‘Beyond worrying’: LGBT and Canal Street groups unite for protest outside Manchester Pride HQ

By Amy Lofthouse & Alan Ross

Protests are expected to hit Manchester Pride’s offices today as North West LGBT groups voice concern over how the organisation is run.

Pride were expected to release their annual statement on their charity contributions on Friday but the announcement didn’t come.

While the figure remains unknown, campaigners anticipate the amount to be in the region of £29,000 – almost half of last year’s £52,000 donations.

Geoff Stafford, co-founder of the group Facts About Manchester Pride, voiced his concern at the developments and demanded others join him in protest lunchtime today (Monday).

“Pride was expected to announce this year’s charity figure last Friday, but didn’t. It is rumoured to be below £29,000, making it the lowest amount since 1990 when the August event was little more than a jumble sale on the cobbles on Canal Street,” he said.

“Now concerned members of the public, charity workers, gay village business owners and their staff will stage a protest outside Pride HQ. Their offices are in the Manchester One building on the corner of Portland Street and Sackville Street. The peaceful action starts at 12:15 and later will move to outside the town hall.”

Mr Stafford pointed out that in 2012 Pride had an income of £991,656 and announced £52,000 for good causes. However he went on to claim that only £36,100 of that was raised during the financial year and the publicised amount had been topped up ‘out of reserves’.

Manchester Pride suffered another blow last week when one of Canal Street’s key figures removed his support from the charity.

Anthony Cooper, the general manager of Via and Polari bars and vice-chairman of the Village Business Association (VBA), wrote a letter to Pride describing the situation at the moment as ‘beyond worrying’.

In the letter, he states that Pride has lost its direction and businesses in the area are being let down by the charity. As a result, he has removed all his support from Manchester Pride until he sees appointments that represent businesses and the community.

“The general public need to know that the businesses and the VBA have little or no say in how Pride is run or the direction of Pride is decided,” he said in a copy of a letter sent to MM.

“The chief executive has gone and I now believe that it is time for the trustees to start making room for people who are active on the gay village.

“The VB has no representation on the board of trustees. The community has no representation on the board of the trustees.”

Cooper went on to blast the way Pride has interacted with businesses in the village, claiming the charity did not want to change the way they dealt with the general public.

“Businesses were promised a charity figure by Friday and yet again we have been let down,” he said.

“I find myself believing they do not want to engage with the community at large and certainly not the businesses who support them to the tune of £40-£60k every year.”

Mr Stafford, who has rallied against the commercialisation of Pride and influence that the city council has on the event, believes that this feels like a turning point.

“We’ve been campaigning for two-and-a-half years, but now Pride has upset a lot of the LGBT community right across the board,” he said.

“From low-paid people who feel excluded by high ticket prices, to gay business owners and charity workers. In the current climate smaller charities in particular depend on this funding.

“We expect many of those people will join in the protest. Personally I think the board of trustees should resign.”

John Stewart stepped down as Chief Executive of Pride last week, replaced by interim director Mark Fletcher.

Stewart, who joined Pride in January 2012, said: “I’m proud to have worked for Manchester Pride and believe it can go from strength to strength. I’m looking forward to new challenges and wish everyone well for the future.”

Picture courtesy of David Jones, with thanks.

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