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Thursday 3 September 2009

Pride security try to prevent filming in a public place / Candlelit Vigil (video)

For the last three years we have filmed at the gates on the night of the Manchester Pride HIV/AIDS Candlelit Vigil. Entry to the Vigil is supposed to be free and the community was promised it would always remain so when tickets and fences were introduced (first for for Mardi Gras 1999 and then again from 2003 onwards).

However, in recent years we have gathered hard evidence on camera that sometimes people who only want to go to the Vigil are told they must buy an expensive Pride ticket or are made to queue for a prolonged period.

This year the security people tried to prevent us filming, even though we were on a public street. They seemed to think they had the power to refuse or deny us ‘permission’ to film and that if they were in shot their ‘privacy’ was being invaded. Two of them pushed the camera.

Then a woman came over and asked if I’d filmed her children! Can you believe it? I hadn’t even seen them standing in the queue.

Needless to say we are fully entitled to film and report this and many people would say it is in the public interest that we do so. There is no privacy in a public place and, as far as I am aware, no law against including children in photos or a video either. Though for the sake of a quiet life I avoid the latter at every opportunity.

Pride security guards tried to stop us filming

Anyway our past efforts have had a result and, this year for the first time in recent years, the Manchester Pride website does mention that no ticket is needed if you want to go to just the Vigil.

OUR FINDINGS THIS YEAR

Last year, shortly before the Vigil, we were told by the ticket office on Minshull Street that we had to buy a ticket if we wanted to go to it. This was recorded on video and with audio.

This year the Vigil was due to start at 9pm. We arrived at the gate at the junction of Sackville Street and Whitworth Street at 8pm to find that some people without tickets had been told to turn up at 7pm and were still queuing more than an hour later.

Above: Steph tells us what they said.

The security guards were unable to say why people were being made to queue for so long, but thought it might be due to the Park being muddy and slippery due to the torrential rain earlier. But of course Pride could still have allowed those people to go into the fenced off gay village area and wait there instead of having to queue for 90 minutes on a rain-swept street corner.

Although some years everyone who wants to attend seems to get in OK, there is a limit to the number of people who can fit into Sackville Park. Naturally, people are anxious that they may not get in. Some are there to remember friends or relatives who have died.

It just feels that, if you don’t buy a ticket, you’re very much a second class citizen who must be ‘punished’ and inconvenienced as much as possible.

We asked the guards if the Festival Director or anyone else was available to tell us why people had been made to queue for more than an hour, but were told no one was.

We then went to the ticket office on Minshull Street where, glad to say, we were given the correct information this year: no ticket needed to go to the Vigil.

Candlelit Vigil at Manchester Pride 2009

Candlelit Vigil at Manchester Pride 2009

The origins of Manchester Pride go back to August 1990 and events that were started with the sole purpose of raising funds for people who were affected by HIV and Aids and also for the ward at Monsall hospital. Some people can’t afford to buy a ticket or don’t want one because they feel Pride offers nothing else for them.

It’s awful that they have been treated in this way in recent years. And with 88% of all the Pride income spent on costs in 2007 (including from collection buckets I believe) there is no longer a valid argument for saying that buying a ticket is even an effective way to help good causes.

I stronger encourage people to support the charities that do good work in this field. But send your money direct to one that doesn’t have this obscene level of costs.

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE?

Please let us know if you were given incorrect information about tickets or made to queue (send a message here). We won’t publish anything on the website that might identify you, unless you give us permission.

AS FOR THE VIGIL ITSELF

For me it veers from being moving one minute to a bit cheesey the next. I thought about a friend who, in the past year, told me that he is living with HIV. I’m one of only two or three people he told and I was touched that he chose me as one of them.

The compere this year was Jonathan Mayor, a comedian of colour who appeared at Get Bent in 2007, however we noticed that the choir that opened proceedings seemed to be entirely white.

Labour Councillor Paul Fairweather came out as HIV+ during the Vigil. A brave thing for any person to do, and especially a politican. Though I would have preferred if he had not preceeded it with yet another a rant against the (admittedly vile) BNP. I feel this is a night when party politics should be left at home and, with a general election looming within the next ten months, it smacked of opportunism.

Presumably there are (misguided) people out there who are positive and a BNP voter? The Vigil should be for everyone. It reminds me of the 1980’s when anyone who was a Conservative voter was treated with the same total distain by the extreme lefties who dominated our community and city council. They were incredulous that anyone could be LGBT and a Tory or a fan of Margaret Thatcher. I don’t support Labour or the Conservatives and never have but my partner in the 1980’s was a Tory.

