Manchester Pride must radically change to win back trust after scandal, report says

Manchester Pride

A new report has outlined how the embattled Manchester Pride can rebuild relationships with the LGBT+ community.

Manchester Pride faced a reckoning last year after a damning BBC radio investigation into its finances revealed its charitable contributions had plunged in 2019, despite record-breaking revenue that year.

Its CEO Mark Fletcher defied calls to resign amid uproar that the organisation had also dropped funding for a crucial condom scheme and local charities.

The LGBT Foundation, one of those charities, has now published a report advising Manchester Pride on how it can repair its relationships with the communities it is supposed to serve by improving accountability, transparency and accessibility.

Its suggestions include creating “an accessible and independent system for reviewing Pride on an annual basis that the community can feed into, including evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of Pride events in the past”; and ensuring that “all involved parties” undertake sensitivity training and “feel empowered to intervene when seeing instances of discrimination”.

The charity also wants Manchester Pride to audit venues hosting events to ensure they are appropriate for the community and suited to handle any complaints, challenge discrimination through awareness campaigns, and engage with marginalised communities by creating specific spaces and feedback mechanisms.

For transparency, Manchester Pride has been asked to improve communication with the community, including by consulting with a “diverse range of community groups”

To restore Pride to the event, the LGBT Foundation wants organisers to look to grassroots events such as Trans Pride, Black Pride, Muslim Pride, Reclaim Pride. It also recommends consider a “pay what you can” system and improving disability access, including BSL signing and wheelchair improving.

The report is advisory, and Paul Martin, the charity’s chief, said: “Pride events are hugely important to many LGBTQ+ people, and we want to see Manchester Pride grow and change so that it is inclusive, safe, and fun for all members of our community.

“This report sets out our recommendations in good faith, for improving accessibility and engagement with the community, and we will work closely with Manchester Pride to ensure the Festival is a success.

“We offer ourselves as ongoing allies and partners of Manchester Pride and the recommendations in this report are an opportunity for us to deliver on our vision of believing in a fair and equal society where all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people can reach their full potential.” 

In August 2021, CEO Mark Fletcher was grilled on BBC Radio Manchester over the organisation’s decision to “cut ties” with local charities the LGBT Foundation and George House Trust.

Although he denied the claims, stating that Manchester Pride intended to continue funding their schemes, the charities responded with a joint statement denying this.

“Hearing that Manchester Pride will continue to fund LGBT Foundation and St George Trust on the radio earlier today contradicts the conversations we have had about our long-standing funding agreements which have been ended by them,” they said at the time.

“We have not been given any indication of what future funding might look like or on what terms.”

A drop in charitable donations was put down to a loss of revenue in the wake of COVID-19. However, critics pointed out that the organisation’s charitable contributions had dropped pre-pandemic, too.

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

2019’s event featured a headline performance from Ariana Grande. The pop princess’s reported fee of £350,000 for performing accounted for nearly three times the money handed to local charities.

As charitable donations steadily dropped, Fletcher also took a £20,000 increase in pay.

In response, a petition calling for Fletcher’s resignation amassed hundreds of signatures. Activists also reclaimed Pride in Manchester, holding a protest on the same day as the official event, calling for “pride not profit”.

“Pride is about the whole LGBT+ community, it’s for everyone,” said the event organisers leading up to the protest.

“Manchester Pride should be shouting about trans rights, [Gender Recognition Act] reform and banning conversion therapy. Instead, silence. Pride always has been and always will be a protest. None of us are free until we are all free, both here in Manchester, across the country and across the world.”

A spokesperson for Manchester Pride said: “We welcome constructive recommendations from across the community for how we can continue to adapt and improve as a charity.

“The detail outlined in the report will be carefully considered by our trustees, alongside our own in-depth research from our recent public consultation, which we intend to publish later this month.

“As a valued ally, we welcome the LGBT Foundation’s report and look forward to working alongside the team in pursuit of our combined goal for greater equality for the LGBTQ+ community.”