Make the most of this year’s Manchester Pride Big Weekend. Because it won’t be the same again.
The annual August bank holiday festival will look and feel radically different from next year.
The four day event has been around for more than 25 years and has traditionally only place only in the Gay Village around Canal Street.
But because of the level of property development in the area, including a substantial risk of development on the Sackville Street car park which currently houses the Thomas Cook Airlines Main Stage, there won’t be enough space for the event to take place in the same way it has always been.
“A number of reasons have led to our making this decision for 2019, in order to avoid disappointing our audience in the future,” said Manchester Pride chief executive, Mark Fletcher.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to plan and deliver The Big Weekend in a space that is decreasing in size. Next year there will be more developments taking shape that will further reduce the space available for us to deliver a safe event to the current scale.
“In addition to this, and equally impactful, is that the terms for the use of the privately owned spaces that house our Main Arena and Dance Arena have changed. Essentially this means that we cannot be certain that we’ll be able to use these areas up until three months before the event is scheduled to take place. We simply cannot take the risk of disappointing the tens of thousands of people who come along to experience the first class entertainment provided in these spaces.”
“It’s true that Pride will never look the same again – it can’t as there simply won’t be the space”, said Mark. “But this doesn’t mean we will be turning our back on the neighbourhood which LGBT+ people have fought so hard to create as a safe space. There will always be a role for Manchester’s unique gay village in the celebration.
“As we take on the challenge of reincarnating the festival we will provide an opportunity for Manchester’s LGBT+ people to tell us what they want from their festival in 2019. We constantly review and listen to all of the feedback that we receive from our surveys and stakeholder consultations. We hold our listening group events each year and I’m sure that this topic will be at the top of the agenda at the next one due to take place in October.”
The Liberal Democrat opposition have slammed the Labour group for being in “complete confusion” over the plans.
Opposition Leader and gay rights campaigner John Leech, who led the successful campaign to pardon Alan Turing, said that moving the celebration from its home will ‘rip the heart out of Manchester’.
“Manchester provided a home and a sanctuary for the oppressed to express their love, and begin their long fight for equal rights,” he said. ”There has also been no consideration for local businesses and the impact that removing the main Pride stage from Canal Street will have on independent traders.
“Labour have not properly consulted local people at any stage of this process, they have disregarded the views of those that have raised concerns and are themselves in complete confusion, unable to guarantee any firm home for the festival next year just weeks before this year’s is due to begin.
“They must halt these greedy plans until they come up with something concrete they can propose to the community.”
Councillor Pat Karney of Manchester city council, said: “We’ll be sitting down with the team at Manchester Pride to see how Manchester city council can help in the planning for the future of the festival. We are very proud of what Pride brings to the city and we intend to offer maximum support.”
The event, which began as a bring and buy sale on Canal Street, has grown massively over the years, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for LGBT+ causes. It has played host to international stars including Dannii Minogue, Will Young and Clean Bandit.
This year will see Rita Ora performing on the famous car park stage – the last time it will be used to hold such a performance.