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The ugly side of
Manchester Pride

Updated on 29 August 2006

Only around one-third of the money you give to Operation Fundraiser (by buying a wristband or putting money in a bucket) actually reaches good causes.

Welcome to Manchester. The city where you have to pay, then pay again if you want to 'celebrate' being gay...

Each year the media is full of stories about what a success the latest Manchester Pride has been. In the frenzied gay-friendly-pink-pound climate that now exists, few in the media have the stomach to look under the superficial surface gloss of this event, which is now primarily designed to produce the largest-possible profits for businesses. Certain people have used this situation to their advantage.

Manchester has a long history of supporting trade unions, women's rights, working people and minorities. Yet the City Council condones a gay 'celebration' that is only available to those who can pay £10 for a wristband (known as a 'pledgeband' in years gone by). Even non-profit HIV groups now have to pay 50 + VAT (sales tax) to take part in the Saturday Manchester Pride parade.

No cash - no entry on Canal Street at Manchester Pride 2004

The Gay Village and surrounding streets are fenced off. If you want to enter the area during 'Pride', if you want to stroll down Canal Street, you have to buy the £10 band (£15 on the door)

That's not the end of the cost. It's the beginning. You can expect door charges to be higher than usual (as much as £20 in one case). Plus of course the normal very high bar prices ( £2.60 for a latte anyone?).

If you can't afford these things, or you don't like them, well you're going to be locked out of the whole of the 'gay' part of town all weekend.

The candle-light vigil to remember friends and relatives who have died from HIV and AIDS now takes place inside the restricted 'pay' area. And, though organisers say people can attend the Vigil without buying a band, this fact isn't mentioned in the publicity for Pride.

Happier days. Jumble sale on Canal Street, August Bank Holiday 1990In fact, in 2004, being able to attend the Vigil was listed as one of the benefits of buying a £10 band.

When we were holding that jumble sale outside the Rembrandt Hotel on Canal Street back in 1990, to raise money for people with HIV and AIDS, who would have thought it would end up like this?

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WRISTBAND

But doesn't that £10 or £15 that you pay for a wristband, all go to charity? What about money you drop into Operation Fundraiser collection buckets at Pride?

It seems, in the end, only about one third of that money is distributed to good causes. Two-thirds is spent on costs.

IT'S A LOT OF SPIN

The organisers don't like to talk about the costs. They prefer to put a 'spin' on things... So you may not have realised how little actually goes to charity.

'All proceeds will be distributed to charity after a contribution is made towards the costs of the Big Weekend' they say on the website.

'All ticket sales for the weekend go directly to Operation Fundraiser...'.

The word 'contribution' makes it sound like a small amount. And they like using that word 'all'.

Yes, Operation Fundraiser gets 'all' the money, but only temporarily. In 2003 it gave £200,000 of the money raised, as a 'contribution' to cover costs. The good causes don't get that money.

Here are some grabs from the Manchester Pride 2004 and Operation Fundraiser sites:

From the Manchester Pride website

The ticket money goes 'directly' to Operation Fundraiser. But then most of it goes away again. Never to be seen by a good cause! Note the phrase 'after the covering of certain costs'.

Here it says: 'all' the money raised from ticket sales will be distributed to charity. I think that is misleading.

If you give me £100 and then I give £70 of it back to you. You can still say that you gave me the full £100, that 'all' the money went 'directly' to me. It's just that you didn't let me keep most of it for very long...

Operation Fundraiser's use of the  word 'raised'

As you can see from this more recent screengrab, in 2006, on its website, Operation Fundraiser was using the word 'raised' to mean money before any costs were taken off. It is no wonder the public is confused about where ticket money goes.

Also, the information in the article shown is extremely misleading. Operation Fundraiser takes its own costs out of the 50% of money that it keeps from ticket sales and bucket collections. In 2004 Operation Fundraiser's own costs were £79,982. Leaving only about 34.5% of the original 'money raised' to be divided amongst good causes, not 50%.

£13,000 FOR STREET CLEANING IN 2002 & £19,000 in 2003

Some people may wonder why the public has to fund this event at all, seeing as businesses in the Gay Village and across the city make many millions from it and gay and lesbian people pay their Council Tax like everyone else. But, no, even Manchester City Council wants its extra pound of flesh from you.

In 2002, Manchester City Council charged the event £13,000 for cleaning the streets for a long-weekend. Is there really £13,000 of extra street cleaning to do, compared to an ordinary Bank Holiday weekend? That is £13,000 that could have gone to good causes instead. In 2003, the event was charged £19,000 for cleansing including the parade.

BIG IS NOT NECESSARILY BEAUTIFUL

Manchester City Council seems mighty keen on this being a huge event. Yet, in the past, smaller events have sometimes raised almost as much for charity. As in 2000, when £105,000 was raised from the free GayFest.

