Anger grows over Manchester Pride

Plus: the true cost of levelling up, and 'local journalism at its absolute best'

Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s Monday briefing, in which we delve into the deepening row over Manchester Pride. We also have the latest Covid-19 data as cases begin to rise again and some excellent reading recommendations found by Mollie and Dani.

But first: We had a phenomenal response to Jacklin’s long read about Greater Manchester’s ever-tighter embrace of China. The Athletic’s football writer Adam Crafton called it “local journalism at its absolute best” and the veteran former BBC political journalist Michael Crick recommended it on Twitter. The foreign policy expert Tom Cargill said the piece was a reminder of “how vital local journalism is” and new member Martin Bryant tweeted: “I've been meaning to subscribe to @ManchesterMill for a while, and this article got me to do it.”

Welcome to Martin and all our new members — we’ve signed up more in the past week than we did in the previous month, thanks to Jacklin’s story, the i newspaper article last week and a lovely Reddit thread in which many of you recommended us. We’re getting perilously close to 1,000 members — the aim is to get there to celebrate our one year anniversary of launching paid memberships in late September.

As a tiny startup without a marketing department or much budget for anything, we’re extremely grateful that you have been so active in spreading the word about what we are doing. Thank you — and if there’s anyone you know who might like The Mill, please do send them this newsletter and encourage them to sign up to the mailing list. Personal recommendations are always the most powerful way of getting new Millers on the list.

Last week we published Dani’s profile of a young Manchester creative trying to break into photography, Robert Firth’s in-depth look at the past and future of Pomona Island, and Mollie’s interview with young school leavers on results day. If you’re not a member, join up now to read those.

Coming up this week we have a piece interviewing local veterans who served in Afghanistan, a story about an American professor who started a groundbreaking community project in the city centre and — possibly, we’re still working on it — an amazing story about an adopted Mancunian who came here to escape the clutches of a Brazilian cult.

This week’s weather 🌧

Covid-19 update

  • Case rates: The case rate for Greater Manchester is 310.8, up 2.7% compared to England’s 305.1, up 3.8%. Cases are rising in all boroughs apart from Manchester and Oldham. Salford has the highest infection rate in GM, of around 400. Bolton has the lowest, near the 200-mark.

  • Hospitalisations: There were 68 Covid-19 patients in critical care in GM’s hospital’s last week, down 2 from the week before and well below the peak of 170 we saw in February. The total number of patients with the virus in our hospitals minus critical care is 319, down from 328. The full hospital data is here and we will have the updated figures in Wednesday’s newsletter.

  • Vaccinations: As of August 9th, almost 1.6 million people in GM (or 65% of adults) have now had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. 92% of over-70s have received their second dose, 85% of 50-69s and 49% of 18-49s.

  • Rules: People who are fully vaccinated no longer have to isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. The change should lessen the severity of the so-called “pingdemic” which has caused widespread problems to services and workplaces.

The big story: Manchester Pride

Top line: There has been growing disquiet in the city’s LGBT community about Manchester Pride in recent weeks. The charity stands accused of directing too little of its income to charity and neglecting its campaigning role in the city.

The touchpaper: A BBC story kicked off the controversy two weeks ago when it reported:

Manchester Pride will no longer fund the distribution of free condoms and lubricant to promote safer sex. The charity, which has supported the scheme since it was launched 27 years ago by the LGBT Foundation, said it had to make "tough decisions" due to the financial impact of the Covid pandemic.

Pride chief executive Mark Fletcher was quoted saying: “Not being able to deliver in person events had a detrimental effect on our ability to [generate] income and raise funds in the way that we had planned. And, like many other charities, we have had to take some tough decisions as we focus on recovering.”

  • Pride will host a weekend of music and parades from Friday August 27th until the Bank Holiday Monday, with Annie Mac and a secret pop act headlining.

  • A “Rainbow Pass” for the Sunday of Pride costs £60.50, and a pass for the weekend is £76.45. A Gay Village weekend pass is £24.75.

The reaction: The decision has generated considerable anger online among those who say it shows how the festival has become “commercialised”. A petition calling for Fletcher to resign now has over 1,600 signatures. It says: “The community will take no more, it’s time for Mark to step down as the CEO and Manchester Pride to use his £80k+ p/a salary to fund LGBTQ+ causes rather than line Mark’s pockets.”

