UK’s National Trans Memorial ‘irreparably damaged’ by fire during Manchester Pride weekend

National Trans Memorial tree burned Manchester before and after

The UK’s National Trans Memorial has been “irreparably damaged” after it was set on fire during Manchester Pride.

The memorial, carved from a tall sycamore tree decorated with plaques remembering the victims of transphobic hate crimes, caught fire on Sunday night (29 August) as Manchester Pride celebrations concluded.

The memorial is located in the city’s Sackville Gardens, and had already been used as a urinal by Pride-goers throughout the weekend.

After the fire, national transgender charity Sparkle wrote on Facebook that the charred memorial was “irreparably damaged” and is “now structurally unsound”.

Vicki Mulligan, chair of the board of trustees for Sparkle, told PinkNews that the incident was “deeply upsetting” to the organisation and everyone in the local community.

She added the charity is in contact with Manchester Pride, Greater Manchester Police and the Greater Fire and Rescue Service to ensure there will be a “thorough investigation into how the fire happened” and the “time it took to put the fire out”.

“It’s important to stress that no one knows if the fire was a deliberate act of vandalism,” Mulligan said.

She continued: “What is clear though from reports is that Manchester Pride’s nominated security weren’t aware of the memorial and the importance it holds with trans, non-binary and gender expansive communities, and were allowing visitors to the Manchester Pride Big Weekend to urinate against it, an act of criminal damage in itself, and perhaps representative of the ignorance and abuse our community faces daily.”

Fire damage to the National Trans Memorial in Manchester

The National Trans Memorial was badly damaged by the fire and is “structurally unsound” as a result. (Sparkle)

Mulligan added Sparkle also questioned why “measures weren’t in place to protect the memorial following damage during previous Manchester Pride events”. The memorial was vandalised in 2013 and restored a couple of months later.

Jay Crawford, a charity events organiser at Sparkle, told Manchester Evening News that – as far as the charity was aware – there was an “ignition” that was “witnessed in the park”.

He said the charity believed the damage “may have come from a cigarette” left against the tree and had “gone into a gap and bellowed out from the middle”.

National Trans Memorial was to host Pride vigil

The memorial had been a gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community to remember fallen members of the trans community.

It was due to be the site of a candlelit vigil on Monday evening (29 August), the culmination of the four-day Manchester Pride event, honouring those lost to HIV and AIDS and the need to continue fighting the stigma still present today.

“Those wishing to pay their respects to deceased trans relatives and friends this [Monday] evening during tonight’s vigil will not be able to do it next to the memorial,” Sparkle wrote. “Representatives from the charity will be by the memorial to protect attendees.”

Sparkle’s Jay Crawford told the Manchester Evening News:  “We have a vigil here every year in November, at the end of Trans Awareness Week. This is the staple of our community and is the only one of its kind in the country.”

Crawford said it was “absolutely galling” to learn of the “significant damage” to the memorial as he’d “probably spent 200 hours looking after this tree over the last eight years”.

An image of the National Trans Memorial in Manchester

The National Trans Memorial remembers the lives of victims of transphobic hate crimes. (Sparkle)

A group of volunteers spent hours attempting to clearing the mess from the fire, and adding colourful flowers around the site, Manchester Evening News reported.

Sparkle is now exploring how the memorial can be replaced by a “lasting and resilient monument that reflects the rich diversity of the trans, non-binary and gender expansive communities”.

A spokesperson from Manchester Pride told PinkNews that the LGBTQ+ charity was “saddened to hear” of the damage to the National Trans Memorial. They were also disheartened that this incident meant “those who have suffered the loss of trans friends and relatives were not able to participate fully” in the candlelight vigil.

“We stand with our trans family, and we are working with Sparkle to find a suitable and resilient replacement to ensure that a long-lasting legacy is created in time for the next vigil to honour those who have been lost,” the spokesperson added.

Greater Manchester Police could not confirm to PinkNews if the damage to the National Trans Memorial had been reported as a crime.

PinkNews has contacted LGBT Foundation.