Preview: Manchester Pride

Director of Manchester Pride Jackie Crozier tells Lianne Steinberg why 2011 marks another special year in the life of the festival

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Celebrating its 21st anniversary, Manchester Pride remains a tour de force in the UK’s annual events calendar. With a ten-day series of events, the festival has come a long way from its origins as a fundraising event for HIV and Aids charities. Now some of the biggest names in pop and entertainment such as Pixie Lott, Alexandra Burke and Blue line up alongside artists, actors and comedians to entertain not only a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender audience but the wider community. Having been festival director for the past six years, Jackie Crozier has witnessed Pride blossom and break down barriers of ignorance or intolerance that may have previously existed.

“It is most definitely heart-warming. Manchester Pride has always been an inclusive event but
I believe now that perceptions of LGBT people are changing and more people are openly out and proud as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, there leaves more room for comfortable integration,” she says.

“After Manchester Pride each year I feel as though the city is a lot more open and shows more warmth. Many people feel free to hold hands and show affection in public, when perhaps before this they would not. What is interesting about the parade each year is that many gather to watch it almost as a tourist attraction, uncertain of what to expect, though after seeing LGBT people in all different shapes and sizes they begin to understand us better as people.”

Fulfilling the already high expectations of loyal revellers during this special anniversary year won’t be easy but Crozier is convinced they’ve managed to create a programme that combines celebration with respect for the festival’s strong heritage.

“We’re planning to get nostalgic. The exhibition Queer To Stay: 21 Years Of Manchester Pride has already opened at the Lowry. We’re also hosting a bring and buy sale as a part of Manchester Pride Fringe. This pays homage to the trestle tables outside of the Rembrandt 20 years ago that marked the first ever Pride. Aside from this, we are celebrating how we would any other birthday: a fantastic party,” she exclaims.

“Manchester Pride’s numerous elements combine to make it the best UK pride [as voted for five years running by the Pink Paper]. After everything that has gone on recently it will be a great thing to come together for such an important birthday and celebrate all things positive about this country.”

Crozier acknowledges that the recent riots in the city caused a certain amount of alarm, but she firmly believes that community spirit will triumph.

“My initial thoughts when it happened not only concerned Manchester Pride, but our wonderful city full stop. It wasn’t until I began to hear the details of targeted shops that I stopped and thought:?‘What if they were to come to our offices?’

“Thankfully, Manchester’s inclusive and supportive Gay Village is very self-sustaining. It was business as usual the next day and the public were heading down in their droves for drinks, not only to show these criminals that we love Manchester but also to support the bars getting back on their feet.”

For Crozier, this will be her last Pride as festival director.

“I have loved every second of my work with Manchester Pride – albeit through some stressful moments – and wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

“Leaving the festival is sad but I know now that it is time for me to move on and pursue new challenges. I feel privileged to be its acting festival director as it turns 21 this year, celebrating the long way it has come since 1991.

“I love Manchester, I love Manchester Pride, and I know that even in my absence, it will be a part of my life for a long time to come.”

Manchester Pride 2011, 19-29 August,

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