You can now walk into the gay village during Manchester Pride without buying a wristband. This is thanks to the endless hard work of local LGBT campaigners. They were vilified and, shamefully, received little or no help from the longstanding gay community "heros", celebrities, businesses, corrupt Manchester politicians and charities.
There's an enormous amount to add to this page, covering events since Autumn 2013. The key points are that in April 2015 the Local Government Ombudsman ruled that Manchester Pride's closure of the pavements (helped by Manchester City Council) was "unlawful." That the public has the right to make their way to premises (homes and business). Very likely they had that right every year going back to 2003 and in 1999 too.
In effect, Manchester Pride's longstanding business model has been dismantled. It was cruel -- it excluded LGBT people from the gay streets of Manchester and their usual local pubs during a "pride" if they didn't buy a costly ticket.
This was known just before the event in August 2014 thanks to letters from the Department For Transport. But, despite that, officers of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) stood by and watched the pavements and access being blocked by Pride's private security guards. The police are paid around £50,000 by Manchester Pride (as they are for other events).
But, in this case, the police took money from a limited company (Manchester Pride) and then stood and ignored the unlawful behaviour of private security guards who were employed by that same company. Was the obstruction a criminal offence?
This is all on video, currently the subject of a complaint to the Chief Constable, and may end up being escalated beyond GMP in early 2016.
Think back to Stonewall... In Manchester in 2014 a commercial "pride" event paid and used the police to prevent peaceful campaigners from exercising their entirely lawful right to walk along public streets. See video of what happened.
Those who are on the LGBT gravy train have stayed silent and it will come back to haunt them in years to come. While others, presumably, are too intimdated to criticise the unlawful actions of a so-called "pride."
The police and Manchester City Council were eager to lay the blame at the feet of Manchester Pride and things were very different at the event in August 2015. Many people were allowed to walk into the streets of the gay village without buying a wristband (see a video). Though, naturally they weren't allowed into the "event areas" on private land (car parks etc.). Some venues would allow people in without a wristband. Others would not.
However, still, some were obstructed and misled at the gates and were ignored by police officers. The media stayed silent about the change and while apparently featuring paid ads for Pride the Manchester Evening News reported: "as usual The Gay Village will be closed to people who do not have wristbands." That was a lie and gives a glimpse into the ways things work.
The bottom line is that you no longer need a wristband or pass to walk along the streets of the gay village during Manchester Pride or to visit friends or residents who live in the fenced area. You will get into some venues. You won't get into others or the events that are on private land.
Currently the official line from the Ombudsman is that your right is to use the streets to "access premises."
Writing on 12 January 2016, Greater Manchester Police stated that, with regard to the 2015 event, a "bespoke briefing" was delivered "to the Pride security teams who were deployed on the gates detailing what their responsibility and powers were, we certainly made it clear that they could not restrict access and the approach was a simple appeal for people to purchase wristbands. However if they refused to do so access would not be restricted."
This has been one of the biggest cons in LGBT history.
We know that Crunch bar demanded that customers should be let in through the gates without a wristband during Pride 2012. Clearly some of the other business people, politicians and others have known the situation for years and, for that reason, are not "friends" of the LGBT public. They have happily kept quiet so that businesses could be enriched. While at the same time watching the charity fundraising dwindle.
It's a scandle...
In 2014 Manchester Pride had income of £1,336,314 (up from £1,058,284 in 2013) yet just £54,021 went to good causes.
There's much more to add about what has happened over the last three years, including about how the City Council, Manchester Pride Limited and certain business people brought this on themselves due to their dirty tricks. Campaigners tried to engage for many years.
Various LGBT history projects in Manchester have received more than £200,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund over the years. Still, even the history of pride events and fundraising weekends (two separate things before 2003) are largely unknown.
In 2015, Manchester Pride claimed, falsely, that it was the 25th anniversary of events celebrating LGBT life in Manchester and they were reluctant to admit a mistake when informed. Perversely Pride has been awarded a further £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a history project and we hear it is going badly.
Elsewhere, unpaid campaigners are doing most of the work researching and recently more history has come to light of events as early as 1985. Also the mention of the phrase "gay village" that year, the earliest we have found so far. I will publish full details once Manchester Pride's history project is over as some of us suspect it might end up being nothing more than a desperate last minute "copy and paste" sweep of the internet without proper credit.
I've been researching this since 2003 and it has been difficult. Initially the organisers seemed to think that the public had no right to ask.
But here you can read what I've discovered and pieced together. The facts and figures that never make it into the mainstream media or gay press.
I cut through the web of spin, PR and false information that has surrounded Manchester Pride and Operation Fundraiser over the years. How much is deliberate and how much accidental?
My purpose in doing this? To show how the charity fundraising -- the original purpose of this event -- has become a secondary consideration and little more than a convenient fig-leaf to cover huge profit-making by businesses, with tourism a priority. And all at the expense of Manchester's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.
I keep hearing people say that the tiny amounts raised for charity are 'better than nothing'. But, how low will we go before we say 'enough is enough'?
Twelve years ago, when I started off looking into this, it seemed that no one else was interested. More recently this page has helped kickstart protests, discussions and alternatives to Pride and I'm very proud of that.
IN THE BEGINNING
There's very little documentary evidence around from the early days. The event started as a jumble sale on Canal Street and, until recently, many of us thought that 1990 was the first.
However, in 2011, a colour photo of a jumble sale appeared on the Manchester Pride website. In the background, a tall building can be seen. This was Solway House, which stood on Aytoun Street.
In other words the colour photo seems to show a jumble sale on Canal Street from some time earlier than the summer of 1990. Was it on an August Bank Holiday in a previous year? A source who was involved with the Village Charity from the beginning claims that the jumble sales began in 1987.
Although it seems the Charity was started at the beginning of 1991 (see the video of the speech from 1991 below), the Charity Commission website shows that it wasn't registered until 18 December of that year.
Manchester Pride claimed that 2011 was some kind of "21st birthday" but it looks as if that whole thing might have been a farce. The photo that they published for their "21st" may be evidence that it wasn't. The staff and trustees at Pride have access to all kinds of people and resources and really should have checked this, instead of it being uncovered by a Facebook group.
So, was the starting point the first-ever August Bank Holiday jumble sale, whenever that was? Was it 1991 when there was a full programme of events and the Village Charity was under way? Or should it even be August Bank Holiday 1992 by which time the Charity had been registered?
It's important to note that the event was started by several of the business people. Like most of us, they had friends and lovers who were affected by HIV and AIDS. One well-known gay club owner died around 1986.
Jumble sale 1990
Anyway, let's take a quick look back at August Bank Holiday weekend, 1990... This was the first I was aware of and I went along and took some photographs.
The first year with a full programme of events was 1991. Here are some flyers for 'A Carnival of Fun' as it was known that year (click to see bigger).
Attractions include Mickey Methane and a tripe eating competition. Sunday evening at Rockies is cancelled due to the licence being refused (due to the police no doubt). But the management provides free coaches to Sheffield and you can still enjoy 'Wet Jocks in the Mineshaft' on Monday. Hmmmm...
There's a 20 minute firework display paid for by the city centre development body. All artistes give their services for free and no tickets are required to enter the gay village area. Rockies gives 50% of door takings to good causes.
In 1991 the jumble sale moved into Sackville
The Bloom Street 'Olympics', August Bank Holiday, 1991. Lycra cycling shorts were the thing to wear that year!
Speech by Paul Orton on Monday 26 August 1991.
This touching speech by Paul Orton of Clone Zone, on the final night of 1991, is a reminder of what the event used to be about. Also of the huge support that it enjoyed from famous people in the early days.
Most of that support evaporated after 1999 - the first pay-to-attend year - when the event was run from the town hall and zero was raised for charity.
However, the Christmas Costume Ball in December of that year was a great success and August Bank Holiday went from strength to strength during the first half of the 1990's.
Not a pride event
It was NOT a pride event in the early years. The jumble sale started off with the sole purpose of raising money for HIV and AIDS causes, including the ward at Monsall hospital.
If you weren't around in those days it's hard to appreciate how focused the community was on supporting those people who were affected by HIV and also on prevention.
The booklet that was published for the Village Charity's Annual General Meeting in 1994 includes this sentence:
"Many volunteers of the charity get upset when the press call our weekend the 'Northern Pride'. It's not and never has been."
An episode of the Channel 4 series "Out", which was broadcast on 15 September 1994, looks at the Manchester gay village, Village Charity and the August Bank Holiday weekend which was called "AbFab" that year. Chris Bryan, the Chair of the Village Charity, is interviewed and says that in its first year the Charity raised £30,000. Whereas over the 1994 weekend alone it raised £40,000 (equivalent to about £64,000 today in 2012).
Many people have fond memories of these early years. But unfortunately cracks began to appear towards the end of the decade.
This Channel 4 documentary from 1996 (particularly 35 minutes onwards) shows the roots of many of the problems that we see today in the gay village. This was three years before Queer As Folk was first broadcast. Looking back it seems to have been a mixture of wishful thinking and commercial cynicism. Business owners realised that by continuing to be exclusively gay they were excluding more than 90% of the local population (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if scene-going LGBTs make up less than 1%). So there was an enormous amount of money to be made by throwing open the doors to all, regardless of other considerations.
An article in The Pink Paper (issue 30 Aug 1996) just after the Mardi Gras reports that "The Village Charity hope to top the £77,000 raised with a further £50,000 from donations included in ticket sales to the Sunday Freedom GALA at the G-Mex centre."
