Manchester’s Pride festival will be forced to leave its iconic Canal Street location from 2019 due to property development, it has been revealed.
Pride organisers confirmed to PinkNews that due to “significant property development in the area… there won’t be the space next year” to host the event in the same area.
Manchester Council has approved plans for development on several of the sites currently used for Pride, including the Portland Street area in the gay village used for the main stage.
The Council has insisted it “fully supports the annual Pride weekend” and will “work with the community and organisers to identify and secure an alternative space to host the event.”
However, organisers say the event will “never look the same again.”
Manchester Pride’s chief executive, Mark Fletcher, said in a statement: “A number of reasons have led to our making this decision for 2019, in order to avoid disappointing our audience in the future.
“There has been speculation about the developments in the Portland Street and gay village area for some time. A number of developments are now underway in spaces that were previously used for event infrastructure.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to plan and deliver The Big Weekend in a space that is decreasing in size. Next year there will be more developments taking shape that will further reduce the space available for us to deliver a safe event to the current scale.
“In addition to this, and equally impactful, is that the terms for the use of the privately owned spaces that house our Main Arena and Dance Arena have changed.
“Essentially this means that we cannot be certain that we’ll be able to use these areas up until three months before the event is scheduled to take place. We simply cannot take the risk of disappointing the tens of thousands of people who come along to experience the first class entertainment provided in these spaces.”
He added: “It’s true that Pride will never look the same again – it can’t as there simply won’t be the space.
“But this doesn’t mean we will be turning our back on the neighbourhood which LGBT+ people have fought so hard to create as a safe space. There will always be a role for Manchester’s unique gay village in the celebration.
“We’re very excited to begin a new chapter and continue to deliver a world class celebration of LGBT+ life, one that’s worthy of international acclaim and retains Manchester’s position as a leading city in the advancement of LGBT+ equality. The shape of the festival is changing and we can’t wait to share our big news in the Autumn.”
Fletcher continued: “As we take on the challenge of reincarnating the festival we will provide an opportunity for Manchester’s LGBT+ people to tell us what they want from their festival in 2019.
“We constantly review and listen to all of the feedback that we receive from our surveys and stakeholder consultations. We hold our listening group events each year and I’m sure that this topic will be at the top of the agenda at the next one due to take place in October.”
Counselor Pat Karney of Manchester City Council, said: “We’ll be sitting down with the team at Manchester Pride to see how Manchester City Council can help in the planning for the future of the festival.
“We are very proud of what Pride brings to the City and we intend to offer maximum support.”
Liberal Democrat opposition leader John Leech laid into the Labour-run council, accusing them of breaking previous promises to safeguard Canal Street’s legendary LGBT culture from development.
Leech told PinkNews: “Manchester provided a home and a sanctuary for the oppressed to express their love, and begin their long fight for equal rights. Removing this international celebration from its home will rip the heart out of Manchester.
“There has also been no consideration for local businesses and the impact that removing the main Pride stage from Canal Street will have on independent traders.
“Labour have not properly consulted local people at any stage of this process, they have disregarded the views of those that have raised concerns and are themselves in complete confusion, unable to guarantee any firm home for the festival next year just weeks before this year’s is due to begin.
“They must halt these greedy plans until they come up with something concrete they can propose to the community.”