Poignant candlelit vigil marks end of Manchester Pride 2011

By Charlotte Duncker

A poignant Candlelit Vigil marked the end of Manchester Pride yesterday in Sackville Gardens.

Hundreds of people gathered in the gardens off Canal Street after the final performance on the main stage to remember people they had lost to the HIV virus.

A sea of flickering candles brought the 21st Manchester Pride festival to a close as festival director Jackie Crozier stepped down after six years.

Jackie said that the vigil symbolised the coming together of people to pay respects for those that have died and to show respect for people living with the virus.

“We need to fight against those who have prejudices towards those carrying the virus and educate them about what it does and why it does not mean the end,” she added.

POIGNANT: The sea of candles to remember those lost to the HIV virus

The atmosphere around the park was one of equal celebration and sadness whilst people took the time to remember those they had lost and others living with the virus.

Chief Executive of George House Trust, Rosie Robinson, took the opportunity to remind the crowd of the uphill battle that HIV sufferers are battling with the NHS and the Government. The charity has faced cuts in their budget and staff and Rosie is aware of the fight they face.

She said: “We’ve got another fight on our hands in the next year but as part of our legacy as a charity we’ve always had to fight, it’s in our blood.”

The Vigil that lasted for one hour was hosted by Coronation Street’s Anthony Cotton who led the congregation in lighting their candles.

He said: “Just because people are different doesn’t mean they should be treated differently. We are here for equality.”

Coronation Street’s Debbie Rush read ‘Vigil’ a poem written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy especially for Manchester Pride before everyone held their flickering lights in the air.

Before the spectacular firework finish to the festival Pride patron Jonathon Mayer ensured that people left with a strong message.

He said: “We need to show people that we are loud and proud, that it does get better and we love you all.”

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