In its 7 February 1997 issue The Pink Paper stated that Manchester City Council had threatened to withdraw its support from Mardi Gras amid:
"allegations that thousands of pounds in sponsorship money raised for AIDS organisations by bars and clubs in the city had not been paid to the Village Charity".
The sum owed was said to be £6,000 and relations had deteriorated after the Charity threated to name and shame "defaulting publicans".
However, the 9 May 1997 issues mentions that The Village Charity had called in the police "over payments to the charity by Manto Group, to compensate for last year's loss-making Freeedom Gala at the G-Mex Centre, which they promoted."
Made In Manchester
The 1998 BBC docu-soap series Made In Manchester features Mardi Gras in two of its episodes and gives some idea of the power struggle that was going on behind the scenes at that time.
The first episode shows the entertainer John Barry and a businessman called Ken Taylor. They are organising an event which is to be held at GMEX during Mardi Gras and it's clear that Ken Taylor is someone new around Canal Street.
According to the narration, at the time, John Barry was known as "Mr Mardi Gras" and had helped organise the August event for five years (he introduced the acts at the Christmas Costume Ball in 1991). However during the course of the programme it emerges that The Village Charity is planning a rival event on the same evening.
Then a music magazine that's backing the GMEX event (which includes some big name acts) decides that it doesn't want John Barry involved and there's the suggestion that the knives are out for him in the gay village.
With just a few days to go, Ken Taylor is seen trying to raise the necessary funds. But then the event is cancelled with the suggestion that GMEX has gone back on an agreement that was made the previous day.
The gay village was unfenced in 1998 and a wristband was required to get into the bars and clubs. However anecdotal evidence suggests that straight people were allowed to walk into various venues without a band, while lesbian, gay and transgender people had to wear one. So the whole thing ended up feeling like a gay poll tax.
A local radio station sponsored Mardi Gras but didn't mention on-air that it was an LGBT event. With the result that some people who turned up weren't exactly gay-friendly. On a personal note, I remember a woman screaming "perverts" at us as we walked down Canal Street on the opening night. A first for me anywhere, after 15 years of being "out". And here it was happening in the gay village at what was supposed to be our event!
Looking back, it seems that Manchester City Council was making plans to hijack various community events, including Mardi Gras and the Caribbean Carnival, so they could be twisted into whatever form made the maximum amount of cash for the city's businesses and attracted the most tourists. And various businesses and individuals were only too delighted at the prospect of enriching themselves.
In the case of Mardi Gras, this was done with little regard for the charity-fundraising element or for the need to maintain the gay village as a safe and welcoming space for LGBT people.
And, as the years went by, it seems the aim was to shift as many of the costs as possible onto ordinary members of the LGBT community.
The Saturday parade seemed to attract huge crowds in 1998 (above) and then again the following year. A level of popularity that probably hasn't been matched since, due to what happened in 1999.
Fences and entry tickets in 1999
In 1999, Mardi Gras was run from an office in Manchester town hall. The gay village was completely fenced off, £10 entry tickets introduced and posters carried the rather miserable message: "no pledgeband, no party" with the promise that 50% of money would go to the community fund.
In fact, despite 'pledgeband' income of £384,000 and 45,000 bands sold, there was nothing left for charity after costs.
An extract from a recently-discovered audio recording of the final night of Manchester Mardi Gras 1999. Labour councillor (and chairman of Mardi Gras) Pat Karney and Anthony H Wilson on stage with a rant about people who hadn't bought a 'pledgeband'.
I was on top of the multi-storey car-park and recorded this on cassette tape. The real aim was to get audio of the fireworks to match up with video footage taken from a distance away, but in the end I taped the last 40 minutes. A youth standing near me can be heard shouting abuse back at them.
The section featured here was followed by an obscene poem about the Queen by a local drag 'poet', which some people booed. Eventually the crowd shouted 'off, off' when she had more than outstayed her welcome.
Whatever your personal view of the Royal Family this was quite a contrast to the final night back in 1991 when a good luck telegram from Diana, Princess of Wales had been read out and the following year when Princess Margaret had attended a Royal Gala Benefit Night in aid of BodyPositive. The event hasn't received any royal support since.
Mardi Gras issued a "community report" in November 1999. This included at least one big lie: that a "staggering" 600,000 spectators were "on the city's streets" at the Saturday parade (more about this later).
On 17 January 2000 there was a public meeting: a "campaign for accountability". Though ultimately there was little if any.
Under the new name GayFest the weekend reverted to being free to enter in 2000 and 2001 with Manchester City Council forced to take a back seat. Things felt more friendly and LGBT again. However it seems that another war was now being waged by factions within the City Council and an idea of just how bad things became during this period can be gleaned from an article in The Independent (24 September 2001) which reports that Europride 2003 might be held in Salford or Bury:
"A long-running spat between the city's council and gay community over the direction of Manchester's annual Mardi Gras festival has resulted in a council declaration that Europride may not be welcome, and prompted gay leaders to approach neighbouring municipal authorities instead."
GayFest published a list of the amounts raised by the various venues. For the first time the public could see which did the most fundraising, while those that contributed little were effectively named and shamed.
In August 2002 the event, now back to being called Mardi Gras, but still free, was cancelled completely with just a few weeks to go. This was due to a dispute between the police and organisers [BBC local news report on YouTube] over a bylaw which had been in existence for two years but was only then suddenly being enforced for some mysterious reason.
Though, on the face of it, the Council didn't seem to be involved in this dispute there are sometimes hidden links between police, politicians and business: freemasonry being one. It seems that 2002 was also the first year that Marketing Manchester (aka the tourist board) began to take control.
Eventually Mardi Gras did go ahead but the damage had been done. It seems levers were being pulled behind the scenes to manoeuvre the event into becoming pay-to-enter again. Sure enough, tickets were back the following year for Europride 2003 and the list of amounts raised by the various businesses was history.
NAMES AND CHANGES
Over the years, Manchester's August Bank Holiday gay event has been known as the Carnival of Fun, AbFab, Mardi Gras, GayFest, Manchester Europride and most recently Manchester Pride.
But it isn't just the name that has changed. Here's a quote from the Charity Commission, which I received from them in writing in May 2007:
'The Pride events are not charitable fundraising events they are events organised by Marketing Manchester.'
The Charity Commission (2007)
Who is Marketing Manchester? On its website it describes itself as 'the tourist board' and a company limited by guarantee.
THE SET-UP: 2003-2006
In 2003, it was decided that charities would sell tickets and collect money under the name Operation Fundraiser (a name that had existed prior to 2003) and that (a very large) part of this money would be handed over to cover the costs of running the Pride event. To all intents and purposes, the money was handed over to Marketing Manchester, although a 'not-for-profit' company had been set up in 2003 called Manchester Europride.
Eventually it came to light that Manchester Europride didn't even have its own business accounts. It shared them with Marketing Manchester -- the tourist board.
Until recently, figures for the number of tickets sold each year were almost impossible to come by, perhaps because they knew that much of the overhyped publicity (every year is the 'best ever' we're told) would be blown out of the water if this information was in the public domain.
However, in the October 2004 issue of Outnorthwest magazine, Paul Martin of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation refers to the '36,000' who attended Manchester Pride 2004. As the gay village was fenced off, you couldn't 'attend' without a ticket. So presumably this figure is the number of tickets sold that year?
In 2003, Operation Fundraiser deducted its own running costs (£59,520) from the ticket and collection bucket money it had gathered (£388,946). It handed over £200,000 to Manchester Europride (Marketing Manchester) to cover its running costs and the remainder (£129,426) went to good causes.
The £129,426 figure for good causes represents 33.23% of the total ticket and collection money.
It's unclear exactly how much was ticket income. But if 36,000 people bought a ticket (costing £10) in 2003, as they did the following year, that would be income of £360,000 from tickets alone and the £129,426 figure for good causes would represent 35.9% of just the ticket income.
In addition, Manchester Europride received money from advertisers, sponsors and donations which also went on the running costs of the event.
In 2004, the not-for-profit company was renamed Manchester Pride and, being a 'new' company, it enjoyed extra time to file its business accounts.
From 2004 onwards, supposedly 50% of all ticket and bucket money was handed over by Operation Fundraiser, which then took its own substantial running costs out of the 50% that was left. However, there is a question mark. When I talked with the Charity Commission in 2007, for some reason it was of the opinion that more than 50% may have been handed over to cover costs in the years from 2004 onwards.
FAT CAT BUSINESSES GRAB £22M OF EXTRA INCOME
Meanwhile, big business was doing very nicely thank you. The official estimate from Manchester City Council for extra income to businesses thanks to Pride was £20m in 2003 (mentioned here and also here in the Manchester Evening News). One year the estimate was as high as £22m but in the recessionary times of 2009 was reckoned to be about £17m. In 2010 the Chief Executive of Marketing Manchester told me face-to-face that yes they do believe these figures are a true reflection of the extra income generated.
It's important to note that this is for businesses across Manchester. Some within the gay village raise funds year round, while most of those further afield contribute nothing at all.
The 2007 figure of £95,000 for good causes was one of the lowest for many years. While the city's businesses made tens of millions for themselves as usual.
Back in the financial year 1994/95, Mardi Gras was free and The Village Charity managed to raise £60,000 for good causes. Compare to 2007, when some 35,000 people bought a ticket and good causes got just £95,000.
Bear in mind that due to inflation over those twelve years a sum of £60,000 in 1994/95 is equivalent to about £90,000 at 2007 prices. You can compare prices and the effect of inflation over the years by using this handy chart (PDF)
In 2006, Operation Fundraiser's position became untenable after HM Customs and Excise decided that Pride was no longer a charity event and hadn't been since 2003. Pride was charged back VAT (sales tax) of £56,000 on the years 2004, 2005 and 2006. Needless to say, the businesses didn't cough up, it came out of the 2006 charity money, leaving just £65,000 for good causes.
