The 20th Manchester Pride, whose “Big Weekend” celebrations kick off today, has been branded “dumbed down” by gay rights group Reclaim the Scene.

Spokesman for the group, Alan Bailey, told the BBC that the festival has lost its edge and although Reclaim the Scene still supported Pride, they were concerned with the “focus” of the celebrations and how it was organised.

Mr Bailey added that the group wished to see Pride go back to its “free roots and put politics at its heart . . . we feel there’s a huge amount we still need to be political about.”

In response, Pride board member Paul Fairweather reportedly insisted that parts of the event were still “hugely political.” He added that the festival had infact become more, not less political: “In the last few years, it’s changed and Pride is more political than it was five years ago.

“It’s not just about the Big Weekend and having a good time, there’s a whole range of cultural and political activities over the ten day period.”

Mr Bailey countered that the price of the weekend event excluded a number of LGBT people wishing to attend, including students and the homeless. He added: “The scene and the Canal Street area is supposed to be a safe haven for us. At Pride, it’s walled up and then it’s only a safe place if you can afford to get in there.”

Councillor Fairweather pointed out that the parade was free, as was the vigil and the whole fringe festival, “so you can take part in most of Pride without having to pay to go in.”

Manchester Pride began as a relatively small event in 1990, but is now one of the UK’s biggest LGBT celebrations: in 2003 it hosted Europride and last year’s Big Weekend attracted approximately 40,000 people.