Manchester Pride axes music festival to focus on ‘activist roots’

Lily Wakefield February 14, 2022
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Ariana Grande performs at Manchester Pride

Ariana Grande performs on stage during Manchester Pride Live 2019 at the Mayfield Depot. (Kevin Mazur/Getty)

Following a consultation with the city’s LGBT+ community, Manchester Pride has announced that it will scrap its music festival to focus on activism.

Manchester Pride faced immense backlash last year over its mission and finances, with accusations that it was more focused on inviting celebrities to perform than giving back to local charities, activist groups and sexual health programmes.

On Monday (14 February), Manchester Pride Charity announced that for its events this year it will “refocus its efforts back onto its activist roots”, and that MCR Pride Live will not go ahead.

Identified as more important parts of Manchester Pride, the parade, candlelit vigil, the gay village party, superbia weekend, Youth Pride MCR, Family Pride MCR and the human rights forum will still be taking place.

The organisation has also released a report, the result of a six-month consultation with the LGBT+ community, which outlines its commitments on diversity, inclusion and transparency going forward.

Manchester Pride will hold consultations throughout the year with the queer community, as well as local LGBT+ businesses and venues, to co-design future events, as well as increasing accessibility for all parts of the community by reassessing ticket prices for those on low incomes, introducing quiet spaces at events, and working “towards an aspirational level of accessibility accreditation”.

Addressing the financial controversy, the organisation will clearly communicate the percentage of ticket sales that will go back to a community fund, as well as where the rest of the funds are going. For its grants programme, it will establish a community panel on reviewing grants, and streamline and provide support for the grant application process.

Manchester Pride has committed to greater transparency on its actions, board of trustees and finances, and said it will use its platform to uplift protest and activism, focusing on one theme or issue each year. The theme for 2022 will be combatting anti-LGBT+ hate crimes.

Paul Wheeler, chair of Manchester Pride’s board of trustees, said: “I’d like to say a big thank you to the thousands of individuals who had their say on the future direction of the Charity.

“Manchester Pride should be something everyone feels proud of and can see a little bit of themselves reflected back in.

“We acknowledge we got some things wrong last year and we’re sorry for the upset and frustration this caused. It is important that Manchester Pride reflects what Manchester’s LGBTQ+ communities tell us they want and this review has shown how we can do better.”

He added: “First and foremost, we’re a campaigning charity fighting for equality and opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals across Greater Manchester, and the response from across our communities corroborates that position… That’s why we’re going back to our roots, our Pride celebration is about protest.”

Following the release of the report, and the announcement that the music festival would be scrapped, Manchester’s queer community is cautiously optimistic.

One Twitter user wrote: “Looking forward to seeing this play out.

“Manchester Pride means a lot to me and I have been disappointed by its focus in recent years, so if they embrace the grassroots community aspect over the big money-making concerts, I’m excited for what it will be.”

“Well done Manchester Pride for listening to the community and start implementing the needed changes,” said another. “Looking forward to seeing how this progresses.”

A third person tweeted: “Manchester Pride [is] axing the pop concerts and instead putting money into the community where it belongs. As it should always have been.”

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