Manchester Pride is not a charity event anymore says the tax-man. Read more
Don't believe the spin blaming this on the tax man. It is the organisers of Pride themselves and the City Council who allowed our event to stray so far from its original charity fundraising purpose.
The LGF and George House Trust had decided not to take any money from the diminished charity amount in 2006 and, when the £56,000 VAT sum was 'recovered', the two charities divided the money between themselves. Curiously, in December 2009, the Manchester Pride website still listed the 2006 figure as £126,000 'but only £70,000 distributed to Charity', and with no explanation for this.
The public was left in the dark largely, believing that just £65,000 (or £70,000) had been raised for good causes in 2006. Possibly because to do otherwise would have focused unwelcome attention on what the taxman had said about Pride not being a charity event.
Compare this to the avalanche of positive promotion that Manchester Pride receives each year in the gay and mainstream press.
But perhaps it's no surprise after all. These publications and websites receive advertising income from Pride and act as sponsors and cheerleaders of it. The tourist board, local newspapers and some local gay reporters are on the Pride gravy train. They don't want to do anything that might derail it or upset those who are in power. In 2011, the Pink Paper's "North-West Correspondent" was a Press and Communications Officer at the LGF and sometimes articles about the LGF were published without that potential conflict of interest being made clear to readers.
The Manchester Evening News was a Pride 'media partner' in 2009 and has a long history of publishing over-inflated, physically impossible attendance figures for Pride and other Manchester events. A news editor from the Evening News told me in an email that these crowd numbers come from press releases from the organisers of the events and (despite being a journalist) he saw no reason to question the figures.
I began to scrutinise Operation Fundraiser's publicity material.
Such as this leaflet from 2004 which, at first glance, shows 'how your money was spent' and a 100% pie chart.
But, take a closer look... It actually starts out with a net proceeds figure, after 50% of Operation Fundraiser's income has been handed over to Manchester Pride/Marketing Manchester to cover costs. The sum that was handed over was £165,596, the same as the net proceeds amount. Read more...
Lots of people won't know what net proceeds means or won't notice. This misleading leaflet makes the final charity amount look like a larger percentage of the income than it really was and makes 'expenditure' seem smaller.
Money that Manchester Pride itself received directly from advertisers, sponsors and donations doesn't feature on this leaflet either. That income also went on running costs.
FROM 100% TO 30%
In 2002, one of the charities involved in Operation Fundraiser, George House Trust, told the public: "100% of what is donated over the weekend will go to charities with noting [sic] deducted for administrative expenses or the cost of the event."
In fact, as we've seen, the very next year (2003), a staggering £200,000 of the ticket and collection bucket money that had been collected by Operation Fundraiser was handed over to Manchester Europride to cover costs. And Operation Fundraiser spent a further £59,520 on, guess what? Its own costs.
In the publicity for 2003, the public was told: "all ticket sales for the weekend go directly to Operation Fundraiser".
It's hardly surprising that many people in Manchester are confused about the situation and even now believe that that 'all' Operation Fundraiser money went to good causes.
In some leaflets, Operation Fundraiser used the word 'raised' to mean the money left after costs had been taken off.
In other leaflets it used the word 'raised' to mean before costs had been taken off.
What the jargon phrase 'community futures' means in the screengrab above, I don't know. 50% of Operation Fundraiser's gross income was not reaching charitable causes in the end because Operation Fundraiser was taking out its own substantial running costs after giving 50% of its gross income to Pride.
QUITE A COINCIDENCE
In 2003, Operation Fundraiser's own costs were £59,520 and in 2004 they were £79,982. A 30% increase in costs in one year and leaving a final figure for good causes in 2004 that is just £1,736 more than the previous year.
Quite a coincidence and many people have pointed out that for four years (2003-2006) the charity amount remained much the same each year while ticket prices rose, but costs did too. A cynic might wonder if costs were being arranged around a set amount to be left for charity.
(Can you fill in the missing years? If so, let me know.)
2015: £137,000. Plus, bizarrely, £9,000 of "unclaimed" grants from the previous year. Note that in 2014 Manchester Pride had an increase in income of £290,000. Where did it go? Not to charity...
2011: £105,000. £7,000 of this came from the "Pride Dinner" the previous November (pay event)
2010: £115,000 (pay event)
2009: £135,000 (pay event)
2008: £105,000 (pay event)
2007: £95,000 (pay event)
2006: £121,000 eventually, after challenging a £56,000 VAT bill (pay event)
2005: £120,772 (pay event)
2004: £129,426 (pay event)
2003: £127,690 (pay event)
2002: £65,007 (free event)
2001: £87,666.63 (free event)
2000: £105,716.77 (free event)
1999: zero raised (pay event - the first year with the fences)
1998: £131,062 (source: the official programme for the following year - 1999. A wristband was needed to get into venues. )
1996: immediately after the event The Pink Paper reported £77,000.
1991: £29,294 raised for good causes. Gross income was £35,252. This is from the Treasurer's Report in the booklet from the Village Charity AGM in February 1992 (free event)
AMOUNTS ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION AT 2011 PRICES
Here you can compare the actual value of the amounts raised, as they have been calculated to take into account inflation up to 2011.
2003: £163,443.20 (fences and tickets from this year on)
1996: £191,770? (see note above)
Despite tens of thousands of people buying a ticket every year, in the nine years since Marketing Manchester grabbed control the event has only raised more than the free GayFest 2000 on three occasions (2003,2004 and 2005). Running costs have spiralled up astronomically since 2003.
From 2003 onwards, to cover up charity amounts that barely increased, the organisers began to add together figures from several years in their publicity. As in this poster, which shows a total of all the amounts from the years 2003-2006 (minus the VAT bill)
Tricky and contradictory text and confusing leaflets often gave the public only half the story and it's hard to imagine that wasn't deliberate spin. Questions were ignored completely or the organisers were evasive. "Why do you want to know?" I was asked on one occasion. I wanted to know because this event was being sold to the public as a charity fundraiser.
In fact the whole arrangement from 2003 until 2006 seems to have been designed to use the good names of the charities to squeeze the maximum amount of cash from the public. Most of which was then handed over to Manchester Pride/the tourist board and paid out in costs to businesses that supplied various services, or was spent on other running costs.
How many of us realised, when putting a pound into an Operation Fundraiser collection bucket, that two-thirds of that money went to cover 'costs' and not to a good cause?
But don't expect to read anything other than a glowing retrospective of Operation Fundraiser in the gay press.
A CHANGE IN 2007
In 2007 things changed. Operation Fundraiser 'hung up its buckets', before things got hotter, and Manchester Pride became a charity in its own right.
In publicity this was portrayed as Manchester Pride fulfilling a long held dream to become a charity in its own right. In truth, the set up with Operation Fundraiser had become untenable once both the tax man and Charity Commission had said that Pride was no longer a charity fundraising event.
Some things didn't change however. The Chief Executive of Marketing Manchester (AKA the tourist board) was Chair of Manchester Pride (in 2010 he also became Chair of the Village Business Association and Chair of the annual arts festival Queer Up North).
In 2007 the new set-up got off to a bad start. Tickets prices were the highest ever -- some people paid £18 -- and just £95,000 was left for good causes.
The income and costs became clearer. In 2007 Manchester Pride had income of £803,000 and running costs of £708,000. However, as time went on, it became apparent that this was an even worse deal for the LGBT public, as the annual charity amount became an even smaller percentage of the ticket income.
Pride makes much of the fact that it is 'non-profit'. However, 'costs' are money that is paid out to profit-making businesses: security guards, equipment hire, promoters, performers, printers, street cleaners. Also to the police. Lots of people are now on this lucrative cash-stuffed gravy train.
Where does it go exactly? Mostly we have no idea. Manchester Pride doesn't want us, the public, to know. It has opted to publish the briefest possible accounts, which it is entitled to do.
Charities are not subject to Freedom of Information requests. However, public bodies are, so we can find out some figures by making requests to those that deal with Manchester Pride.
In 2011, a Freedom of Information request revealed that Greater Manchester Police had given Manchester Pride £2,500 in sponsorship in 2008. GMP was unable to provide figures for any other year: "due to the fact that the expenditure is not broken down into various elements, i.e. sponsorship, overtime costs, staffing etc."
A previous request asking how much Greater Manchester Police donated to, and charged, Manchester Pride had produced this response:
"GMP does not directly donate to the Manchester Pride charitable event, however it does provide sponsorship.
"GMP charge the Manchester Pride event organisers for the supply of special police services under Section 25(1) of the Police Act 1996. As this is a charitable event, GMP does not charge the full Section 25(1) rate for policing this specific event.
"The charges for the years 2003-2010 inclusive can be found below:
Manchester Pride 2010: £52,500
Manchester Pride 2009: £50,000
Manchester Pride 2008: £45,000
Manchester Pride 2007: £40,000
Manchester Pride 2006: £30,000
Manchester Pride 2005: £30,000
Manchester Pride 2004: £20,000
Europride 2003: £20,000
"Unfortunately no information is held in the requested format for any other years."
THE COST OF PRIDE
We can see that between 2004 and 2010, there was a percentage increase of 162% in the bill for policing: from £20,000 to £52,500.
What was the justification for this huge rise? Was there a 162% increase in the number of police officers on the street? Or do the organisers of Manchester Pride simply 'roll over' and agree to whatever demands are made by the Police and other powerful bodies, in case Pride is cancelled again, as it was back in 2002?
