Manchester Pride is a marketing event run by ‘dictators’ says chairman of Village Business Association

In a surprise development last night, Phil Burke the chairman of the Village Business Association issued a statement.

In it he says that that there is now a widespread feeling amongst those people who attend Manchester Pride, and local businesses, that the event is no longer a celebration of the LGBT community and the gay village but actually all about marketing and money making.

He describes Marketing Manchester — aka the tourist board and the organisation behind Pride — as ‘dictators’ who ‘revel in the power that they wield’.

The Village Business Association (VBA) is the body that represents businesses in Manchester’s gay village. Some of Mr Burke’s comments have been reported on the Manchester Evening News website, although it didn’t publish his full statement.

The Evening News sponsored this year’s Manchester Pride and has a long history of publishing massively over-inflated attendance figures for the event — either deliberately to prop up the status quo who run Pride, or due to lazy journalism.

Congratulations to Phil Burke for speaking out. This is going to cause the most almighty storm, but could ultimately see welcome changes and an end to Marketing Manchester’s involvement in our Pride.

If you’re unhappy with the current set up and think that Pride could and should be something different, this is the time to speak out, write letters and post your comments on the internet.

Read my own detailed investigation into Manchester Pride — who runs it, where the money goes and who benefits most.

Phil Burke’s statement in full

Manchester Pride 2008

As the Chair of Manchester Village Assocation I wanted to write this letter a while ago, after a very long time of consideration and frustration, but decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

However, I have now been asked and urged to write it by so many people that I have been left with no choice. It is with no pleasure or hidden agenda that I do so.

The subject matter is unfortunately Manchester Pride, or rather the organisation and running of Manchester Pride. A number of the businesses have requested, no demanded, that this debate is opened and resolved.

The general feeling amongst the businesses, and a vast number of attendees, is that we no longer have a Manchester Pride that is an annual celebration of the LGBT community and The Gay Village. What we now have is Marketing Manchester’s Pride!

It has become an annual excuse for the organisation behind Pride to become dictators and revel in the power that they wield. Businesses are held to ransom over contributions, accreditations become more cumbersome and complicated, legally granted licences are revoked, litt le or no input is asked for, or actually wanted, from the very businesses that are the life blood of the whole event, and the VBA is at best tolerated and apparently seen more of a hindrance.

You would think that a charity driven event would actively encourage and search for advertising opportunities, the more people that know and are interested in an event then the more people attend and buy wristbands?
This alas is not the case with Pride. Businesses are actually dictated to that they cannot advertise Pride or use the logo before paying a very sizeable donation to them. You will not be listed or appear anywhere on the website either. Blackmail I believe is the word.

As we all know, and are extremely grateful for, The Village has a number of independent and small operators. It is these very independent and usually flamboyant people who keep The Gay Village fresh and alive 365 days a year .

Yet these are the very businesses that are penalised and punished by Pride for not having the ready cash flow of a large multi national operator, who can pay up their branches contribution easily. Small businesses sometimes rely on the Big Weekend itself to fund their contribution, so therefore get absolutely no support, no listings, no encouragement and no help from Pride because they haven’t paid up.

Surely an organisation that is in existence purely because of the businesses that started the whole thing off would want to support those businesses. Again this is not the case. What could and should be a community driven event is now a purely commercial operation, with absolutely no regard or thought given to the community itself. Established Gay Village operators are shunned and overlooked for non entity, non gay organisations that just have bigg er purses.

One of our established operators wanted to add a fairground ride into the site, at their own expense and in a location of Prides choice, an idea that the VBA fully and vocally supported, and yet was refused.

Obviously because Pride needed yet another food concession on every available spare metre. One of the residents on Bloom Street was actually refused entry to their own owned property because 2 passes had already been issued (to the lodgers in his spare room by the way), so he bought a pass rather than deal with the rude jobsworths at accreditation.

The VIP tent was blatantly only there for Marketing Manchester to entertain their clients and friends, as none of the businesses got any passes! One of The Gay Villages most prominent and we ll known pers onalities was physically attacked by the Pride security back stage, as he was about to go on, for free, on his own time. This person has been involved with Manchester Pride since day 1, and has been very instrumental in helping to create the very village we see today. Yet apparently in the new order of ‘pounds over poofs’ this means nothing.

And the tales and stories go on and on, each detailing how the corporate face and commerciality of Pride is blatantly and forcibly enforced over and above the community and its participants.

