Can the Pink Paper be trusted on Manchester Pride figures (or anything)?

How much fact-checking does The Pink Paper do? Does it publish information from press releases without checking the accuracy? Would it ever pull the wool over our eyes if it meant a bit of extra advertising money from Manchester Pride?

In the article ‘Pride parade will be biggest ever as tickets sales soar’, The Pink Paper regurgitates claims from the Pride organisers that ‘more than 250,000 pairs of eyes are expected to see this year’s parade weave through the streets of the city’.

This is despite the fact that is physically impossible to fit 250,000 people into the parade route. The route in recent years — from Victoria to Piccadilly Station — is just 2,500 yards long and has never really differed much. The so-called ‘new’ route this year (2007) — along Deansgate — is actually much the same as in 1998 except it doesn’t go through the gay village.

For almost the entire length of the 2005 route the roads are only about 15 yards wide building to building. Even if you packed the streets entirely, squeezing in four people to every available square yard of road and pavement, leaving no space at all for the parade to move along, you could only fit in about 150,000 people.

Do the sums yourself: 2,500 yards (route length) x 15 yards (street width) = 37,500 square yards.

37,500 square yards x 4 (people packed into each square yard) = 150,000 people.

The BBC says ‘tens of thousands’ go to the parade. By my calculations, and looking at my photos of the parade from 1998-2005, I say it is under 50,000. No doubt, to get this inflated figure, Jackie Crozier, the festival manager is including 200,000 who may see video of the parade on TV? This was the lame excuse last year.

Meanwhile the Pink Paper article adds that ‘ticket sales for Manchester Pride 2007 are up by a massive 200 per cent’. But, again, this is something we’ve heard before at this time of year. By the Autumn you can bet the organisers will be saying that, in fact, ticket sales were down this year compared to last and that is why such a low amount has been raised for charity.

PHONEY FACTS – from the organisers and media over the years

* In the article ‘Fantastic gay pride festival sets record’, published in the Manchester Evening News on 2 September 2005, it states that 2005 was ‘the biggest ever Manchester Pride Festival’ and ‘The “Big Weekend” in Manchester’s Gay Village provided a huge boost with ticket sales up by 50 per cent’.

But every year is always the ‘biggest ever’ and ‘most successful’ and now that it’s easy to trawl back through years of articles and press releases thanks to the internet, we can see that it’s spin, hype and fibs and aways has been.

This website has what it calls an ‘official press blurb from the organisers’. In which, Andrew Stokes, Chief Executive of Marketing Manchester and Manchester Pride Chairman is quoted as saying: ‘Manchester Pride 2005 was a tremendous success … Over 40,000 people paid to be part of the celebration’. Elsewhere in the same press release it says ‘well over 45,000’.

Yet, eleven months earlier, 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.

So how is that a 50% increase in ticket sales in 2005 by any stretch of the imagination? A 50% increase on 36,000 would be 54,000 in 2005, not the 40,000 or 45,000 quoted by Andrew Stokes.


* ‘Community Report’ published by Manchester Mardi Gras, November 1999. This document was to ‘explain’ their failure to raise any money for charity at all that year: ‘This year’s Lesbian and gay Mardi Gras City Centre Parade was the best ever.. The estimates for spectators on the streets were a staggering 600,000 plus.’

600,000… A figure that is more than one quarter of the entire population of Greater Manchester (around 2.2m). All packed into a couple of streets in Manchester city centre and still with enough room for a parade of floats to move along!

* Manchester Evening News: Carry on camping, August 24, 2001: ‘Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to line the streets of Manchester city centre tomorrow afternoon for the Grand Gayfest Parade.’

However, five days later it isn’t tens but hundreds of thousands…

* Manchester Evening News: Fury over rubbish left by GayFest revellers, August 29, 2001: ‘On the Saturday 385,000 people turned out to watch the parade.’

* Manchester Evening News: Gays’ demo over Mardi fiasco, August 20, 2002: ‘They blamed police and the city council for the cancellation of the annual parade which last year attracted an estimated 385,000 participants and spectators.’

