This June marked Pride month across the world, a month of celebrations of the LGBT community based around the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
But of course, for many in Manchester this is only the start of the celebrations, with plans well underway for the Manchester Pride Festival, which will be taking place over the bank holiday on the 27th-30th August, and will see performances from the likes of Zara Larsson, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Katy B, and Example.
This will mark a welcome return for the iconic street festival after it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, with Pride events taking place virtually instead, in line with lockdown restrictions.
The pandemic forced Manchester Pride to revise all their plans – not just for the festival itself but for the whole of the year, with events such as their annual conference being done entirely online.
Nevertheless, engagement has remained high, with these events continuing to attract a global audience, as well as numerous high-profile guests such as BBC weatherman Owain Wyn Evans, and actor Nathaniel J Hall, who had previously appeared in Channel 4’s ‘It’s A Sin’.
Manchester Pride had previously been held on the August bank holiday every year since its beginnings in the 1980s, and will be one of the first such large outdoor events to be held in the city after lockdown easing – it coming just a week before the Parklife festival.
As such, this is likely to be one of the most anticipated events of the year. Many of the visitors at this year’s Pride will have tickets rolled over from last year – and the company have also announced low income tickets available at half the price for those living in Manchester on benefits and low incomes, as well as the continuation of a whole array of virtual events.
This summer’s festival comes in the wake of countries like Hungary, in just the past two weeks, issuing their very own Section 28-type laws, with a ban on “promoting” homosexuality in schools, and cancelling governmental trips to the Euro’s in Munich over Germany’s own Pride celebrations. This is not even to mention the recent homophobic attacks that have been seen elsewhere in this country.
The return of Pride promises to be hugely significant not just for Manchester’s LGBT community as a whole, but also for all the bars and other businesses based around Gay Village and the surrounding areas, for whom Pride is the biggest event of the year.
Iain Scott, Director at Canal Street, states how these businesses “have struggled, and been challenged and suffered, just like anybody else, anywhere else.”
But he’s also stressed the resilience of the community as a whole, noting how organisations like the LGBT Foundation have come to the fore during the pandemic, to provide services, assist with well-being and mental health awareness, and to help with the needs of members of the community “who haven’t coped well with isolation, and have really missed human contact.”
He’s stated the importance of the Gay Village “not just as a place of entertainment, but a place where people can feel safe and meet people, without homophobia, transphobia, and racism. I think the Manchester gay and lesbian community have shown tremendous adaptability.”
He, like everyone, has been wary about changes to the roadmap for lockdown easing, as Covid cases continue to rise.
However, Manchester Pride states it has been working hard to ensure everything is planned for, and to learn from the past year as an opportunity to improve accessibility for all.
We spoke to the CEO of Manchester Pride, Mark Fletcher, to hear more about the challenges caused by the pandemic, its impact, and the work that’s gone into planning for this year’s festival.