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Manchester Pride 2017 - Photo: Jamie Wareham
Manchester Pride 2017 - Photo: Jamie Wareham

Reclaim Pride is a growing and exciting movement - and Manchester Pride is the latest in the spotlight

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay,queer,disabled I started QueerAF to fund queer media careers. Will you join our movement?

This week, Manchester Pride has been in the headlines for dropping support for a life-saving condom distribution scheme.

They say it's because of Covid impacting their revenue. But for many in the community, which is becoming more unforgiving by the minute as this saga ticks on, it's the latest time their pride has let them down.

What happened?

Manchester Pride announced it will no longer support a scheme that distributes 90,000 packs of condoms and lubricant free of charge every year.

LGBT Foundation’s scheme began in 1994 and has delivered more than 31 million 'safer sex' packs across the region. - PinkNews

Manchester Pride, a charity, said the coronavirus pandemic had impacted them and that ending support was a ‘tough decision’. The reason for the impact?

“Not being able to deliver in person events had a detrimental effect on our ability to generate income and raise funds in the way that we had planned."
– Mark Fletcher, chief executive of Manchester Pride

The background

Many Pride marches charge corporates and usually have discounted or subsidised rates for community groups, for their entry.

Manchester Pride announced three weeks ago, their parade has been cancelled over concerns it could not run in accordance with Covid rules.

Instead of one large parade with corporate floats, performers and community groups - five "Equality Marches", each with a maximum of 400 participants, would take place instead. - BBC

They quickly announced, however, the live music portion of the event would go ahead with stars Zara Larsson, Sigala, Annie Mac, Gabrielle, Katy B and Example.

It's happening at a huge 80,000 sq ft plot launched by local arts centre HOME. - Manchester Evening News

How did people react?

With furore. The community felt of all the schemes to stop - this wasn't the one. But worse than that, the decision has fed into a pattern that the community feels shows Manchester Pride is more interested in profit.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Divina De Campo asked: “When is a Pride event not a Pride event?”

Hollyoaks actress Annie Wallace, who resigned as a patron of Manchester Pride last year, wrote: “This is terrible news for Manchester's LGBT+ community, and sees the end of a core Pride duty. - Manchester Evening News

And how did the rest of the week play out?

In a bemusing twist of events, the CEO Mark Fletcher appeared on Gaydio and suggested they would indeed still support the scheme. But this was news to LGBT Foundation who run the scheme.

Meanwhile, the bars and clubs where most of the condoms are distributed, created a grassroots crowd funder to save the scheme. They all donated to it. It's so far raised  37K of the 100K needed.

And as we end the week, the Manchester Pride CEO Mark Fletcher has refused to resign after a damning BBC investigation raised serious questions about the finances of the major pride event. - PinkNews

BBC Radio Manchester said the event donated nearly £150,000 to charity in 2018. That's around six per cent of its revenue. In 2019, they made a record-breaking £3.94 million – yet its charitable contributions were halved to three per cent, amounting to just £122,000.

It is of course complicated, and expensive to put on a large scale music festival. True any year, indeed even more so during a pandemic.

But the community's question? Is it right for pride to pay A list acts - when it can't fund its charitable work?

And following our coverage over London's grassroots Reclaim and Trans Pride events - the move is being adopted all over the country. And indeed, into Europe.

From Amsterdam, to Liverpool and following this saga Manchester too - the march to Reclaim Pride is on.

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