Lets make no mistake that Manchester Pride is a hugely successful event, and long may that continue. But maybe its time to stop trying to turn it into a Reading Festival, the V Festival or a mini Glastonbury.

This event was created as a celebration of being gay, a chance for the gay community to revel and wallow in the fact that we do indeed have a famous Gay Village and a thriving huge and loyal base. The event is very important….the philosophy and ethos behind it is far more so!

As the spokesman for the VBA it is my job to ensure that the businesses are heard, and the feeling now is actually so strong that we demand to be heard and we demand an open, transparent and fair debate on where we go from here. Without the businesses there is no Pride, so I now publicly and openly challenge them to join us in this debate and help us all ensure that Manchester Pride enjoys and celebrates another 18 years.

Yours sincerely

Phil Burke

UPDATE (30 August 2008, 15.45)

The charity Body Positive North West issued the following statement, according to the website

BPNW would like to give its full and unequivocal support to the content of the statement issued by the Chair of the VBA raising concerns about Marketing Manchester’s “Manchester Pride”. The articulate, considered, temperate and thoroughly useful statement issued by the VBA has finally opened a long-overdue debate.

BPNW is a service user led-organisation; the largest Body Positive remaining in the UK and, some might suggest, a relatively small HIV charity in both local and national terms supporting 1,300 clients across the North West of England. We work operationally directly with people and are not part of the corporate AIDS industry. As such we have empathy when your statement refers to multi national operators versus small businesses. A large proportion of gay men accessing our services are the same gay men who socialise in the village. We encourage our service users to air their views on issues affecting their lives. Over the past couple of years a number of service users at BPNW have aired concerns about the evolution of Manchester Pride from a community event to an overwhelmingly commercial one. We are aware gay men living wi th HIV who were unable to afford the cost of 2008 Pride who did not attend.

Two years in BPNW members have expressed concern at the lack of transparency about the decision making processes informing Pride. BPNW’s involvement in Pride has been minimal, amounting to little more than fee paying to participate in both the Parade and the expo area which we are sad about.

Two years ago BPNW offered volunteers to help with the vigil. That offer was declined. In 2006 BPNW’s collector’s license was revoked on the Friday evening, meaning our plans for street collections had to be shelved. Unfortunately, this year the only unity at the vigil was a banner on the stage.

BPNW is indebted to the VBA for its support over the years; particularly during a difficult 2002/3 when they were a lifeline to us. Following the collapse of Operation fundraiser BPNW welcomed the advent of Manchester Pride in the hope that a new era of greater partnership, transparency, greater involvement of the full range of local agencies representing people living with HIV. Plus we looked forward to a more equitable distribution of charitable funds raised through the event which we hope might now be the order of the day.

To exclude people from the vigil because they have not paid for a wristband should not be acceptable to anyone and, whether deliberate or not, there is an assumption by many people that they are excluded from their vigil, their opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives of their friends, lovers, family members, and others in the community. HIV is not owned by any one individual or organisation. Why is the HIV vigil no longer the HIV vigil? Its appropriation by George House Trust at the exclusion of other organisations that work day-in day-out with people with HIV in Manchester is shameful.

We, as does the VBA, appreciate that the organisation of the Pride weekend is an onerous and unenviable task; however the sprit of the LGBT community is the key for the weekend. What is the ethos of Pride? Is it a marketing exercise or a community event? If it is a community event, perhaps it would be helpful if BPNW were to remind the organisers that its cost is now prohibitive for the majority of people living with HIV existing on state benefits.

Thank you very much for tackling and airing an extremely difficult topic and hopefully we can support a constructive debate with productive outcomes to enhance 2009’s Pride.


  • Some ‘old school’ gay equality & HIV/AIDS campaigners have been saying for some considerable time that pride events are now so commercial or hedonistic, they have little or nothing to do with their roots of history of pride or even the LGBT communities they were initially intended to support.

    In Cornwall gay youth & gay/lesbian equality campaigners with EXPERIENCE of homophobic Cornwall policing & who have made formal complaints IGNORED by the authorities(Cornwall has a L-O-N-G history of homophobic policing), had it made clear they were NOT WELCOME at a pride event, however the police were in much trumpeted propoganda about police flying a flag for pride.

  • Monday, 01 September 2008

    Open letter

    To Whom It May Concern

    I write this letter further to recent statements and press coverage concerning Manchester Pride 2008 and to express my support for Mr Phil Burke.

