Pride comes under fire for problems over admission times, overcrowding and more

Criticism of Pride for ‘selling out’ is almost as traditional as rainbow flags and getting a bit partied out. In recent years the annual event has been condemned for its increased commercialism, with detractors regularly pointing out that the original purpose of Pride is to be a protest, not a party.

Bigger name stars attract more people and so ticket revenue increases, allowing more money to be donated to LGBTQ causes

This year’s Pride had attempted to do something different with a “brand new format… stretching from Mayfield to Deansgate with the hub of the festival in The Gay Village.” The closed nature of the event has been seen by many as an anathema to the Pride ethos. Organisers argue that it increases safety and, by purchasing a ticket to enter, this gives Manchester Pride the increased income needed for security and to raise funds for LGBTQ charities. While higher ticket prices reflect the larger offering and increased star power, many worry that this is against the inclusivity that Pride has always stood for.

The new-look Pride attracted criticism from some attendees of the four-day celebration of LGBTQ culture. Poor organisation, overcrowding and lack of communication were the chief issues raised on social media, with some attendees stating that their intention is to ask for a refund.

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Manchester Pride Chris Keller-Jackson

The problem that surfaced almost immediately on social media was that many revellers were unaware that Mayfield had a 'managed capacity' and that last entry was at 7pm. The entry time was not stated on the tickets themselves and fans believed that the announcement on social media came too late for many of them to see it.

More attendees claimed that though they had made it inside Mayfield before the 7pm cut-off, they did not realise that this included re-entry, so some who left to go to the toilet were also refused admittance and separated from their friends, not a good position to be in in a large festival.

As a huge star, Ariana Grande was bound to be a lightning rod for criticism. Detractors questioned her choice as headliner, claiming to be uncomfortable with a straight woman being the ‘face’ of Pride, though many other straight acts have performed at Pride in previous years.

Taking to Twitter, Grande wrote: "The LGBTQ community has been so special to me and supportive throughout my entire career. The relationships I have with my LGBTQ fans, friends, and family make me so so happy. I want to celebrate and support this community, regardless of my identity or how people label me. And also I wanna visit a city that means so much to me. LGBTQ representation is incredibly important, and I'm always proud to share the stage with LGBTQ artists!” 

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Big name sponsors increase Pride revenue Chris Keller-Jackson

Perhaps the most pressing concern was located in the fact that Ariana was rumoured to be the cause of the increase in ticket prices. The List claimed that Grande was offered quarter of a million pounds to appear, after an article originally published in The Sun stated: 'Ariana is expected to bank £250,000 for her appearance at Manchester Pride.' If this figure is correct then it is just £12k less than the whole of the ‘content’ (i.e. Superbia, artists, dance arena, signers, vigil, fundraising events and parade) for 2017.

Grande replied on Twitter: “I have nothing to do with ticket pricing – Manchester Pride sets those rates, and they’re mostly out of my control.”

Pride organisers seem to have taken the position that bigger name stars attract more people and so ticket revenue increases, allowing more money to be donated to LGBTQ causes.

According to 2017’s annual review, Manchester Pride had a total revenue of £1,569,714 and an expenditure of £950,277. After accounting for overheads such as administration and staff costs (£609,073) there was approximately £161,000 left to distribute to LGBTQ causes throughout the year, including the Superbia programme of cultural and educational events. Headline acts that year included Mel C and Example. 

The 2018 review has not yet been published.

Some trans members of the community were also concerned that security arrangements were not up to standard as anti-trans protestors managed to join the parade, while a group of disabled attendees have written an open letter to Manchester Pride 'after the 2019 Pride events left many disabled people unsupported, confused, and at worst, ashamed.'

Read the full letter here.

The CEO of Pride, Mark Fletcher, has since responded in a statement regarding the anti-trans protest: "Although we cannot take responsibility for the actions of others, we are sorry for any hurt that the actions of this group has caused."

Amid the concerns performances gained rave reviews from attendees. Ariana's heartfelt performance of 'One Last Time' especially struck a chord with many of the crowd. The parade was also a huge success, with appearances from RuPaul's Drag Race and HOME winning the best overall entry for their oversized astronaut which reflected the 'Deep Space' theme of the parade. Celebrations ended on Monday with the traditional candlelit vigil in remembrance of those lost to HIV and AIDS and those still suffering from persecution around the world today.

Councillor Pat Karney has stated that he will call a meeting with the Pride organisers "to see what lessons can be learned" from the issues raised. 

Main image by Chris Keller-Jackson 

Manchester Pride responds

A spokesperson for Manchester Pride returned our request for comment with this statement:

"Manchester Pride Live was an element of Manchester Pride Festival which is a multi-site event. The festival ticket gained guests access to performances with managed capacities across the Mayfield site and the Gay Village and was not to see one artist.

"The last entry time of 7pm at Manchester Pride Live was published on our website and in the terms and conditions when purchasing tickets. We also promoted the closure via social media across the weekend. We had to turn away approximately 30 people who arrived after this time or left the site before and tried to come back."