It's said that in recent years GMP has had a policy of transferring policing costs onto various events. But the question is: are all events treated equally? Also it's worth pointing out that political marches and rallies are not charged by the police. Unfortunately the politics have been removed from Pride over the last 15 years.
Compare the £708,000 running cost of Manchester Pride in 2007 to the reported cost of £106,000 for the free-to-enter Mardi Gras back in 2002.
Businesses across Manchester make a vast amount of money from Pride, but they, the City Council and Police want the public to finance the event if they can get away with that.
12% OF TOTAL INCOME WENT TO GOOD CAUSES IN 2007
One body (Manchester Pride) now deals with all the income (tickets, collections, sponsors, advertisers etc.) and all the costs.
12% of Manchester Pride's total income went to good causes in 2007. However, this percentage is not directly comparable with previous years, when ticket money went through Operation Fundraiser and sponsorship and other income went direct to Manchester Pride which spent it on costs.
To make a more accurate comparison with previous years, if we reckon the typical 35,000 tickets were sold, at an average of £14 each, it comes to £490,000 from tickets.
If gross income from tickets was £490,000, then £95,000 for good causes would represent about 19.5% of that ticket income figure. Which must be one of the lowest percentages ever.
Even if we take off £75,000 to cover the costs of the ticket operation (as Operation Fundraiser did in previous years), leaving £415,000, £95,000 for charity is still only about 23% of that figure.
PERCENTAGES IN 2012
As of 2012 the income from tickets makes up about two-thirds of Pride's total income. Here's an extract from the Manchester Pride accounts for year ending 30 September 2011.
This suggests that about £725,000 came from ticket sales. Although the 2011 charity amount is £105,000, £7,000 of that came from the "Pride Dinner" the previous November, so just £98,000 came from the summer Pride event itself.
As a percentage of the £725,000 ticket income in 2011, £105,000 is about 14.5%.
As a percentage of the 1,086,654 total Pride income in 2011, £105,000 is about 9.66%.
As a percentage of the £725,000 ticket income in 2011, £98,000 is about 13.5%.
As a percentage of the 1,086,654 total Pride income in 2011, £98,000 is about 9.02%.
2011 was a 13-month financial year as the end of accounting date was moved from 31 August to 30 September.
BUSINESSES PROFIT ENORMOUSLY WHILE GIVING LITTLE
Businesses across Manchester profit from Pride and not just those that are based in the gay village. Hotels, shops, restaurants, taxi firms, travel companies and airlines also benefit and most of those contribute nothing at all to the running costs. One way they would do is if the city council gave a larger donation to the running costs of Pride.
In 2004 the UniChallenge club night sold 4,500 tickets at £20 each. Giving the promoters income of £90,000 just from admissions alone. A figure that is nearly as much as the total raised for good causes from the entire Pride event in 2007.
In 2004, UniChallenge gave a pitiful £1 from each ticket to Operation Fundraiser.
However, as already mentioned, about two-thirds of Operation Fundraiser's income ended up being spent on the costs of running the Pride event and its own costs that year.
So, after costs, probably 33p from each of those £20 UniChallenge tickets reached a final good cause in 2004.
Now it's even less. With all income apparently going into one Manchester Pride pot of money, including the UniChallenge donation, and (in 2007) just 12% of that Pride cash left for charity, we can see that, in 2007, probably just 12p from each £22 UniChallenge ticket was distributed to a final charity.
It would be far better if UniChallenge donated the £1 directly to another, more efficient, charity. The percentage is quite obscene when you think about it.
In 2008 the price of a ticket for Unichallenge increased to £23, with still just a £1 donation to Manchester Pride. Compare that to Monday 26 August 1991 when the club Rockies gave 50% of its door money to good causes...
The 2009 UniChallenge website stated: "while you're all partying over Manchester Pride's Big Weekend remember why we're actually here to celebrate Pride... it's to raise money for charity!" Oh really?
In 2009, the UniChallenge website didn't even mention how much would be donated from each ticket (they cost £23 + booking fee in advance, or more on the door). But it does boast that "over the past 10 years the money raised from Uni Challenge has exceeded £56,000".
That old trick of adding together lots of years to make the number more impressive.
If you're a penniless student or on the dole that may sound like a large figure. But, as we've seen, in terms of the amount raked in on the door each year, it isn't much at all and Pride spends most of the donation on costs (ie. it goes out into the pockets of businesses).
Manchester Pride suggests that it can't control what is done by businesses. However it could stop promoting such events and prevent them from tagging onto the Manchester Pride "brand"?
COSTS CAN KEEP ON RISING UNTIL ENOUGH PEOPLE COMPLAIN
The Charity Commission says there are no rules about what percentage of income a charity can spend on costs. There is no minimum percentage that must go to the good cause. The Commission says it's up to the public to complain if dissatisfied.
Often the charity aspect of Pride is used to try and deflect any criticism. How dare you criticise a charity! This is what is so clever about the set up that has existed since 2003. Ever growing sums are demanded from the public. Costs increase way above the rate of inflation each year and that money is filtered out to profit-making businesses for services rendered. All in the name of 'charity'.
Running costs doubled between 2004 and 2007. A 660% increase in running costs since 2002 (£106,000 reported in 2002 and £708,000 in 2007). In 2008 the price of an 'early bird' ticket increased by 25%. The previous year the period for buying an early bird ticket had been greatly reduced. More here.
MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL'S DOUBLE STANDARDS
The City Council gave more than £2m towards the running costs of Manchester's International Festival in 2007. Up until 2010 it gave just tens of thousands to Pride, which is charged for services such as street cleaning (a £13,000 cost in 2002). As with the Police, this is a smoke and mirrors trick: giving with one hand (and getting the good publicity for supporting the LGBT community) but taking back with the other.
The International Festival was expected to bring in £32m of extra business to the city, while we're told that Pride brings in £22m of extra business some years. Considering those benefits, why is it that the LGBT community must finance one to such an extent, whereas mainly the City Council and businesses (through rates) finance the other?
A Freedom of Information request reveals the amounts the event has been given and charged by Manchester City Council over the years:
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000 (FOIA)
Sponsorship provided by MCC which is ring-fenced for the Pride Parade only
Charges made and paid to MCC in respect of the overall Pride event including
the Big Weekend
+ £1425 specific to a Heritage Trail project
The sums paid to Manchester City Council do not include charges made by Greater Manchester Waste (now known as ENVIRONMENTS) for the removal
of rubbish which is between £6000 and £9000 per annum.
I would go as far as to say that this financial targeting of our community is a kind of victimisation.
As of 2012 it's unclear whether the grant from the City Council has been cut by half or scrapped completely. In 2012 Manchester City Council gave £425,000 towards the cost of an MTV Alicia Keys concert at Manchester Cathedral. The justification being that it would showcase the city's global profile.
Huge sums of public money are being spent on certain events, while libraries, youth clubs and other core services are closed down. Often its done on the basis of dubious figures for economic benefit, which seem to be impossible to quantify.
56 OXFORD STREET
In 2003, Manchester Europride (as it was then known) didn't have its own business accounts. They were part of Marketing Manchester's accounts. That year, Operation Fundraiser handed over £200,000 of money it had collected from the public (in the form of ticket sales and bucket collections) to Manchester Europride/Marketing Manchester to cover the costs of running the event.
Manchester Pride and Marketing Manchester (the tourist board) shared an office until mid-2007. Not just an office, but the same telephone, fax number and same email addresses.
WE'RE EVEN PAYING THE TOURIST BOARD
You might think that the tourist board (AKA Marketing Manchester) would be very grateful for the up-to-£22m of extra income that Manchester Pride brings to the city and its businesses each year?
In 2008, we coughed up about £600,000 — two-thirds of the total Pride income — to run this tourist bonanza for the city and its businesses.
But no… Take a look at page 21 of the 2007/08 Manchester Pride accounts (PDF) and you’ll see that Pride paid £6,040 to Marketing Manchester for ‘normal commercial services’. Whereas Pride invoiced Marketing Manchester just £92.
I wondered what these 'commercial services' could be and can now reveal that Marketing Manchester charges Manchester Pride some £6,000 a year for doing its accounts. I'm not an expert but have been told this figure seems high for doing that job.
In 2010 it came to light that Manchester City Council had made a basic accounting error and, since 2004, had accidently given Marketing Manchester £421,000 that should have been paid by the other local councils in Greater Manchester.
Generously, Manchester City Council decided to write off this mistake, which represents several pounds for every Council Tax payer in the City of Manchester. The Manchester Mule has written about other money paid to Marketing Manchester.
In 2010, Marketing Manchester charged Pride £18,625 for "accounting and payroll services". That year Pride charged Marketing Manchester £264. Pride had an average of 2.3 staff in 2010 and 3.3 in 2011.
From the year ending 2011 accounts:
Apparently the accounting arrangement with Marketing Manchester has now ceased and services have been brought inhouse.
THE CHARITY COMMISSION
In late 2005 I contacted The Charity Commission and it started an investigation into Operation Fundraiser and Manchester Pride.
Over the following months I sent further information and, each time, the Charity Commission replied saying that it could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Which was fine, as I was happy to wait.
However, by February 2007, there was still no conclusion and I hadn't heard anything for a year. So I wrote again.
To cut the story short, it turned out that the Charity Commission had 'lost' the file of its investigation.
I was put under pressure to discuss the whole thing on the telephone, rather than have anything in writing. But eventually I did receive an email in May 2007. This explained that the file was still missing and 'in the meantime' the Commission could only confirm its 'recollections of the case'.
The Charity Commission promised to contact me when it found the file. But five years later I'm still waiting. If you think this sounds suspicious and unprofessional, I would agree with you.