Indeed Councillor Fairweather himself was one of those left-wingers at the town hall. But now an advocate for, and defender of, our market-driven and exclusionary Pride event! How times change… Stay tuned for our exclusive video footage of the recent LGBT Labour discussion at Manchester Pride, with lots of good debate from all directions.

Craig, one of a number of people who speak about being HIV+ for George House Trust, also made an impact and there was a beautiful piece played on a violin.

Andrews Stokes, Chair of Manchester Pride gave a speech, which mentioned some of the protest themes and slogans and Jonathan Mayor also mentioned that ‘Pride is a protest’. We wondered whether that came from Mayor himself or was written by the organisers. An attempt to include the protestors or a cynical hijack of their message? Time will tell and I’ll be writiing much more about this in coming days. This has been a most-interesting weekend…

We weren’t sure who the singer at the end was. The feeling was that it was way too ‘poppy’ and there is more than enough of that during the rest of Manchester Pride.

INDIVIDUALS AND ‘SMALL MEDIA’ GIVE YOU THE STORIES YOU WOULDN’T OTHERWISE HEAR ABOUT

We need some public information films on TV that explain the reality to people regarding photography and filming in a public place. The rights that they do and don’t have. We are heading towards a situation where only the BBC and other media giants are ‘permitted’ to film in a public place, with ordinary members of the public and security people driving photographers and independent film-makers off the streets. And, needless to say, the BBC rarely covers issues such as this, preferring to focus on the ‘you gays have never had it so good’ propaganda along with the rest of ‘big media’.

The great irony is that, 25 years ago, it would have been lesbian, gay, bi or trans people who would have been most worried about being photographed at any event in this area of the city. Now it’s parents!


Filed under: Gay,LGBT,Manchester,Politics,With video — GS @ 1:25 pm

5 Comments »

  1. This was the very reason why I did not bother going to the vigil. I followed the parade, actually on the roads, the previous Saturday as did many photographers, without any interferance from security but I was annoyed that parts of Manchester city center were practically barricaded because of this event. Aren’t these public highways that they are obstructing? Fair enough a charity is involved but I dont see Exodus or the Caribbean festivals charging a rip off fee to walk down a street.

    Comment by Andrew Lane
    Friday 4 September 2009 @ 11:57 pm

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  3. My first Vigil was 1999 at the Castlefield Arena and it left a permanant mark on me. For the following two years I became a stagecrew assistant for the event, and other Gayfest activities. In 2002 I was given the job of organising and directing the Vigil, which, like previous years, had some speakers talking about HIV and AIDS, some readings by local actors and some inspirational music and singing. A single firework signalled the end of the minite’s silence, followed by the defiant roar.

    In 2003, Natalie Wilson was engaged by George House Trust, and it began to turn into a noisy comedy party instead. By 2004, fed up and disillusioned, I left the site before the Vigil took place.

    I’m glad I haven’t been back… 10 years on, it looks like that moving, powerful Vigil I saw in 99 has become a parody of the event it was meant to be… a time for taste, decency and reflection.

    Comment by Annie
    Sunday 6 December 2009 @ 5:48 am

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  5. I run a small lbt charity in Manchester. I was also one of the people involved in the Village Charity in 1990. It used to be affordable and friendly. Being there really ,made you feel like you were part of an accepting community. I hate the commercial, corporate monster it’s become. Unfortunately, I have to work Pride, as it’s part of my job, and I also have to pay lip service to supporting it. It saddens me that the only people who profit from Pride are those with money while smaller charities like ours have to fight for every penny. Each year I talk to our Board about the possibility of us holding an alternative Pride but, so far, we can’t afford it. One day!

    Comment by anon
    Tuesday 3 August 2010 @ 1:00 pm

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  7. I’ve only just found this thread, and probably should just leave it alone, but it has really annoyed me.

    As the “comedian of colour” (really?) in question (By the way, what is it that makes my race so prominent an issue? Is it that you feel I was only there because of my race to lend some spurious diversity to an otherwise white event? Or perhaps you feel that my “colour” was insufficient in mitigating this same problem? It seems to me that you imply that being a “comedian of colour” is somehow problematic.) I feel I have to respond to a couple of points, more for my benefit than yours, as I suspect nothing I say can have any bearing on such clear, fixed and inflexible opinions as yours.

    I cannot speak for Mr Stokes, nor have I any wish to defend the Pride organisation. I can, however, tell you that at no point has Pride or any other organisation or individual had any control or supervision of anything I have said onstage at the Vigil. I resent the suggestion most strongly. I am not part of the Pride organisation and they do not book me during the weekend or for any other events during the year. I did agree to be a Friend of Pride this year, in the hope that it represented some sort of bridge building on their part, but the Vigil remains the only time I appear at Pride and I deal only with the people that organise the Vigil itself. My relationship with Pride is frankly minimal, and I do not agree with the fencing, the charges, the lack of transparent accounting or the lack of access to the Vigil from outside the event.

