A charity campaigning for equality and opportunity, Manchester Pride celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender life and fundraises to enrich LGBT organisations, charities and communities in Greater Manchester. As one of the leading LGBT+ charities in the UK, Manchester Pride aims to challenge discrimination in relation to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia by fundraising through a number of empowering events, such as Manchester Pride Festival, The Manchester Pride Spring Benefit and a year-round programme of culture, Superbia.
Following a big announcement, Manchester Pride has confirmed its annual August Bank Holiday festival will go ahead in 2019, but have promised it will look and feel radically different to previous years. The four day event, now known as ‘The Big Weekend’, has been around for over 25 years and has taken on many forms, such as ‘Pride’ and ‘Mardi Gras’. Although the event has previously only taken place in and around Manchester’s historical gay village on Canal Street, due to the ever changing landscape around the city, this space will no longer be available next year – Manchester Pride now want you to have your say and share what you want from the festival in 2019.
We caught up with Mark Fletcher, the CEO of Manchester Pride, to discuss exactly how and why our city is the best in the world for leading and educating people on the power of equality, and to learn about the magic behind ‘The Big Weekend’.
For a festival that has been running for over 2 and a half decades, Manchester Pride remains fresh and current. How do you keep everything so relevant?
I recently travelled to San Francisco and Boston Pride to see how they do things over there. As Manchester Pride is popular nationwide, with people flying in from all over the world year after year, it’s really nice to see how others work.
I find it’s actually really inspirational to get out there and see what other people are doing. Even though we’re already one of the leading world Pride festivals, each of those international events are very different to what we do here in the UK, so it’s great to see what we could learn from others.
How would you say Manchester Pride differs from other prides around the world?
It’s distinctly unique. There’s a real sense of pride in Manchester anyway, not just in terms of LGBT, but in the city in itself. The scenes are very different. In San Francisco, it was nice to see the scale of the parade… which is about 6 hours long, its huge; they close down the entire city centre and everyone just gets involved with everything that’s going on.
Not to take anything away from the other cities, but I just feel like what we do here in terms of the people, the history and the atmosphere around Manchester Pride is much more to my preference. It’s a medley of celebrations.
What is it about Manchester that you think sits so well with Pride?
It’s the people.
Manchester is steeped in culture and it’s extremely diverse. We’re a welcoming and all-embracing type of place. And we’re a city built on pioneers. When you think about what we’ve done in the name of diversity, we’ve actually been championing equality rights for as long as the history books have been written. There’s something uniquely warm about Manchester – not just in the people that are born here, but in the inherited Mancunians too.
There’s a general feeling of acceptance and celebration of diversity in this city, and call me biased but I think this is truly unique to Manchester. I’ve looked at many cities around the world (and certainly in the UK); there’s simply no other city that stands alone, for me at least, like Manchester.
It’s all happening.
It’s happening right here, right now.
Speaking to friends and family who have loved the festival year after year, it’s clear that this is a family event with something for everyone to enjoy. What is it about Manchester Pride that you think makes it a family affair, and is this particularly important to you?
We’re in 2018, and while it’s great that we can reflect well on the strides that have been taken so far, in terms of LGBT, there’s still quite a bit to be done. When you think about Manchester and about it all being for the people, you can’t deny that we’re a proud city, and a part of our greatness comes from our diversity. I think this is echoed in the fact that families come along to celebrate Manchester Pride. There’s some good and inspiring lessons of acceptance to be taught here, and the more we can help people to understand, the closer we get to the normalisation of difference.
Would you say that ‘normalisation’ is key here, then?
I definitely would. I find it truly humbling whenever you see that hundreds of thousands of people have come out to see the parade… and right at the forefront of it all, you see families. That’s what it’s all about. They’re there to celebrate difference and that’s what this city is great at.
I also think it’s testament to some fantastic parenting that’s out there – the fact that people want to educate their children into the normalisation of difference. Manchester Pride has evolved into the single largest event that takes place in Manchester every year, and I’m so honoured to know that people look forward to it.
When I hear friends and non-LGBT people talking about the fact they can’t wait for the next festival to take place, you know there’s been some successful work out there somewhere. It’s all about education being the key to equality and I think this is best done through experience; the kind you can relate to having fun. I hope that it’ll stick with children forever and then hopefully stem down through the generations to make our city an even better space. Here at Manchester Pride, we appreciate that education through experience allows children to form their own opinions without any bias – we can’t wish for anything more that that.
Recently, Nick Hurley was walking down the road on Whitworth Street, when he got glittery revenge on a man who was acting homophobic towards him. What are your thoughts on this story and his reaction?
It’s really distressing to hear that Nick has experienced homophobic attacks. It’s genuinely disappointing, but this is why we do what we do.
It’s sad that homophobia still exists; not just in the city centre but throughout Greater Manchester and beyond. And for Nick to be able to retort back like that is brilliant… a non-violent display of ‘here, have some glitter’ is such a powerful way of silencing someone without being antagonistic. Good on him.
We’ve still got a long way to go in the fight against homophobia – it’s still very much rife. Manchester Pride have got a lot more work to do across Greater Manchester over the next 12-18 months. I hope that the steps we’re taking will go a long way to help with isolation, so those who live in less connected areas feel bound with other LGBT+ people through culture and social interaction. We’re working hard to ensure that people can see the Manchester Pride brand in their own home town or village, feel that sense of ownership, and ultimately, feel more comfortable with who they are.
For more info on the Manchester Pride charity, head to www.manchesterpride.com
For updates on The Big Weekend, head to www.festival.manchesterpride.com/big-weekend