However, there was some result. Operation Fundraiser was told that the set-up had to be made clearer to the public and that it should account for the income gross and not net. Whether this had any bearing on Manchester Pride becoming a charity in its own right, I don't know.
EXAGGERATED CROWD FIGURES
Over the years, crowd figures for the Saturday Pride parade and for attendance in the gay village itself have been exaggerated enormously. Sometimes by as much as 500% and to be fair this goes way back to 1999 and probably even further and is an issue with other events in Manchester too.
These false figures have been sent out to the press, some sections of which publish them apparently without any analysis or thought.
There are two possibilities...
For years, the Pride organisers, Manchester City Council, the tourist board, local press and national gay media simply didn't bother to do the few simple calculations and measurements that reveal that the published figures are physically impossible (it took me just a few minutes to do the sums).
Or... Some knew that the figures were false and yet still published them because it suited their purposes.
Either way, the fact that the public can be misled to this extent, for a decade, should ring alarm bells. Some of these publications end up in libraries as the historical record of local events, so people will continue to be grossly misled about how large Pride was in Manchester for years to come.
Other events such as the Manchester Irish Festival (100,000 estimated) and Manchester Day Parade (70,000) also exaggerate crowd numbers by several hundred percent, with these numbers and spin from local Labour councillors dutifully reported by the Manchester Evening News and even the BBC.
HARD EVIDENCE IN THE FORM OF INCOME FIGURES FAILS TO SUPPORT OVER-INFLATED CLAIMS FOR ATTENDANCE
This article from the Manchester Evening News claims that '300,000' were expected in Manchester for Europride in 2003. However Operation Fundraiser only collected £387,210 from wristband sales and collection buckets that year. There was no entry to the fenced off gay village without a £10 wristband/ticket. So the total amount collected suggests that, in reality, less than 39,000 tickets were sold -- little more than one tenth of the hyped 'expected' number.
Manchester City Council was also involved in this deception. Its Manchester Update website claimed that 300,000 people were expected at Manchester Europride 2003. The website has now disappeared, but you can see an archived copy of the page here. The manchesterupdate.org.uk domain name is still registered to 'Manchester City Council'.
The Manchester Update article adds: 'with ticket sales at this stage looking extremely robust, the Operation Fundraiser target of £30,000 to charities and organisations looks realistic.' Did the person who wrote this really think that just £30,000 for charity from 300,000 visitors would be either 'realistic' or satisfactory? That would be an average of 10p for charity from each visitor...
My analysis of the rather short parade route, which has always followed one of two different routes, and was just 2,270 yards/1.3 miles long in 2007, suggests that less than 50,000 people are on the narrow city streets watching it. Many of whom have also bought a ticket to get into the gay village. So where were the 300,000 people in 2003? The answer is, they didn't exist.
Manchester Pride's own survey into the 2008 event, which was conducted on its website, illustrates how many people watch or take part in the parade AND buy a ticket to attend the 'Big Weekend'. The survey attracted 931 responses and 93.1% of those (866 people I calculate) had attended some aspect of Pride. 648 had watched the parade and 110 had been on a float or assisting (giving a total of 758 at the parade). 809 of all respondents had been at the Big Weekend on the same day (Saturday), for which they would have bought a ticket. So of the 809 who had a ticket on Saturday only 51 of them didn't attend the parade as well.
There are numerous other examples of the crowd figures being grossly exaggerated. But don't take my word for it. On the page linked below there are maps and links to satellite images on Google Maps, so you can measure the length of the parade route and the width of Manchester's Victorian streets for yourself.
The streets are only about 15 yards wide from building to building along almost the entire parade route. The crowd figures the organisers and some sections of the media quote (often 200,000 or 250,000 here in the Manchester Evening News) are physically impossible, even if the full width of every street (pavement and road) was filled with people along the entire parade route.
After the 1999 Mardi Gras the organisers claimed that more than 600,000 spectators were 'on the streets' for the parade. A figure that is more than one quarter of the entire population of Greater Manchester (pop. 2.2m). The organisers told this enormous lie in a leaflet (above) which they published after Mardi Gras to 'explain' why it raised no money at all for charity that year.
Various possible 'explanations' have been put forward by the organisers and media apologists. Perhaps all those people were in buildings looking out of windows, they suggest! Or maybe 250,000 come and go during the parade with only about 40,000 standing and watching at any one time? However none of these suggestions stand up to close scrutiny. For example, you only need to go to the parade or look at a video of it to see that most people stand and watch it from beginning to end.
These fake figures are intended to make events seem much more popular than they really are. It's like a tourism arms race. Indeed, in this PDF document, the North West Regional Development Agency describes Manchester 'Gay' Pride as "one of the biggest Pride events in Europe" and in recent years the Manchester Irish Festival Parade has been described in similar terms despite a relatively small turn out.
Do other towns and cities lie about crowd figures?
TRADING STANDARDS STEP IN
In June 2008, Trading Standards asked Manchester Pride about its published attendance figures. Pride admitted it could not substantiate them and agreed to remove from its website references to 200,000 or 250,000 people watching the Saturday parade.
Were these figures a mistake or a deliberate attempt to mislead the public over the years?
The organisers had been aware that many of their crowd figures were physically impossible and therefore untrue since at least February 2007, when the issue was brought to their attention. However the existing pages remained online and the same old inflated numbers were even published in new press releases and on web pages for 2008. So they knowingly continued to mislead the public and advertisers for sixteen months until Trading Standards investigated.
DOES IT MATTER?
This exaggeration is not without a downside. The more people organisers can claim attend, the greater their mandate to continue running an event. Powerful vested interests want to prevent debate on the future direction of certain events and the discussion of alternatives that might be less commercial. In the face of such 'success' critics are silenced.
Visitors who come to Manchester expecting huge crowds are misled and perhaps leave disappointed. It brings the city into disrepute.
City Councillors divert precious funds away from essential services and into the coffers of tourism-based events, on the basis of false attendance figures and other hype.
Third party businesses may pay for concessions (hot dog stands and so on) on the basis of attendance figures that aren't true.
TICKET PRICES CONTINUE TO RISE WITH CONCESSIONS REDUCED
2008 saw a 25% increase in the price of an 'early bird' ticket: £12.50 compared to £10 in 2007. Reduced price tickets were only available until 14 July 2008.
2006 had seen a 'stealth' increase in cost, as the period for buying an early bird ticket was greatly reduced. In 2005, early bird tickets were available until 22 August (four days before the event started) when they increased in price to £15. However, in 2006, tickets cost £15 from 17 July (six weeks before Pride began).
By 2010 the period for buying an early bird ticket had been reduced by a further two weeks. Yet another stealth price increase. Early bird tickets were available at £12.50 plus booking fee only until 1 July 2010. After which tickets increased to £17.50 plus booking fee. From Friday 27 August — the first day of the event — the price was a staggering £22.50 if purchased from the site office, or the same price plus a booking fee if bought from Spar or the Palace Theatre.
There are all kinds of reasons why people may not be able to commit to buying an early bird ticket eight weeks before the event: unknown working patterns for example. And why should poorer people be pressured into paying two months ahead?
Back in 1999 there were reduced price tickets for those who were unemployed or on a low income. But no such concessions have existed since entry charges were reintroduced in 2003.
In a survey done by Manchester Pride itself in 2008, 53 people (6.9% of all respondents) said they didn't attend the event and, of those, 11 people (20.75% of those not attending) said it was because they "were unable to afford the ticket price."
When the issue of cost of attending and exclusion was raised at the LGBT Labour discussion just before Manchester Pride 2009, Emma Peate the Fundraising Manager of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation suggested that it compared favourably to the cost of attending the Glastonbury pop festival. Which gives an insight into the thinking behind Manchester Pride.
Another popular response is that it's 'only' £10 or £15 and that 'isn't much'. Though if you're unemployed it's about a quarter of your weekly income and the cost of the ticket is just the beginning. There are door entry charges and inflated drinks prices. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some businesses put up prices during Pride.
If you divide the £22m of extra income that Pride brings in for businesses by 35,000 (the number of tickets sold) you get an average spend of £629 per person. Or if you take the lower figure of £17.5m of extra income it works out at £500 per person. Many of us know people who spend that much.
THE COST OF EQUALITY
There's a myth that 'everyone goes to Manchester Pride' but this is far from the truth. If 6.5% of the population is LGBT, that gives a figure of 143,000 LGBT people in Greater Manchester (population 2.2m) and Pride only sells around 35,000 tickets.
Furthermore, many straight people now go to Pride and it is promoted extensively to LGBT people around the world as a tourist attraction. It would be fascinating to know what percentage of attendees don't identify as LGBT and how many come from outside the Greater Manchester area. I suspect it could be quite a sizeable percentage. Perhaps someone would like to do a survey?
Often for every step forward for one group in society there is a less obvious step back for others. Queer As Folk, equality laws and politicians who have sold our community down the river, have ensured that just about every venue in the gay village is now 'mixed'. Although one or two venues have tried to resist this and preserve the kind of unique and safe space that our community enjoyed for hundreds of years, many others have rubbed their hands in glee at the prospect of more cash from straight people who fit the high spending, heavy drinking young demographic.
Equality is great in theory but, in practice, all too often it has meant hen parties and homophobic men. It has been suggested that some straight people see the gay village as a 'perverse' place where they can behave as badly as they like. Though, to be fair, extreme drunken behaviour is now a problem across Manchester city centre and every town and city in the UK.