All the wristband does is fund a huge 'less-gay' event for the whole city, and produces vast profits for the bars and clubs and other businesses across Manchester.

However, those businesses don't want to pay the extra to fund this big event and neither does Manchester City Council. They want us to pay: through collections in the bars and clubs and the wristband.

THE CITY COUNCIL BOASTS ABOUT 1999

Manchester City Council is giving £2m to fund a new arts festival starting in 2007. It hopes it will bring £32m of business into the city. In 2003, Manchester City Council gave Europride a grant of just £40,000. Every year since 2003, the gay public has funded the event by buying an entry ticket and, each year, as much as £200,000 of their money has gone to pay the costs.

In its official literature, Manchester City Council boasts that the 1999 Mardi Gras provided an ‘estimated £20m boost to the economy’ (but they still want us to fund it).

The amount raised for charity in 1999? Zero. That was the year when the City Council organisers spent all the income (£700,000 according to one source) on costs, leaving nothing for charity. But, Manchester's businesses were obviously very happy and so was the City Council. The good causes were the big losers.

In the article 'Pride' to net a 20m windfall, dated 15th August 2003, the Manchester Evening News reports:

'Some 300,000 party people from around the world are expected to celebrate EuroPride over the next week and a half, netting the city a £20m "pink pound" windfall.'

A 'windfall' for whom? Not for the charities, which only got £127,690 and not for the gay public who were again paying £10 for the first time in four years.

Wristband ticket queue at Manchester Pride 2004

The wristband strikes again and an example of the poor organisation behind this event... After the Saturday parade in 2004, hundreds of people were dismayed to discover they had to queue. Some for two hours.

These people had already bought a £10 wristband. The queue was so they could exchange their wristband for a ticket which would allow them entry to the gay village (figure that out). As shown in these images, one line stretched all the way from Sackville Street, round the corner and right up to Portland Street.

Read one person's wristband experience: 'For One Irishwoman, Manchester Pride Meant Queuing' (external link). At the Poptastic event, she had a 30 minute wait to get a drink or to use the toilet, was charged £15 entry when it was advertised as £10 and had to pay £2 for a can of Coke...

Wristband ticket queue at Manchester Pride 2004

THE SHAMEFUL USE AND ABUSE OF CHARITIES

The trick is to play up the charity 'fundraising' aspect of the whole event. Here's an interesting article from The Guardian, about the way television also 'uses' charities to give itself 'a figleaf of respectability'.

Uni Challenge gives only 1 from the 20 door charge to Operation Fundraiser

And here's how Manchester's businesses do it...

The University Challenge club night on 29 August 2004 had a £20 entry fee and they were only giving £1 - one twentieth - of each entry to Operation Fundraiser.

Remember that only about one-third of that Operation Fundraiser money will actually reach good causes. So 33p out of a £20 door charge. The other two-thirds of Operation Fundraiser money goes to pay the costs of running Pride.

The 2004 Uni Challenge had a capacity of more than 4500. If all tickets were sold, that would be income of £90,000 just from the door. Consider that for a moment... A sum that is slightly less than three-quarters of the ENTIRE AMOUNT that was raised for good causes during the ten-day Europride 2003 (£127,690 raised).

Of the 2003 Uni Challenge, their website says:

'...Uni Challenge on 23rd August was even bigger than ever with a more than doubled capacity of 4500... As in previous years the event was completely sold out. '

Of the 2002 event their site says: 'a staggering £3,726 has been donated to the Manchester Mardi Gras Good Causes Fund'.

Maybe not so staggering when you consider how much they take on the door alone. But at least in 2002, 100% of that money may have ended up with good causes, instead of 33%.

So, in 2004 at Uni Challenge, a possible £4,500 for Operation Fundraiser (of which about £1,500 actually going to good causes), and £85,500 going into the pockets of the University Challenge organisers. And that is just from the door. They then have their profit on the bar etc.

It seems other venues donated nothing at all from their entry prices.

HIGHER THAN USUAL DOOR CHARGES AND MORE QUEUES

Despite the fact that they were jam-packed to the roof, some door charges during Pride were much higher than usual.

On Friday 27 August, Cruz101 members could expect to be stung by a £7 entry charge, instead of the usual Friday price of £3. The following night (Saturday) they would pay £12 entry.

At the 12-hour Poptastic event underneath Piccadilly train station, one person reported being charged £15 entry after it had been advertised at £10. Details here (external site).

As there were just nine portaloo toilets for 1000 people, party-goers had to queue for 30 minutes to use one. The line stretched the length of the building. There were no disabled toilets at all.

