Manchester Pride is under fire once again as its new series of events have been dismissed as ‘decorative icing on top of a cream gateaux that has gone rancid’ by a protest group leader.
The LGBT festival has announced a new programme of cultural events for 2015, entitled Superbia, which promises to ‘encourage engagement, well-being and culturally enhance our communities’.
However, Geoff Stafford, co-founder and photographer of Facts About Manchester Pride (FAMP) says it is nothing more than a ‘bolt on’ cultural tweak.
He told MM: “It is a bit more decorative icing on top of a cream gateaux that has gone rancid.
“Events such as Superbia are about fending off criticism that the ‘big weekend’ itself is an unhealthy, downmarket booze up that excludes many LGBT people.
“It’s all very well partying but it’s good to be taken seriously as well. If we’re just seen as a community who only cares about having a good time, that isn’t very helpful, especially when there are so many issues, like bullying in schools and people being thrown off buildings in Syria.
“These are things that we could be tackling in a political march. It can be fun as well, but if we could just swing the balance so that it is deemed political, we could save a lot of money as well.”
These concerns about the motivations behind such events are nothing new. Back in 2013, the Director of the Queer Youth Network, David Henry, shared his disapproval of the high ticket costs of the gay pride event over the August bank holiday weekend.
“I was out of work for a year and found it’s almost impossible to participate in the mainstream festival on a low income,” he said.
Mr Henry discussed how the high profile celebration has become a ‘hyper-commercial carnival’ and while the larger charities take centre stage on the Saturday march, the smaller underfunded groups have been pushed out.
According to Mr Stafford, Pride wastes money where it could very easily be saved and used for better purposes.
“Pride has these huge costs. About £60,000 goes to the police. If it was a political parade instead of what it is, we don’t think the police would be able to charge the event. We might be able to save a lot of money,” he said.
FAMP created their own business plan for an alternative to the Pride celebrations in 2013, but according to Mr Stafford, the idea was not supported by local businesses.
He told MM: “It involved fencing off the car parks instead of the streets, so people would still be able to walk through, but they would need a band to get into the car parks.
“Also by involving more local performers, costs could be kept down and if people saw that there was a genuine charity ethos to it instead of it being a money making thing, we think that more people would be willing to give their time for free.
“I think it’s become too much of a pop concert type affair and in the past it has been compared to Glastonbury, but it isn’t supposed to be that way.”
That view is not shared by CEO Mr Fletcher who says Pride received feedback from their communities and listening groups, calling for more cultural celebrations as a continuation of Pride Fringe, which takes place throughout August.
He added: “Many of the events are free to attend, independently organised and funded, and are simply our recommendations to our audience.”
Mr Stafford said: “Cultural events are always welcome. Queer Up North – an outlet for LGBT art and culture – lost all its funding and that was the end of it.
“So I suppose they are trying to reinstate some of the events that were lost after its conclusion, and that’s great.
“But at the same time, this [Manchester Pride] started as a fundraising event, not a celebration, and the more that the organisation does, the more money they spend and the less there is going to be for good causes.
“It’s really important to fundraise at the moment. A lot of organisations are losing their money and who knows what’s going to happen after the election in May.”
This concern with Superbia falls hot on the heels on FAMP’s accusation that Manchester Pride is using the supposed 25th anniversary of events celebrating LGBT life in the city as a cash cow.
Tickets are currently available on the website, with VIP platinum entry fetching up to nearly £100.
“We think they are being very silly in trying to claim this is the 25th anniversary. I can’t see what grounds they have for saying that it is this year,” said Mr Stafford.
“The Village Charity is the charity that was launched to start fundraising for HIV and aids, and if you look when that was registered, that was the end of 1991, so that’s only 24 years ago.
“When you look at the now, it’s for commercial purposes, to big up the current event. So that is our objection.”
Image courtesy of Ellen MacDonald, with thanks.