Are there really any more LGBT people out in gay pubs and clubs in Manchester than there were 25 years ago? I calculate there were more than a dozen gay pubs and clubs in the city centre in 1984, more in surrounding towns than there are now (three pubs in Stockport) and once-a-week 'gay nights' at some outlying venues too. There are now about 30 places concentrated in the gay village. Quarter of a century ago the customers were 99% Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. What about now?
The great irony is that this 'inclusiveness' has led to whole swathes of the LGBT population (older, transexual and so on) giving up on the village because they feel it offers them nothing or they face regular casual abuse.
Although Greater Manchester Police now claims to be tough on hate crime, on the streets of the village the message from some of its officers is rather different — as I found out recently. Apparently we have to accept homphobic abuse and veiled threats in the village at night now because 'we all know what it's like' down there.
To add insult to injury, we're told that fencing in Pride is to keep us safe. It's some kind of liberation and celebration when we must buy a costly ticket and pay private security guards if we want to be safe in the gay part of Manchester.
To paraphrase George Galloway, the gay village and Manchester Pride are just two cheeks of the same arse. Probably a minority of the business owners and the people behind Manchester Pride genuinely care about being inclusive. Their main interest is money and if 100% of the people in the gay village during Pride were from outside of Greater Manchester or straight it wouldn't bother them providing the cash kept rolling in.
Various justifications are put forward for Pride being a ticket event and some (like bylaws relating to alcohol) seem rather bogus. Health and safety is another. The gay village area has a limited capacity and this is now supposedly an issue, even though it wasn't a problem for a decade which included some years when the event was probably busier. Do you know anyone who has asked to buy a ticket and been told 'sorry the village is full up'?
Having tickets and entry gates during Pride is wonderful for the businesses within the gay village. The fences are not the only barriers. The cost is one too. The ticket price ensures that the people who end up within the village are more likely to have other money to spend and are those people who are most keen on the what the area has to offer - namely expensive alcohol. Add in the pop music and it's all a way of pre-selecting and packing out the area with a high-spending mainly-young demographic.
If you don't drink, don't like bars and clubs, takeaway food and pop, or have limited disposable income, you're going to think twice about paying to go in. Whereas, if it was free to walk along Canal Street, you might wander through not spending anything and you would be taking one of those lucrative 'health and safety limited' spaces in the area.
THE 2007 POSTER
Things really hit rock bottom in 2007 when the Manchester Pride poster didn't even include the words gay, lesbian, bi or transgender. Just the abbreviation 'LGBT' in tiny print.
However there was room to include the logos of Manchester City Council and West Properties -- the developers behind the controversial tower which at the time threatened to overshadow the gay village (the construction site has since been mothballed).
Almost a decade earlier, a local radio station's failure to signpost the event as LGBT in its broadcasts, was blamed as a major cause of homophobic abuse and violence by bigots who turned up. The station Key103 was a sponsor but clearly didn't want to upset listeners by mentioning nasty words like 'gay' and 'lesbian' on air.
After we'd published a video about the 2007 poster on YouTube, the writer of a comment recalled how one ill-informed youth had told him: "Manchester Pride is nothing to do with gays."
In 2008 the full words were back on the poster. Hooray.
GET BENT! 2007
In 2007, a collective of people organised the week-long non-profit Get Bent! festival. The programme included a day of performances by bands, two film shows, talks, workshops, a fancy dress club night and two cabaret nights. It was a big success. The entire budget was about £500.
Get Bent! wasn't anti-Pride. The collective included people with completely different views on the subject. Nor was 2007 the first Get Bent! It happened in previous years along with an event called Twee Pride.
Although many of the people who helped organise Get Bent! were young, to me it felt like a inclusive festival.
ACTIVISTS INVADE THE BALLOON LAUNCH AT MANCHESTER PRIDE 2008
Watch the six minute video (super-widescreen format). It includes two minutes of exclusive archive footage of August Bank Holiday 1991.
The easy ride that Manchester Pride had enjoyed for five years came to an abrupt end in 2008 when activists from "Pride Is A Protest" invaded the opening balloon launch of Pride.
The Lord Mayor, politicians and the city's tourism chief who is also Chair of Manchester Pride, Chair of arts festival Queer Up North and (as of 2010) Chair of the Village Business Association found themselves flanked by banners complaining about commercialisation and lack of inclusion. Slogans included: 'Pride not profit', 'F**k the pink pound' and 'Pride as a protest or Pride as a corporate scam?'.
ATTEMPT TO CENSOR BANNERS AT THE 2008 PRIDE PARADE
Just before the 2008 Manchester Pride parade set off, the festival organiser was captured on video as she tried to confiscate a banner from the Pride Is A Protest and Queer Youth Network parade entry. The unwelcome banner read 'Pride Not Profit' and a young woman sat on it to prevent it from being taken.
TICKET SCANDAL AT THE CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
The HIV/AIDS Candlelight Vigil on the final night of Pride has always been a key event and, to some people, the most important part. People go to it to remember friends, lovers and family who have died.
When fences were first put up and tickets introduced for Pride, the community was assured that entry to the Vigil would always remain free and open to all.
However, we kept hearing stories about people being told they had to buy an expensive Pride ticket to attend the Vigil. So, in both 2007 and 2008, we filmed secretly, recording sound with a hidden microphone and shooting video footage from a distance.
We approached various gates and the ticket office and captured clear evidence on tape that showed the stories were true. We recorded security guards and even the ticket office telling our reporter that a ticket had to be bought to attend the Vigil.
We found that people without a Pride ticket were made to queue on the street for a long time to get into the Vigil, while ticket holders walked in ahead of them. Some of those people were there to remember lost friends, lovers and relatives and they were treated with disrespect.
This wasn't part of the plan, but by sheer coincidence in 2007 our reporter was wearing a large rucksack and was allowed to walk straight into the fenced off gay village at the New Union gate to 'go to the Vigil' without any examination of it. This was just two months after the Glasgow airport terrorist attack and showed that the idea that the fences are there to protect everyone is a sham.
But no surprise, as many people believe that the fences at Pride are as much about penning LGBT people in beside various businesses (many of which increase their prices during the weekend) as they are about keeping undesirables out.
We informed Manchester Pride and Tony Lloyd MP. Most decent people would be horrified that this had happened and would take action. However a year later, in 2008, we found that the same thing was still going on. Here are two video clips from 2008 that we shot from a distance and with a hidden microphone on the reporter.
In 2009 we tested the ticket office once again and were glad to find that we were given the correct information: that no ticket was needed for the Vigil. However we noted that, once again, people without tickets were made to queue on the street (and in the rain) for a long time. Some had been told to turn up at 19.00 hours and waited for 90 minutes.
Shockingly, years later, and despite this clear video evidence, one former organiser was still posting propaganda to her followers on Facebook claiming that no one had ever been told they had to buy a ticket to go to the Vigil. That is what we're up against with these individuals.
At last, in 2010, Manchester Pride made clear on its website that a ticket is not required to enter the Vigil and, in its question and answer section, wrote that it accepted this could have been better publicised in previous years and that it was 'looking to make it much clearer to anyone who wishes to attend the Vigil'. We welcome this and let's hope they have told the ticket office and security guards!
If you have any problems getting into the Vigil without a ticket let us know and we will continue to pursue this matter.
Manchester Pride 2009 raised £135,000 for good causes. This was hyped as the highest amount ever. But, when you take into account inflation, in real terms the sum is probably worth slightly less than the £105,000 that was raised by the much-smaller and free GayFest in 2000. The only things that ever seem to increase significantly are the ticket prices and costs.
In March 2010, a new Chair of the Village Business Association (VBA) was elected. The same person was then Chief Executive of Marketing Manchester (AKA the tourist board), Chair of Manchester Pride, Chair of the arts festival Queer Up North and Chair of the VBA.
Although there was an outcry about Mardi Gras in 1999, for years after there was little criticism or discussion except on my own websites from 2003 onwards. It seemed no one was interested. So recent protests and alternatives are welcome and it's good to see so many young people taking part. However, there are some concerns.
It's true that many young people feel excluded from Pride, Manchester's alcohol-focused gay village and life as a stereotypical pink consumer. But we must be careful that we don't just swap one narrowly-focused event that excludes many people, for an alternative that does the same.
When it came to media coverage, both Pride Is A Protest in 2008 and Reclaim the Scene in 2009 chose to focus on their youth and student credentials and that was despite the involvement of people who didn't fit that demographic.
A majority of LGBT adults in Britain are aged over 40 (maybe 60% of all LGBT adults). But where are they?
In many respects these people are invisible on the scene, at Pride, in our gay media and now even in the so-called alternatives. At the LGBT Labour discussion just before Pride 2009, Sue Sanders of LGBT History Month talked about how older lesbians are effectively 'invisible' in our community.
Older people aren't a trendy cause and there is the false assumption that if you're older you're well-off, powerful and capable of looking after yourself. And the fact is, many of us who are over 40 have voted with our feet: given up on the scene and opted out of any involvement in protest.
The people behind some of the alternatives can't bring themselves to cut all links with Manchester Pride either. When some fellow Europeans attended Queeruption in Manchester in 2010, they were shocked to see activists prancing along as an official entry in the commercialised Pride parade. Aghast, one French woman told me that in Paris they would lie down in the road.
Jade, a trans woman from Paris on taking part in the 2010 Manchester Pride parade.
Reclaim the Scene focuses on 'working with Manchester Pride' and asking nicely for change which, I suggest, will never be agreed to because there is too much money at stake for too many people.
In August, a public meeting was held. The following day, the venue -- Hotel International -- had a surprise visit from the police, who asked to look at the CCTV footage. It seems they had received a malicious and false tip-off that there was a rowdy demonstration outside the hotel during the discussion. Needless to say there had been no one outside other than a couple of smokers during the interval...