There was also a 30-minute wait to get a drink and a can of Coke cost £2. Of course, every Pound saved by not providing extra toilets or bar staff, means one more Pound profit for Poptastic. So that's OK.

So, at the typical Pride event, the idea is that the tiny amount given to good causes, out of your huge entry charge, gives you a warm fuzzy feeling as you wait 30 minutes for a portaloo. Or maybe you just wet yourself in sheer desperation?

REMOVING THE 'G' WORD

Individuals and businesses are making a vast amount of money for themselves on the back of this event. While a charity element is thrown in to justify their greed and to make the party-goers feel a bit better about their excesses.
Manchester Pride 2004 poster on Canal Street
Even the word 'gay' has been removed from the posters where possible. It's 'the Village'. Funny, I thought it was the 'Gay Village'? And didn't we used to talk about 'Gay Pride' Not 'Pride' or 'Manchester Pride'?

Check out some of the smallest print on the 2004 poster (you may have to go up really close...). Yes, there's the word 'gay'. Can't frighten away the not-gay people! They might spend some money. Let's hope they don't notice that 'gay' word anywhere.

This is how it is if you want to celebrate being lesbian, gay, bi or transgender in Manchester. Get out your cash.

THE 'MOST SUCCESSFUL'

Every year the organisers are eager to tell us it has been the 'most successful' event ever. But now it's clear that, over the years, the organisers have put out press releases that vastly over-estimate the attendance figures. Not just by a few thousands... Some years it seems they have likely multipled the number of people by five or even ten times. This became apparent when they made the event ticket-only and, from the amount rasied, we could work out that they only sell 30,000-36,000 tickets.

However, the media laps up and publishes the hype as fact. Not just the gay press, but also local newspapers such as The Manchester Evening News. It seems there is no desire to look under the surface or give an accurate and honest picture of the event.

If the organisers spent Two Million Pounds of our money on costs and only made £100,000 for charity, they would still be proclaiming that the event was a massive success.

Is attendance now a fraction of what it was in 2002. Or were the 2002 figures were a lie? Certainly the income for good causes in 2005 was the lowest figure since 2002.

IGNORE OPERATION FUNDRAISER AND SEND YOUR MONEY DIRECT TO THE CHARITY OF YOUR CHOICE

If you really want to help the charities, the best way is to send money direct to them. That way they get the full amount. Somewhere like George House Trust, Manchester Parents' Group, Age Concern (all of whom take part in the parade) or even Cancer Research UK?

If you put money in a bucket, or buy a wristband, two-thirds is being skimmed off by the Pride organisers for their costs.

A HOLLOW EVENT?

This is happening because many people just don't care about anything other than partying. And there are a lot of mugs around...

Anyway, is it really appropriate to have a 'celebration' that focuses so much on venues that exist to sell alcohol? Particularly when you consider the current problems and health risks of binge drinking, the historically higher-than-average cases of alcoholism among gay men and women and the risky sex that often happens when people are drunk.

If just one person ends up HIV+ due to this event. Needing a lifetime of expensive combination drugs on the NHS. Then the cost of treating that one person for the rest of their life will far exceed the total amount of money raised for 'good causes' at that year's Manchester Pride.... 'The cost of managing a patient with HIV is £15,000 per year' (external site).

Suddenly this big piss-up raising funds for people affected by HIV and other health issues starts to sound rather hollow.

It's pretty sad that this (and indeed the 'gay village' as a whole) is the best we have to offer young gay men and women in Manchester. It's good to see that London is now saying no to 'pay-to-be-gay' events and is holding a free gay festival in central London.

ANNOYED?

Not enough lesbian, gay, bi and transgendered people are prepared to speak up and say what kind of event they want to see in Manchester.

If you feel unhappy about the way things are going, write to your Member of Parliament and the media (gay and mainstream). The media doesn't want to criticise anything gay these days and, of course, the gay press is financed by the same commercial interests that want this big event to continue the way it is. So don't be surprised if the newspapers and gay mags don't want to print any awkward questions (the Pink Paper didn't publish mine...). There are huge commercial interests at stake here.

Gay activists don't have the stomach to tackle this either.

If you have hard evidence of something that shouldn't be happening, contact the Charity Commission, which is currently looking into Operation Fundraiser.

You could also contact Manchester City Council or the organisers:

Manchester Pride,
6th Floor,
Churchgate House,
56 Oxford Street,
Manchester M1 6EU
Tel: +44 (0)161 238 4548
Fax: +44 (0)161 228 2960
E-mail: [email protected]

RIGHT OF REPLY

The organisers of any of the events I have mentioned are most welcome to respond and I shall publish any corrections that are necessary when I see the proof. I don't understand their reluctance to answer questions...
 

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