Well hello once again to all my lovely column readers out there. I hope you enjoyed my article last month. It was a personal journey I wanted to share, and I hope it may have helped somebody out there.
This month I felt it was important to give you a slice of 25 years of pride, giving you a brief journey about where we have come from and give you some things to think about for the future, whilst asking the question, ‘Where are we heading to?’
I guess it all started slightly earlier than the 25 years we are celebrating this year. Of course it wasn’t a Pride back then, but there used to be fundraising events held on the August Bank Holiday weekend since the 80s, starting with a jumble sale outside the Rembrandt Hotel. Can you imagine the tat that would have been on sale in the 80’s?! Anyway, it really took off in the 90’s when the event was expanded to include a full programme of activities from Friday to Monday. The weekend was rebranded as “the Carnival of Fun Weekend” and the jumble sale moved into Sackville Park. On the Monday night there were fireworks in the park, and it was announced that a good luck message had been received from Diana, Princess of Wales.
It wasn’t really a Pride event in those days. This is confirmed by a booklet that the Village charity published for its annual general meeting in 1994, which states: “many volunteers of the charity get upset when the press call our weekend the ‘Northern Pride’. It’s not and never has been.” The purpose was solely to raise money for HIV and AIDS causes and in particular for a ward at Monsall Hospital.
Over the following years, the event grew and became known as Mardi Gras, developed with support from the VBA (Village Business Association). Entry tickets and fences were first introduced during the council-run event in 1999, but despite a large income, there was no money for charity that year. The event reverted to community control in 2000. In 2000 and 2001 it was called “Gayfest” and was organised and managed by a committee of volunteers led by our well known local businesswoman Julia Grant who has now joined us back in Manchester after her time away in Benidorm.
In 2002 the event reverted to the name MardiGras and was organised by a committee of the Village Business Association. The event was cancelled over a row about the limits of the area where open-air drinking was allowed, but the cancellation was overturned and the event went ahead as planned.
However during these three years, no entry fee was charged, yet money was still raised for local charities through events and collections. The following year everything was set to change because in 2003, about 37,000 people paid for tickets for EuroPride which was hosted that year by Manchester. They sold the £10 tickets and gathered £388,946 from ticket sales and bucket collections, with a final figure of £127,690 for good causes.
At the closing ceremony in 2003, it was announced that the event would be now be known as ‘Manchester Pride’ and in 2007 it became a charity in its own right. One reason for this change was because in 2006 Customs and Excise had tried to charge back-VAT for several years, because, in their view, Manchester Pride was no longer a charity fundraiser. Because of the Increasing commercialisation of the event, it meant that costs were higher and therefore the percentage of income received by charities and good causes had dropped significantly.
In my opinion, the event should still be called ‘Pride’ but give it a sense of pride too and maybe take it back to its roots a little bit. You’re reading this as the next generation of LGBT youngsters and some of the people of my generation and beyond, it’s up to you to shape and decide what the word ‘Pride’ really means.
I’m proud to be gay I’m proud to be a drag artist and I’m proudly open about my HIV. We need Pride events to keep the face of equal rights, and the change people’s preconceptions of what LGBT people are. But we also need Pride to raise money for great causes.
The event like the candle light vigil on the Monday night will remind us all that the event has still does have a heart and soul! There is nothing quite like seeing Sackville Gardens lit up with candles as far as she eye can see. The vigil is the real part of pride! So even if you do nothing else over this year’s Pride weekend, then experience the beating heart of Manchesters gay scene at the vigil if you can.
Just sayin….. Anyway, enough from me for another month. Have a great Big Weekend and I’ll catch you next month. Laterz bitches.