* Manchester Evening News: Reprieve sees city gear up for gay festival, August 23, 2002: ‘The Key 103 Mardi Gras Parade takes place on Saturday afternoon beginning from Castlefield at 2pm. Last year it attracted around 385,000 spectators…’

385,000 would mean 8 people to every available square yard of pavement and road along the entire parade route. Maybe they were all acrobats and standing on shoulders three high?

* Manchester Evening News: Success out of jaws of failure, August 27, 2002: ‘around 250,000 people turned up to watch the parade on Saturday.’

Councillor Pat Karney has a different story (after the disaster of 1999 when no money was rasied for charity, the City Council and various councillors were forced to take a back seat in the years 2000, 2001 and 2002 and they weren’t happy)…

* Manchester Evening News: Safety first at the Mardi Gras, April 16, 2003: ‘Coun Pat Karney, of the city council, said: ‘Last year’s Mardi Gras was smaller than its predecessors but still attracted more than 150,000 into the city.’

Pat Karney mustn’t have seen the news from the previous year, about the 250,000 spectators at the 2002 parade?

* Manchester Evening News: Festival chiefs fear a village lock-out, August 11, 2003: ‘Europride organisers reckon 300,000 people will turn out to celebrate the 10-day festival – netting the city a GBP20m windfall. Now gay community groups have voiced fears that only 55,000 people will be let into the gay village for the four-day finale.’

* Manchester Evening News: ‘Pride’ to net a GBP20m windfall, August 15, 2003: ‘Some 300,000 party people from around the world are expected to celebrate EuroPride over the next week and a half, netting the city a GBP20m “pink pound” windfall.’

* Manchester Evening News: Crowds share in the glow of EuroPride, August 26, 2003: ‘More than 250,000 people attended the 10-day festival.’

Curiously, the figure for total income from ticket sales from Europride 2003 (at £10 per ticket) is £371,600. Which suggests that only around 37,000 tickets were sold. About the same number of tickets have been sold every year since…

* Manchester Evening News: High fliers on parade, August 30, 2004: ‘An estimated 250,000 people attended the event.’

* Manchester Evening News, ‘Soul star Beverley in tribute to HIV victims’, August 31, 2004: ‘This year’s festival, attended by more than 250,000 people, has been hailed as one of the best’.

With only about 35,000 tickets sold each year to get into the fenced-off gay village area and 50,000 people or less watching the parade (many of them the same people who have bought tickets) where exactly are the other 200,000-300,000 people and what are they doing? They aren’t in the gay village area and they aren’t at the parade. The answer is simple… they don’t exist.

* Manchester Evening News: Sporting start to colourful festival, August 22, 2005: ‘One of the highlights is the colourful parade through the streets of Manchester city centre, attracting a crowd of 200,000.’

* Manchester Evening News: Army joins super troupers, August 29, 2005: ‘More than 80 floats made their way along a two-mile route watched by up to 200,000 people, according to festival director Claire Turner… Afterwards more than 36,000 revellers got together for 78 hours of partying in the village.’

* Manchester Evening News: ‘Fantastic’ gay pride festival sets record’, September 2, 2005: ‘THE biggest ever Manchester Pride Festival has been hailed a “great success”… One of the highlights of the 10-day event was the Key 103 Pride Parade through the streets of Manchester, watched by an estimated 50,000 people… Emma Peate, Operation Fundraiser project manager, said: “This year’s Pride has been the best ever… The “Big Weekend” in Manchester’s Gay Village provided a huge boost with ticket sales up by 50 per cent.’

Now 2005 is the ‘best ever’, yet we’re told the parade was watched by only 50,000. Down from the 200,000 that was reported five days earlier and 385,000 in 2002.

And, hang on a minute, we’re being told that 36,000 (ticket buying) revellers in the gay village in 2005 is a 50% increase on 2004? But, as mentioned earlier, 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.

And, strangely, despite the supposed 50% increase in ticket sales, the amount raised for charity in 2005 is much the same as usual.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press correctly estimates the 2005 parade attendance as 45,000, but some people are in denial…

* Manchester Miffed at USA Figure of Those Watching Gay Parade: AP Reports 45,000 Rather Than 200,000, August 28, 2005: ‘Manchester is miffed today. The official figure put on those watching yesterday’s Key 103 Pride Parade was ‘in excess of 200,000′. But many American newspapers were this morning reporting that just 45,000 lined the streets of Manchester to watch the colourful parade. Were we hearing things yesterday when the official figures were announced by both the organisers and the police? Apparently, no. And a spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Police confirmed the figure this morning.’

