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Video shows the public being given the runaround in 2007 & 2008 as they try to attend the Monday HIV/AIDS Vigil

When wristbands were reintroduced in 2003 the gay community was assured that the Monday night HIV/AIDS Vigil would always be free to attend. However we kept on hearing stories of people being told they must buy a band. Also we were told that people without one were made to queue outside the gate. Sometimes for more than an hour and in the rain. It almost felt like a form of "punishment" for not paying. We went along to take a look.

Originally this video was shown at Get Bent! in 2007. This is an updated version which includes 2008 and information about the developments since 2014. It is now clear that charging people to walk on the street was unlawful all along and that the organisations involved knew that in November 2002.

Despite us writing to Tony Lloyd, the MP for Manchester, after 2007, we still recorded issues in 2008. The former Festival Director has denied this ever happened at the Vigil. Despite evidence being on video.

Laughably, Manchester Pride claims to campaign "for the advancement of LGBT+ equality" and "aims to challenge discrimination." But apparently inequality and discrimination are fine when it's on a financial basis and Manchester Pride gets the cash. Pride staff enjoyed an 18% increase in earnings between 2015 and 2017 and since 2014 the overall increase is 56.27% per head. As follows: 2014-2015 was a 32.95% increase, 2015-2016 another 12.02%, then 2016-2017 another 4.93%.

You may have read about Manchester Pride's new rainbow flag in 2019? It has brown and black stripes as supposedly this makes it more inclusive. However, Black and Ethnic Minority LGBT people tend to have less spending power. That means they're more likely to be excluded by a high-cost event such as Manchester Pride.

With city businesses benefiting to the tune of an £22m of extra business due to this event, according to Marketing Manchester, there is no good reason why the public should fund fences, security and street cleaning. The wristband was always a device to exclude poorer people so only the wealthier who had other money to spend would occupy one of the limited places in the gay village.

Blocking people from the public streets was illegal. They could have been allowed to wander around the gay village and some businesses would have let them in without a wristband.

The charity George House Trust, which organised the Vigil, knew it was unlawful to do this. A representative of GHT was at the meeting on 25 November 2002 at which they were told, by the police, that they couldn't charge people to enter public streets that were closed using a traffic order.

Despite this they went ahead and for some reason (which is still unexplained) the police did nothing about it. Here are the minutes of that meeting (PDF). See the bottom of page two.

George House Trust and what is now known as the LGBT Foundation organised and sold the wristbands between 2003 and 2006 under the name Operation Fundraiser.

In 2014 the Department For Transport confirmed that blocking access to premises (homes and businesses) was unlawful and the following April, 2015, the Local Government Ombudsman ruled (PDF) that Manchester City Council had exceeded its powers by mentioning wristbands in a traffic order so it could be used to block pedestrians from public pavements.

You may like to reconsider any support for George House Trust, Manchester Pride and others, such as the LGBT Foundation, until they make a full public apology for their involvement in this decade-long organised fraud, which led to heartache and exclusion for many people.

Factsheet 2022/23

2022 factsheet Our 2022 Factsheet (PDF) about Manchester Pride is available (there won't be a new factsheet for 2023). Read about your right to access the Gay Village without buying a wristband, history & opinion .

Download the PDF version.

And here it is as two images (handy for sharing on social media): page 1 | page 2

Our factsheet from 2021 is still well-worth a look. It has four pages of facts, gossip and fun. Download it as a PDF here. See our factsheets page for other years.

Useful reading

The ruling by the Local Government Ombudsman in April 2015 (PDF). The Ombudsman decided that Manchester City Council had exceeded its powers by mentioning wristbands in a traffic order and that it was unlawful to restrict access to premises (businesses and homes).

Minutes of a meeting at Marketing Manchester in November 2002. These show that those present were told they couldn't charge people to enter public streets. However some of them went ahead and did so from 2003 onwards for a decade.

At the meeting were: Manchester City Council, GHT, the LGF (now known as the LGBT Foundation), Marketing Manchester, the organisers of Europride 2003. The advice seems to have come from the police. Yet the police apparently then turned a blind eye...

This document was unearthed at the Library Archives quite recently by a FactsMCR campaigner.

The media

Since the ruling by the Local Government Ombudsman in 2015 the media — both LGBT and mainstream — have stayed silent about the decade-long wristband fiddle and your rights. So some people continue to pay unnecessarily.

All your favourites know: GayStarNews, Pink News, Manchester Evening News, The Guardian, BBC and many more. In a letter to us, the BBC defended its journalist right not to report this. The same BBC that championed consumer rights at one time now prefers to cosy up to the civil-rights-infringing Manchester Pride, as a "sponsor" (the BBC says it doesn't give money).

These organisations don't need to lie. They simply ignore an issue completely. Or, they report some of the facts; perhaps popping in just one or two bits they don't like, to add a fake impression of balance. That's how they manipulate opinion in the direction they think it should go.

The veteran ITV reporter John Pilger says that "not reporting" is the most powerful form of censorship.

What else aren't they telling us?