During the year, it was announced that Manchester City Council had cut its grant to Pride and the arts festival Queer Up North entirely. Currently it's unclear what was received. This sort of basic information should be detailed on the Pride website but instead we have to submit Freedom of Information requests to Manchester City Council.
A large amount of new information emerged through the Facebook group: both historical and current.
It came to light that money from the Pride charity fund had been promised to the Village Business Association to pay for two decorative arches on Canal Street. This seemed perverse considering that the event had been started by businesses to raise money for charity. It was justified in some quarters as an 'arts project'. But others thought it would mainly benefit the businesses.
Despite making cuts to essential services, at first it seemed that Manchester City Council had spare cash for this project. However (and perhaps due to the negative publicity) it didn't happen. Birmingham is to put a rhinestone-encrusted rhinoceros sculpture at the entrance to its gay village. It seems this is some kind of fad that reaches beyond Manchester.
It emerged that a young graduate had 'worked' at Manchester Pride as an unpaid intern for five months: from February to June 2011.
In the summer a trustee and the Festival Director both resigned and it was announced that the event management company, which had run the event for many years and had connections with Marketing Manchester, would go too. In future the event will be run inhouse. A new position of chief executive was created and filled by someone from outside Manchester.
We wait to see whether this will make any difference...
In December 2011 the canal-st.co.uk website published details of the LGF's "Village census". In answer to the question "what does the Village mean to you?" only 11% of all respondents described the Village as a safe space, while 1% described it as unsafe. Just 31% described the Village as a gay space. On age, the LGF found "a fairly even split between under 30 and 30-50, with considerably less respondents identifying as over 50."
This was picked up in online discussion groups and soon the news story vanished from the website. However when an article about the census appeared in the Feb/Mar 2012 issue of the LGF's own Outnorthwest magazine, the more unfavourable findings had been censored.
There was no mention about the Village as a safe space, nor about over 50s. Merely that one fifth of respondents were in the 26-30 age group and that two-thirds of all respondents thought the Village was "good or fun". The three in ten who thought of it was a gay space was mentioned. Once again it seems the LGF was more concerned to look after the sensitivities of businesses, rather than risk starting a debate about LGBT exclusion and safety. Ironically the canal-st.co.uk site is run by some of the business owners.
In spring 2012, Manchester Pride began holding public meetings around the region and in July the radio presenter Simon Nicks arranged a good discussion about the event on Gaydio. The new Pride Chief Executive was the guest.
Manchester Pride's accounts for year ending 2011 were released. They were for a 13-month year, the end date having been moved from 31 August to 30 September. One interesting figure is the sum of £18,625 paid to Marketing Manchester for "accounting and payroll services". In 2010 Manchester Pride only had 2.3 staff including part-time. The notes to the accounts included more information about trustees. Perhaps in response to the campaigning?
In year ending September 2011 income was £1,086,654 and the charity figure was £105,000. But £7,000 of that amount came from the "Pride Dinner" the previous November. If you go with the £105,000 figure then the charity amount is about 9.67% of the income. Or if you exclude the Pride dinner the percentage is about 9.02%.
MANCHESTER PRIDE 2012 (17-27 August)
Two weeks before the weekend a huge poster appeared on the side of a building at the corner of Aytoun Street and Canal Street advertising Skyn condoms with the words: "Love sex. Hate condoms. Love SKYN." Considering that the event started to raise money for HIV and AIDS and that quarter of the charity fund each year goes towards making free condoms available, some people felt this message in that spot was in bad taste and irresponsible.
A campaign was launched, posts were written and Dyer was removed from the line up. However a disappointing statement put out by Manchester Pride's Chief Executive only served to inflame matters as, in part, it seemed to be in the familiar "we're never wrong" mould:
"Danny Dyer has a clear appeal to a section of the LGBT community and his past controversy was now behind him. However, we’re aware his inclusion has caused some upset and anger amongst others so we have listened to these concerns and have subsequently withdrawn him from the Manchester Pride main stage line-up. We realise there will be some who wished to see Danny perform who will be disappointed by this news." John Stewart, Chief Executive, Manchester Pride.
In fact it was little more than two years since the Zoo incident and Dyer had threatened violence against Mark Kermode in 2011. We all know there are gay men who find mysogynistic, threatening, straight-identified "geezers" sexually appealing. But that doesn't mean they should be welcome at a Pride event in a gay village that is troubled by violence and anti-social behaviour.
At the Saturday parade, the weather behaved itself until the final moments on Whitworth Street when there was a downpour. The crowd seemed to be larger than in 2011.
There were complaints from people who were unable to get into the main arena to see various acts and also about part of Bloom Street being closed off. Some said the line-up of acts was lacklustre. One sponsor told me they were livid about the lack of organisation. But these may be teething issues due to there being a completely new team.
At the Vigil there didn't seem to be any major problems for those who were without a ticket. Manchester Pride is much clearer on this issue now.
However the comedian Jonathan Mayor ruffled feathers by beginning with an attack on Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson in relation to London Pride. He continued with a joke about Tories and self harm and then turned his attention to ATOS -- the firm which is currently accessing whether people are qualified for sickness benefit.
In all, it was reminiscent of Labour councillor Paul Fairweather's party political rant about the BNP at the Vigil a couple of years earlier (at a time when Labour was terrified about doing badly in the coming elections and saw the BNP as a major threat in some areas).
There's a fine line between highlighting issues and naked political opportunism that may leave some parts of the audience feeling unwelcome at the Vigil — an event that should be for everyone.
Popular American blogger Davey Wavey published an extremely favourable video on YouTube — "Manchester Pride: The Gayest Gay Pride Ever!". According to a post on his website he was to to host a "blog buddy meet-and-greet" during Pride week at Bar Eden and this was "in conjunction with Visit Manchester."
Visit Manchester is of course Marketing Manchester. There was no reply to an email to Davey Wavey asking whether he received payment or gifts such as a free air ticket and hotel. Nor was this information declared on his blog or in the video.
The video didn't mention that Pride is a charity fundraising event, although this was stated on the blog. At a meeting with Manchester Pride in January 2013 the CEO made clear that Davey Wavey had been arranged by Visit Manchester.
Chris Geary was a noticeable absence in 2012, after many years of attending. This year it was no show instead of go-go (boys). According to a source in Manchester, over the years Chris was repeatedly turned down by Pride for media accreditation for the parade and fenced gay village. But he went ahead and filmed anyway.
There's a worring trend towards everything at Pride events having to be sanitised and "family friendly". Warrington Pride, which was held later in the summer, assured everyone that it was "working to ensure that all acts are family friendly. The booking system again is being monitored to ensure that all market stalls are family friendly and will be monitored through out the day." Some of us don't want to live in Disneyland.
On 6 December the 2012 charity figure was revealed: just £52,000 — the lowest amount since the 1990s. Changes have been promised.
Chris Geary attempts to interview (Facts About Manchester Pride co-founder) Wynnie LaFreak at the Pride parade in 2011. However Wynnie is wearing a gag in protest at Manchester Pride's social media policy and other attempts to stifle debate. Framing her costume is a pink triangle. Surprisingly, many people at the parade had no idea of the symbolism of this and asked what it was meant to be.
EVENTS IN 2013
There's much more to be told about events that took place behind the scenes in January 2013 and I'll publish details in due course.
In mid-January the Chief Executive of Manchester Pride and one of his staff met with me, Wynnie La Freak and one other person. We were told that Manchester City Council had given Pride £12,000 in 2012, that approximately 37,000 tickets were sold and that relatively few tickets were bought as part the "early bird" offer. In other words people waited until just before the weekend and in part that may have been due to the terrible weather. More public meetings were promised but didn't seem to materialise.
Manchester Pride moved from Oak Street in the Northern Quarter to the Manchester One tower on Portland Street.
Another year, another controversy over performers... Drag act Queens of Pop were booked to appear at Manchester Pride but then released a "spoof" of Will.I.Am's video "Bang Bang".
Queens of Pop.
Opinions varied, but many felt the video was both homophobic and racially offensive. It was announced the act wouldn't appear in Manchester and were cancelled by Leeds, Brighton and Glasgow.
In early August Manchester Pride's accounts for year ending 2012 were released [PDF]. These show income of £991,656, just over two-thirds of which came from ticket sales, as usual. Expenditure, including the £52,000 for good causes, was £1,007,490. So it seems the actual amount raised during the year (profit) was just £36,166 and the final charity figure was topped up with £15,834 from reserves. This needs to be confirmed.
Pride patron Heather Peace released a misleading video on YouTube. In this she told viewers "they raise so much for charity. It's into six figures." Initially Heather Peace, or whoever controls her YouTube channel, removed polite comments that pointed out her mistake and quoted the correct charity amount.
Within a couple of days the video had been viewed by more than 8,000 people. Manchester Pride embedded the video on its Facebook page and the Chief Executive declined to remove it.
2013: THE LATEST
During the summer there were rumours that perhaps all wasn't well at Pride from a financial point of view. On Wednesday 2 October 2013 a small meeting was held at the Mechanics Institute. This was organised by the Facebook group Better Rethink LGBTQ and attended by some of us from Facts About Manchester Pride.
A chat with a well-placed source, afterwards, gave some hints that there might be little or no charity fund in 2013. And just after midnight, after I'd returned home, I received a call to say that a certain person had got into a tiz and been rather loose lipped about trouble at Manchester Pride.
Rumour was that the chief executive had left. Possibly a board member had done too or had been suspended and little or no money had been raised for good causes.
A journalist reported that he was unable to get a response from Pride after trying all day Friday and there was complete silence for days after.
