Monday, 23 August 2010

Does Manchester Pride make you Proud, asks Jennie O’Hara

In 2006 I attended my first ever Manchester Pride. During the ‘festival’, I parted with over £200 and did some permanent liver damage. I had missed the parade, and although the bands on the stage were recognisable names, I wasn’t wowed by any of them. I do distinctly remember very long toilet queues, and feeling a little bit like a sardine.

In 2008 I helped organise an entry into the parade, where we marched under the banner ‘Pride is a Protest’, chanted ‘we’re here, we’re queer, we can’t afford the beer’, and tried to take on the over-priced commericalisation of our sexualities. I had been radicalised.

Manchester Pride is one of the UK’s biggest Pride events, and consists of a week of fringe events leading up to the ‘Big Weekend’, where the whole of Canal Street and the ‘gay village’ is barriered off and turned into a giant party with bands and singers, alcohol, drugs, dancing, porta-loos and thousands of LGBT people from all over the country. It is a colourful, exciting, busy, big gay mess. And access to all this costs between £10 and £20 pounds (depending on when you buy your wristband).

But Manchester Pride has very little politics, it has almost nothing for children (and certainly nothing on the big weekend), and it excludes lots of LGBT people who simply cannot afford to go. In effect, it makes some people ‘too poor to be gay’.

Welcome Reclaim the Scene, a coalition of LGBT and queer activists (and their friends) who are sick of being excluded from Pride, sick of the lack of politics and sick of being too poor to be gay. The group have three main aims they are striving towards: making pride free, putting LGBT rights at the top of the agenda, and making the ‘village’ accessible, inclusive and welcoming.

LGBT people come from diverse backgrounds, and Manchester Pride should celebrate this, by including the whole rainbow of LGBT and queer people in its celebrations, whether they are homeless, students, parents, gay, bisexual, polyamorous, middle-class, working-class, unemployed or directors. Regardless of whether they are men, women, trans, un-identified, gender-queer, old, young, Muslims, atheists, anti/capitalists, or queer individuals.

Pride should be inclusive because it takes a whole movement to challenge oppression. We still live in a society that oppresses people based on their identities. When statistics show that ‘gay’ is the biggest insult used in schools, and that young trans people have a 50% attempted suicide rate, Pride should be doing something to tackle it. When young LGBT people are made homeless because of their un-accepting parents, or attacked by members of the British National Party or the English Defence League, Pride should be working to make life better for these people. And when the Christian right are stood on the side of the parade with anti-gay placards, condemning all the parade participants to Hell, Pride should not just tell you to “ignore” the homophobic protestors, but should fight back. Ignoring bigotry does not make it go away.

On the 28 August Reclaim the Scene will be hosting our annual post-parade picnic, the (Out of the) Village Fete, a community led afternoon of children’s entertainment, performers, political stalls, alcohol-fuelled spaces and alcohol-free spaces, films, dancing, music, poetry and free food sourced from local community allotments. The event is free, runs from 2-9pm at a location just outside of the village barriers, and inclusive to everyone. Our aim is to show Manchester Pride that it is possible to run a successful, free, inclusive and political Pride event.

My first experience of Manchester Pride didn’t make me proud; it made me disheartened and slightly poorer. Pride should be about empowering LGBT and queer individuals to celebrate our identities, and to fight for a world where we are not oppressed for being who we are. Reclaim the scene because Pride is a protest!


  1. For the last seven years I've been researching, writing about and challenging our over-commercial Manchester Pride event. Raising awareness about the spin and inequality that lies behind it, the profiteering by businesses and the small amount that goes to charity (just 12% of the total Pride income in 2007).

    Manchester has run alternatives for a number of years. Twee Pride in 2006 and the ten-day Get Bent! festival in 2007 which had a large number of events and was extremely successful.

    It really is heartwarming to see more young people and students taking a stand at long last and now even Peter Tatchell getting involved - a number of years after I first asked him to.

  2. I don't think it's fair to blame Manchester Pride for your own irresponsibility - I am 'poor' (my part-time work has to support me and my girlfriend) and I managed to save up for the wristbands this year, took my own food and drink, only went into free bars and had a great time, without getting drunk and spending a stupid amount of money.

    Yes it is very commercial, but it IS political and relevant at the same time. The lifestyle expo has some great resources and the vigil was very moving. LGBT businesses get to make some money and Pride shows people that the LGBT community is not going to hide in the shadows and accept that society can treat us however it likes!

    Not every day of the Big Weekend is jam-packed, if you go on the Sunday or Monday, there is plenty of space for everyone and I never had to be in long queues. You are never going to please everyone at an event like this, but I think Manchester Pride does a fantastic job and hope that it continues to improve and I look forward to going next year. It is the one thing I look forward to, being around people who want to celebrate and spending the weekend in a gay bubble, feeling safe. I found there to be a wide variety of people from all backgrounds and didn't feel 'left out' because I couldn't afford some of the things. There were plenty of things to do that didn't cost extra.

    As long as LGBT people are getting beaten, murdered and repressed - we need Pride and need to support it.