    I think your attack on Cllr Fairweather’s speech about the BNP is unfair and misguided. It is not party politics to express our antipathy to that organisation – calling it ‘party politics’ dignifies and sanitises what they stand for. They are a fascist organisation which would strip LGBT and HIV+ people of any and all rights, and consequently they must be opposed with all our strength if, apart from anything else, our friends and loved ones living with HIV and AIDS are to continue to receive care support and treatment, as well as the dignity and rights which any human being should enjoy. Had Lbour Cllr Fairweather spoken out against, say, voting Tory, your remarks might have been fair. Your own disavowal of party interest therefore strikes me as, at best, disingenuous, and at worst makes me want to review your remarks about my own colour again. I realise/hope/assume, however, this is probably not what you actually mean. I cannot help but wonder whether you would have been so vehement had the Councillor in question not been an individual you clearly dislike and disgree with, and a Labour councillor to boot.

    I confess I am surprised that Annie feels so able to comment on an event she has not attended since 2003, but as I started hosting the event in 2002 (I didn’t in 2010/11 as they got celebs in) and as the fact that I am a comedian has been mentioned, I cannot but take the deeply offensive remarks “noisy comedy party” and “parody…[as opposed to] taste decency and reflection” personally. I would say that I am sorry that the Vigil is not at present to your taste, but as you have not actually been – you have only formed your opinions second hand from sources such as this – I see no reason to do so.

    I have tried to conduct the Vigils in such a way as to allow people a suitable safe space in which to grieve, but also to bring passion, anger, conviction and pride to the proceedings in the hopes that people not only mourn but perhaps pledge themselves to future action. I am inspired in this by this by Chloe Poems, who performed at a Vigil years ago. This is what I have tried to achieve, perhaps I have not succeeded as well. Again I strongly resent the implication that there has been no “taste, decency or reflection” especially from one who does not even attend. I have tried to commemorate not only those from our own community who have suffered and died, but also people from other countries, and to include those who’ve suffered homophobic abuse/attacks and persecution, because I believe that the fight against AIDS is and always has been bound up with the fight against homophobia. I have also used gentle touches of humour at appropriate moments because they felt right, because a little laughter helps us all when we deal with grief and bereavement and because I thinks it’s important to remember our friends laughing and alive, not merely ill and dying. If that seems tasteless to you, tough. You’ll be delighted to know that the likes of Anthony Cotton (2011) and Anthony Crank (2010) will presumably be hosting in the future. They are not black either. I am most offended that anyone could interpret what I have done as a “noisy, comedy party”.

    Having said all this, I do think the Vigil, whatever merits it may have is flawed and needs constant change to make it fresh. I hope that, at some point, this is what it will get. Personally I would love to see Gerry Potter/Chloe Poems perform at one again.

    Comment by Jonathan Mayor
    Tuesday 20 September 2011 @ 6:35 am

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  9. g7uk.com in reply to Jonathan:

    First of all I should say that I saw your performance at Get Bent! in 2007 and I have the highest regard for you as a performer. I’m sorry this annoyed you and that wasn’t the intention.

    I was at the Vigil with two other people — one of whom is Black — and all of us noticed the lack of diversity. That is the only reason your race was mentioned: to highlight the overall lack of diversity. So, again, sorry if it was perceived as offensive by you or anyone else.

    There are some events that really shouldn’t be used for political gain, especially by politicians. If someone has lost a relative or partner then, whatever their political views (and there are LGBT people who vote BNP), I feel they should be able to go along to the Vigil to remember that person without facing a ranting politician of whichever party. Anyway, I suspect it has completely the opposite effect to that which is intended.

    I believe in freedom of speech, even for people who I don’t like and strongly disagree with. So, generally speaking, it disgusts me when we have opportunist politicians who will hijack an event, while at the same time they will happily seek to deny some other legal political party any opportunity to speak. That is not how you win the argument.

    Looking at this incident as part of the lead up to the General Election, it was clear what was going on. Labour was terrified of losing and nothing was off-limits.

    I used to have a lot of respect for Councillor Fairweather, going back to the days of the Mancunian Gay collective. However, after his recent comments in the Pink Paper about cruising being unlawful (which it is not) and his behaviour at the Vigil, I have less.

    Comment by GS
    Wednesday 5 October 2011 @ 4:09 am

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