder of Facts about Manchester Pride Geoff Stafford told MM: “This is not about getting into the Big Weekend for free, it’s about our rights, and about our walks down the street.

“We are encouraging everyone who would potentially use right of way to make a donation to the charities.”

However not everyone agrees that giving people access to this right of way is good thing.

Some Village bar owners were keen to stress that the barriers around Pride are essential to ensure people’s safety.

Michael ‘Polly’ Pollard, owner of Taurus, told MM: “We need to have barriers to protect those who visit Pride.

"The last time the barriers weren’t up was in 1999, and there were numerous incidents of stabbing and rapes as there was no control over who was coming into the village.

“I was the licensee of Mantos in 1999 and the riot police had to come in and the event was closed 24 hours early because there was so much trouble.”

He added: “If people want to return to those days of 1999 where our community were getting abused, attacked and sexually assaulted, I think that’s foolish.”

This latest news flies in the face of Facts about Manchester Pride group, who were intending to crash the street festival over the bank holiday.

They claim that Pride’s ‘authoritarian’ control over the area is unfair on the LGBT community who want to participate in queer spaces, and feel the event has become detached from its roots when the event was first pioneered.

“The suspension of the right of way also would have an impact on residents,” claims Geoff. 

“I’ve heard stories about a resident having a birthday party where guests couldn't come into his home.

“I have spoken to a man who had his civil partnership over the Pride weekend and had his reception at his flat on Canal Street.

“When his guests arrived security refused them entry even though he had cleared it with Manchester Pride.

“Pride started as a political and civil rights thing and now it’s not political and now it has lost sight of its origins.”

The drama between the social media based group, Pride and Village business owners has been rumbling on for some time over the direction of annual LGBT event.

The Big Weekend is expected to attract some 100,000 revellers from across the country, with some coming from Europe to participate in the celebrations.

With performances from the likes of Anastasia, All Saints, Pixie Lott and Foxes, this year looks to be one of the biggest and most star studded  Manchester Pride events.

However the money made for HIV charities has significantly decreased in recent years giving only £34,000 to charities last year as the event pays out more to increase the scale of the show and secure larger acts.

However Polly, whose bar Taurus has been on Canal Street for two decades this year, believes the change in Pride is to be expected and isn’t a point of worry.

Polly told MM: “For a four day event, the tickets are relatively cheap and Manchester Pride is one the only Prides that year after year turns over a profit and gives money to charity.

“The cost of living has gone up and unfortunately that does have an impact on the money that goes to charity. When Pride was at its peak there weren’t so many Prides, but now we have to compete and make sure were giving people the best show with the biggest acts.”

He added: "Pride is a celebration that people come from all over the country and Europe come to enjoy, we need to consider their safety, and their health.”

Manchester Pride were unavailable for comment on the issue. 

Image courtesy of Chris Geary, with thanks.