Which takes us up to the date on which I write this (Thursday 10 October 2013). Still complete silence from Manchester Pride, but talk from all quarters saying that there must now be a change. So we await developments!
THE GAY & MAINSTREAM MEDIA
This may be the first time you've heard some of the facts and figures mentioned on this page, even though you read many gay magazines, newspapers and websites and the local press in Manchester. Ask yourself why that is.
These days many journalists are rushed off their feet, with little time to do proper research and reporting. So, often, biased press releases end up being the source for 'news' stories.
Also there is growing concern about councils and even charities publishing their own free newspapers and magazines when, at the same time, more traditional publications are closing down.
Right across society there are problems with the gross commercialisation of everything. Will it change and how many decades could it take? There is apathy and people are disillusioned with politicans. In the May 2012 local election, turnout in the City Centre ward was 13.65%, in Hulme it was 16.98% and in Ardwick 18.06%.
As far as Manchester Pride is concerned, there's a conflict of interest in the tourist board and businesses being so closely involved in the running of it. It leads to Pride being slanted towards those sections of the LGBT community and activities that are most profitable.
Despite the introduction of the Fringe events in recent years, barriers around the gay village are unacceptable. Manchester needs a Pride that is free, more inclusive of all LGBT people, not based so much around alcohol and which raises more for good causes. There needs to be transparency and honesty, which are seriously lacking at the moment.
Sure, if some people want to have a pop concert and beer festival like Glastonbury and target young people that's fine. But hold it in a park somewhere. Don't fence off the 'gay' part of town, charge for entry, ban politics and call it 'Pride', because that isn't what Pride is supposed to be about.
Maybe 25 years from now people will look back at what we allowed to happen to our LGBT community in Manchester and our August Bank Holiday charity fundraising event and will consider it to be a tragic mistake? Perhaps it will be seen alongside the buy-to-let property boom, bankers and corrupt politicians — just another part of the orgy of commercial and personal greed that has almost destroyed Britain over the past decade?
If you have any old magazine or newspaper articles, press releases, leaflets or other documents that show the attendance figures or the charity amounts (especially from the years 1990-2002), I would love to hear from you. Contact me here.
THE FACTS & FIGURES ABOVE
I worked as a magazine journalist for 15 years. The information above and on the rest of my website is presented in good faith and a lot of time and effort has been spent to make it accurate to the best of my knowledge and ability.
But please don't take my word for it, do your own calculations on ticket sales, charity amounts and the parade distance and crowd numbers.
GOT A STORY TO TELL OR INFORMATION?
You can email me here if you have a comment, question or information to share (in complete confidence). Stories have been rolling in lately and will be investigated. Some I will be able to publish and others I won't!
If you're unhappy with the way Pride is or the way you've been treated, you could contact Manchester Pride, the Charity Commission, Manchester City Council, Trading Standards or your MP.
All email is confidential. If you give information I will never identify you as the source, or publish anything that might do, without your permission.
Making a leaflet or web page?
If you use facts, figures or quote small extracts from my research please credit g7uk.com and make it clear exactly which parts are from my site. Sorry to be picky but some people aren't attributing quotes at all and others are using extracts in a vague way which is misleading and confusing for readers. Crediting your source is the professional thing to do and adds weight to your argument.
If you wish to use longer extracts or have a query about a photograph or video please contact me. Thanks.
SOME QUESTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN ASKED
Do you run other currently-updated websites or blogs that criticise Manchester Pride and the Lesbian & Gay Foundation or write for them anonymously?
No I don't. I have one other website which contains some history and criticism of Pride. But that content hasn't been updated or added to since 2006 and I plan to consolidate any critical stuff here on g7uk.com soon. Sometimes I post comments under articles on other sites, as everyone does. Pink News is one site where I have done that.
Recently (Sep 2009) it became clear that there is confusion about which sites I'm behind. I'm not sure how that confusion came about, but it seems it has led to me getting the 'blame' for certain content and I'm happy to put the record straight.
You have written something that I think may be factually incorrect
Let me know. Every page has a link to a contact form which you can use to email me and usually that will reach me within five minutes.
Do you hate [insert name of prominent person here]?
No I don't hate or 'have it in' for anyone. I think some of the people in our community have got used to a free ride and are unaccustomed to any criticism or being challenged. Even though some receive and handle large amounts of money given by the public in the name of charity.
Just because I question some of the things they do, that doesn't mean I hate them as an individual.
Why do you mainly only publish negative stories about Pride and the LGF?
These days the mainstream media and gay press rarely publish anything other than superficial stories about how wonderful everything it is. Many are little more than regurgitated press releases. The LGF has its own promotional magazine Outnorthwest which will never really criticise or hold Pride or the LGF to account.
I don't say that there aren't good aspects to Manchester Pride and the LGF but there is a vast amount of positive coverage out there already and my site doesn't need to add more. Instead I spend my time looking at the issues that don't get covered anywhere else.
Instead of moaning why don't you help Pride or run an alternative event?
I have done in the past. As long ago as 1991 I spent a week shooting and editing a video to be sold to raise money for the Village Charity. Here's the box cover (which I designed using DTP software on the Amstrad PCW).
In 2007 I was part of the collective that organised the free, non-profit Get Bent! festival. It ran for ten days and the budget was about £500. Compare that to the £700,000 that Manchester Pride spends.
However I believe that commercial interests have no right to control Manchester's LGBT Pride event, fence off the gay village and charge for entry. Pride needs to change, regardless of what alternatives are around.
Why should anyone worry about what you write on a website?
The site is number three in the results on Google when searching for 'manchester pride' so a lot of people read it. Many realise that the gay press now presents an uncritical view, so are looking for an alternative voice and information which they find online.
One anonymous blog labelled a prominent figure a 'fraudster'. Do you condone that?
No I disapprove of it. In the research I have done I found no evidence that would, in my opinion, justify the use of that word against that particular person.
Sometimes it is necessary to mention certain inviduals as part of reporting. Other times I refer to them by their role or job. But I don't condone gratuitous personal attacks or abuse.
However I do believe there is a place for satire and humour.
Aren't you anonymous yourself?
Hardly, as this website is full of photographs of me. I write under a nickname but my identity is no secret and my real name can be discovered easily. Over the years I have been in touch with various people by letter, so they are aware of who I am and I have met several of the most prominent characters face to face.
Do you have a hidden agenda?
I don't think so. I'm not seeking fame, I'm not trying to make money out of this, promote a business, or trying to get some of the charity money to fund something. It's simply that I was there at the start and don't like the way things have gone over the last 10 years.
Do other protestors have a hidden agenda?
I do think that protesting about Manchester Pride has become a bit of a bandwagon over the past couple of years and some of the people who have jumped aboard have an ulterior motive. Some seem to be using it to increase their own profile or that of their group or union.
They suggest that no alternative events happened in the past and no criticism existed before 2008. Which is not the case. Anyone who doesn't fit the favoured profile is airbrushed out in the press releases and interviews.
Something that is presented in the media as entirely youth or student based isn't much of an alternative to our youth-obsessed scene and Pride.
So be sceptical and watch out for things that aren't really what they claim to be.
Your site has ads, so aren't you profiting?
In the year to 31 August 2009 g7uk.com brought in a total of £37.96 in ad income. Webhosting (with Certified Hosting) costs $143 US Dollars per year which is about £88 (Sep 2009 exchange rate). That isn't the whole story because the server is shared with one other main site and a couple of very small ones. But g7uk.com is a big site with hundreds of pages, videos and thousands of images, so the ad income just about covers the cost of hosting it or maybe not quite.
For the record, until summer 2011 I had never earned anything from or been given money by any gay business, organisation or charity in Manchester. And despite having lived in the city for 30 years on and off. However, in 2011, a magazine that is published by one of the clubs used two of my archive photographs without permission and I asked them to pay for them, which they did.
How did you first become interested?
I was always against the 'pledgeband'. In 1999 I was entitled to a concessionary band and went along to an office at the town hall to ask about one. There was a lot of 'tut tutting' about how me not paying full price would mean less money for good causes and I seem to remember there were a few familiar faces among the people sitting there.
After Mardi Gras 1999 it emerged that zero had been raised for charity.
Like most people I was furious and went to the public meetings and after that I began to take an interest. From 2003 onwards, the ticket and fences were reintroduced and there seemed to be less transparency and openness.
When I began asking questions I found that often I couldn't get a response at all. One letter was sent through my MP and even he struggled to get a reply. There seemed to be a general attitude that I had no right to ask. That made me more curious.
This air of unaccountability in Manchester's gay village continues. A recent example was the Cruz101 birthday draw. Three times I wrote to Cruz101 to ask if it was true a relative of the owner had won the first prize of a car. I received no response. I sent a stamped addressed envelope to Cruz101 for a list of the winners and never received one.
Is the information on your website accurate?
I hope and believe it is. When people won't answer questions and decide to withhold basic information from the public, that makes it difficult to check some facts and I don't have a powerful broadcaster or newspaper behind me to help open doors.
Then there are things such as the deliberately over-inflated Pride crowd figures that have been put into the public domain by the organisers via press releases since the 1990's. So it can be a very muddy picture and no doubt that suits some people.
Sometimes I have to look at all the available evidence and make an educated guess.
A couple of times I have been fed stories that I discovered weren't true after a bit of basic fact-checking. Whether that was deliberate I don't know. So I am careful.
I'm always willing to discuss things and consider changes and corrections. But, if my memory is correct, in all the time this website has been online I don't think I've had a single email or letter from Operation Fundraiser, Manchester Pride or the LGF asking me to change anything. Though there have been attempts to smear me.