Pride veterans shun gay pride charge

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Two former pride organisers protested against Manchester Pride by taking part in the march on Saturday but refusing to pay the £50 registration charge.

In a move aimed at subverting, and protesting against Manchester Pride’s charging over £50 for walkers, the pair, Ohmeed Ahi, chief steward of The Pink Festival, and Tim Groves, deputy chief steward of Europride 2006, shunned the registration process last weekend.

Mr Ohmeed said: “I believe Gay Pride is a right, and not a privilege for those who can afford it.

“A lot of gay people no longer believe that the Gay Pride movement is representative of them. By charging, Manchester Pride only aid in increasing apathy towards the gay pride movement within the gay community.

“A lot of people will not partake, adding to a one dimensional image, outside of the gay community, of what it means to be gay. By stifling this diversity, Manchester Pride is not meeting one of its own objectives – ‘inclusivity’.”

In a press release in late July, the Manchester City Council (one of Manchester Pride’s main sponsors), announced that all entrants in the parade would be charged to participate. This includes charity organisations, which were charged £250 per float, and walking groups who were charged £50, regardless of whether they were collecting for charity or not.

Manchester Pride chairman Andrew Stokes said: “It is a charge for entry, whether there are one or 16 people. These things always have a cost attached and there are all sorts of health and safety costs”.

But Tim Groves, who was on the Europride Committee which again this year successfully ensured the London event was kept free of charge to both marchers and revellers remarked, “Europride attracted over 500,000 people to the capital in 2006. The parade followed a new route, which included Oxford Street, one of the busiest shopping streets in the world. With the help of over 600 volunteers, we managed to keep Europride free, and it is disgraceful that Manchester Pride have chosen to charge participants for the right to protest”.

Indeed, even past Manchester Pride organisers have raised eyebrows at the new rules.

Gordon Pleasant, one of the organisers of Manchester’s first “Mardi Gras” parades in the early 1990s said he was appalled at the decision, adding, “Charge the commercial companies who want to take part in the parade and advertise themselves, by all means – but not the individuals who want to walk in the parade.”