    Phil has been demonstrated complete support for the Gay Village for many years, and in particular the last few years as Chair of the VBA. He has represented the needs and concerns of all members, without bias, when dealing with many public bodies including Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Police to name but a few. I believe his recent statement to be of the same character, raising valid concerns and queries put to him by members of the VBA. Whilst I hold no particular opinion on the concerns raised, I do however believe that Phil is acting in the highest of capacities and the issues he raises should be debated in a fair and transparent matter. In a close-knit community such as ours I feel there will always be criticism, good and bad, and this should be used productively to further all our aims.

    The festival known currently as Manchester Pride was, as correctly stated by Phil, born from a small community to further the needs of our community and to support a local hospital at the height of the HIV epidemic. From this we can be proud that the festival has grown to one of such huge proportions. Whilst the festival cannot ever go back to the original format, I feel that it is tremendously important that it remain true to those original ideals. I am fully aware of the financial implications of running such a huge event, along with the legal obligations placed upon the organisers and am mindful of this whilst writing this letter. As Phil rightly states there should be an open and fair debate, encompassing all sections of the community – businesses, charities, local residents, youth groups…the list should in no way be exclusive. It should be a full discussion with a full disclosure of the reasoning behind decisions taken by the Pride, with opportunity to pose advance questioning, and a Q&A at the meeting. There appears to be, not necessarily a lack of transparency, but perhaps a shortfall in the communication of reasoning for certain decisions. The community should at least have the opportunity to have their questions answered and the Pride Board should have the opportunity to explain how and why certain decisions are made.

    I would suggest that like all members of the VBA, the event is an incredible showcase for the Gay Village and the City of Manchester and one we are incredibly proud of. The time is now to build on our successes, take stock of opinion and criticism, formulate solutions and move forward.

    Phil Burke should not be criticised for his unwavering support for our Village and community. Without him it would be a more difficult place in which to operate. His independence as Chair of the VBA makes him a unique choice for the position and I support him fully in this role.


    Melvin Taylor

    Director ,

    Cruz 101 & Naps

  • Hadyn Pope says:

    I fully and publically support Phil and his comments. At no point does he say that Pride should be stopped, or indeed that the current organisers should be removed. What he rightly calls for is an ‘open and transparent debate’ on how we can improve it and ensure that it becomes far more inclusive and involved with the very community its meant to celebrate. Surely even the biggest supporters of Pride would welcome this debate? And if not, why not?
    Haydn Pope, Manchester

  • Brian Wright says:

    Well done Phil , thank God you have got the BALLS to make a statement like this,

    You have my support and i am sure that many will follow.


    Brian Wright

  • MICANT1812 says:

    I am sorry it as nearly taken me sometime to send my response to the above load of c***. However, I am concerned about the statement that BPNW places in this part of the site.

    BPNW has lied in the past about how many members/CLIENTS it has on its records – and due to the complicated methods of monitoring its work like how many people actually access their services and what made me feel very sick to the sight was the organisation telling the Gay Business Association (GBA) and Manchester Pride and so on to be far more transparent – well BPNW have closed Annual General Meetings (AGM) often and you can check this youselves sending accounts nearly 12 months after the AGM and when it comes to communications – well Ms Felicity (aka Phil) Greenham the Chief Executive Officer does not come clean with her work history and how she got that job via the back door. No advertising, no open and transparency when it comes down to interviews. She is also bully, cause soon as she took that role only people who meet her micro management style can work for her. Oh by the way – her daughter is now employed in a full-time/part-time position as Volunteer Coordinator which since BPNW was conceived has alway been a voluntary post. Another CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

    And finally since the sale of Lawrence House, City Road, Hulme BPNW are spending into their savings and money earned from the sale of said property to fund the jobs this person has now. Far more jobs “for the boys” than ever before.

    Much of their funding is as it filters in from organisations which do not have any history with this person and the charity.

    And finally – banning and exluding people living with the North West from access to any of its services for speaking out about the mis-management and malpractice of said charity is this really of public interest.

    I and a few of us have tried to inform many people through a blogsite – which is currently suspended due to one person taking action (legally) and speaking of legally BPNW paid out over the past 5 years over (approx) £25K in costs to various individuals for unfair dismissal charges.


    Myeslf and others maybe not perfect, but to be challenged by inperfection is outragous and against many laws.

    Angry, frustrated and still alive – living with HIV

  • PlusMan says:

    “Service-user led” would appear to be an unfortunate Orwellian euphemism for its precise opposite in many mismanaged organisations. Much as the word “Democratic” appears in many countries’ names when the repressive governments there are the precise opposite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


My contact information is here.

People In Need Gambia. Read more in The Guardian