Yes the author of this response was indeed ‘hearing things’ when numbers were announced by the Pride organisers. As we’ve seen, the ‘official figures’ can be almost anything the organisers want them to be and they are lapped up by the media without question. As for the Police, on February 12, 2007 Greater Manchester Police told me, in writing: ‘with regards to the estimated attendance figures we get those direct from the organisers’…

* Manchester Evening News: Storm over GBP50 fee to take part in gay parade, July 15, 2006: ‘This year’s parade… expected to be viewed by up to 250,000 people…’

* Manchester Evening News: We’ll attract record crowds predict Pride festival chiefs, August 25, 2006: ‘Early ticket sales suggest about 40,000 people will attend the four-day bank holiday event – smashing last year’s record of 35,000 partygoers. Spokesman Andy Owen said: ‘Last year, police estimated that about 250,000 people gathered in the city centre to watch the main Manchester Pride parade on Saturday.’

So now we’re told that 35,000 ‘partygoers’ in 2005 was a ‘record’ and, if what Greater Manchester Police told me is true, it seems that the Pride organisers are fraudulently using the Police to give their false figures an air of authority?

UPDATE (8 October 2007)

The editor of the Manchester Evening News didn’t have the balls to reply to two letters over the past year, asking about his newspaper’s phoney and contradictory figures over the years. However, in summer 2007, and for the first time ever, news reports about Manchester Pride in the Evening News didn’t contain any specific figures for attendance. So it seems the reality may have hit home.

However, the organisers are still publishing the same old fibs. A press release for 2007 states: ‘More than 250,000 people are expected to watch the main Parade on August 25.’

And here Andrew Stokes, chairman of Manchester Pride, says ‘the parade alone is usually watched by over 200,000 people and 100,000 people pass through the event area during the four-day Big Weekend’.

But, hilariously, the 2007 parade route is actually shorter that in recent years. The 2007 parade started at Beetham tower at the junction of Liverpool Road and Deansgate, followed Deansgate as far as Kendalls department store where it turned into St. Ann’s Square, then onto Cross Street, along Princess Street, turning into Whitworth Street and finishing at the corner of Whitworth Street and Aytoun Street. A total distance of about 2,270 yards, compared to around 2,500 yards in previous years.

Maps of the parade route: 2006 | 2007.

The official Manchester Pride 2007 map is available here as a PDF.

News reports that the route is two miles long aren’t true. There are 1,760 yards to a mile. So the 2007 route is only about 1.3 miles.

So, fitting two people to each yard of kerb space, along the entire route would be 2,270 yards x 2 = 4,540 people along one side of the street. Multiply by two to get a figure for both sides of the street. That makes 9,080 people with a crowd one person deep.

To get the 200,000 people that Andrew Stokes claims watch the parade, the crowd would have to be 22 people deep on both sides of the street. A crowd 44 people wide across the width of the road.

To get 250,000 people, as claimed in the Manchester pride press release, the crowd would have to be 27.5 people deep on each side of the street. 55 people across the width of the street.

However, Cross Street, Princess Street and Whitworth Street are only about 15 yards wide from building to building. So these crowd sizes are physically impossible. People would be dying in the crush. Besides which, it would leave no space at all for a parade.

Andrew Stokes is on record in an ‘official press blurb‘ as saying ‘over 40,000 paid’ in 2005 and, elsewhere, ticket sales are quoted as being around 35,000. So where does this 100,000 figure come from?

How can anyone ‘pass through the event area’ without a ticket? And if ticket sales somehow miraculously almost tripled to 100,000 in 2006, how is it that the amount for charity in 2006, before the VAT scandal, was almost exactly the same as in 2003, 2004 and 2005: about £130,000?

The LGF reports another shamefully low amount raised for charity in 2007 (£95,000) and says that 200,000 people watched the Saturday parade. ‘More than 40,000’ tickets were sold in 2007 they claim and performances ‘drew more people to the event than ever before’.

Oh really? Whatever happened to the ‘massive 200 per cent’ increase in ticket sales that was reported back in August?

It all sounds very familiar.


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