Though Manchester’s annual Pride celebrations have ended for another year, CEO Mark Fletcher is yet to exhale.
“I’ve promised my team I’ll take a few days off,” he shares with a chuckle.
It’s no wonder, Manchester Pride 2019 was a mammoth undertaking. Fletcher and his team relaunched the charity’s annual LGBTQ+ celebrations with a much-publicised new format.
With the Gay Village bursting at the seams, the four-day-weekender spilled into the rest of the city and splattered rainbows and a message of equality on every corner.
With a more visible show of support, Manchester Pride 2019 felt a more grand spectacle than ever before. And it was.
The festival expanded into Mayfield Depot, a colossal 10,000 capacity space near to Piccadilly station. The larger stage allowed for 30 global acts to join the new ‘Manchester Pride Live’ bill, including Ariana Grande – undoubtedly the festival’s most culturally relevant performer to date.
Yet, with a bigger event came bigger issues to tackle – which Fletcher admits.
Overcrowding, refused entry and high ticket prices were some of the criticisms Manchester Pride faced. Its most vocal accusers feared the event had become less about activism as it was a party.
Despite the backlash, the charity looks set to report another record year of fundraising for LGBTQ+ causes. With “every penny” being reinvested into the community, Fletcher insists the party and the protests are far from over yet.
What was the biggest success of Manchester Pride 2019?
Well, there’s the small matter of the brand new event at Mayfield. For me, it was quite overwhelming to see how well-received it was. There was a lot of anticipation about what the event was going to look like – I don’t think people expected it to be so big. People seemed to be in awe of the space.
They key performances were Years and Years, and we loved to see Cheryl up there – her performance was phenomenal. When Ariana stepped out that was a culturally defining moment. The city coming together in the face of adversity, standing united. It was very powerful.
There were issues with refused entry at Manchester Pride Live – what happened?
During the run-up to the event, we decided to have a cut-off point for entry so people could safely move around the areas without more people coming in. We publicised this well in advance and it has been on our website all year. But, because it was a brand new event with new conditions, people weren’t used to it.
I was gutted to hear some weren’t able to get in. My team worked hard to prevent this from happening. But when you’re working with a fixed capacity event space there are certain parameters we have to operate within. We’ve learned from it.
Will Pride be staying at Mayfield Depot next year?
We’re keen to continue working with Mayfield. It is an area earmarked for development, so it’s going to be a changeable feat for us in the coming years. We hope we can use the same footprint in the future but we have to respectful of the fact the area is in development.
Ariana Grande was the major headliner this year – what made her the ideal Pride performer?
My personal view is anyone who stands in support of LGBTQ+ quality and wants to lend their talent to showcase that support needs applauding. We need allies. Ariana has a special place in the hearts of Manchester people and she’s a campaigner, so she made an absolute dream artist. I think it’s really dangerous when non-LGBTQ+ people are slated when performing at Pride…
How difficult is it to ensure Pride is both for celebration and community activism?
It’s challenging but what I have to do is remind people what we stand for. Manchester Pride is a charity that campaigns for LGBTQ+ equality all year long. Community activism has its place at the heart of what we do. Our parade is the most political aspect of the event as we march for equality. It’s the single largest parade that takes place in Manchester City Centre and it is one of the most anticipated events that take place in the North West. For me, it’s great that we can celebrate LGBT+ life but I need to be clear there’s a long way to go within LGBT+ communities to build acceptance. For me, community activism is key for us to progress.