Local Lib Dem council candidate Chris Northwood told The Mill some bars along Canal Street will not require the festival wristband for entry anymore and have organised their own fundraiser. She said:

From the outside it seems like the charity is prioritising the music festival element above things like the protest and supporting good causes. I think there's a lot of anger towards the Manchester Pride organisers and a feeling of betrayal or that they've commercialised Pride.

Mixed messaging: Speaking on BBC Radio Manchester last week, Fletcher denied cutting ties with the two charities and claimed there was “confusion” on social media. On whether they’d continue to fund the Safer Sex Scheme, he said: “We funded them this year and we want to continue funding them next year.”

  • In a joint statement, the charities said this radio interview directly contradicted conversations about future funding and pressed for an urgent meeting between Manchester Pride and the charities.

3%: What you hear again and again among those angry with Pride is a key stat: that the charity only distributes 3% of its almost-£4 million income to charities. The BBC says that in 2018 it was 6% or £150,000. Ariana Grande’s headline performance at the 2019 festival cost a reported £350,000, part of a £1.5 million spend on event production.

Bottom line: Mark Fletcher says it is “not likely” he will resign over the controversy, and a meeting convened on Thursday between Manchester Pride, LGBT Foundation, George House Trust and local councillors was described as “productive” and agreed on further meetings after the festival to explore how Pride can support the work of the charities after this year’s event.

Home of the week

This lovely 4-bedroom end terrace house in West Didsbury has airy spacious rooms and is on the market for £725,000. Alternatively, you can buy a 3-bedroom semi-detached house in East Didsbury for about £200,000.

Other local news in brief

  • More than 70 sex workers have now been vaccinated thanks to a mobile service in Manchester’s red light district. “Some women providing sex work on the street might have a long-term respiratory condition, substance misuse, or be homeless. Knowing all of this, we knew the women were unlikely to get the vaccine unless we stepped in,” says the head of Manchester Action on Street Health. Read more.

  • Analysis from the think tank Centre for Cities says that Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds have the “lowest productivity and life expectancy in western Europe”. Funding needed to “level-up” the UK will need to be of a similar scale to the £2 trillion cost of the reunification of Germany, the group says, calling the government’s spending commitments to date a "drop in the ocean. Read more.

  • A young dancer who survived the Manchester Arena attack has achieved the GCSE results she needs to pursue her dream of eventually working on Broadway. The Evening Standard reports that Emily Petty suffered with PTSD and lost confidence after the incident. “The dance really helps me as it makes me feel like I am in another world and I can forget about it.” Read more.

🕵️‍♂️ If you want to tell us about a story or pass us some information, please email, or We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch…

Things to do

Street Food | There’s a vegan street food pop up on the sun terrace at the Nip and Tipple in Whalley Range every Tuesday, with a new surprise menu every week. More info here.

Festival | A new festival in Hulme Park this weekend is promising live music, capoeira dance, kids face painting and DJs in a celebration of Manchester’s diverse culture. Find out more here.

Stand up | Adam Kay is performing stand-up at Manchester Opera House this Friday and Saturday night, based on diary entries from his bestselling book This is Going to Hurt. The event has great reviews and is meant to be a balance of hilarity and heartbreak. Book here.

Podcast | Stuart Maconie and Rochdale’s very own radio star Elizabeth Alker have teamed up to bring you Notable Podcast, which offers brilliant stories “from the annals of music history.” We liked this episode, which explores Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’ and Basil Kirchin, one of the “true mavericks” of British music. Listen here.

Book | On Wednesday, join Carcanet Press as they celebrate the launch of Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020, the first non-fiction work from Fred D’Aguiar, a British-Guyanese poet, novelist, and playwright. It’s described as a “beautiful and challenging memoir”. The event is online and you can register here.

Film | Kinofilm Festival is coming to Withington this weekend, and will be running until 29 August. The Gala opening is on Sunday at Cafe Blah, and you can expect a varied lineup throughout next week including an Iranian cinema programme and work from University of Salford MA Documentary graduates. More information here.

Book of the week: Next Door

We enjoyed this poetry collection by Manchester-based writer John McAuliffe which explores the domestic tensions, private lives, complex relationships and vivid nightlife of English cities and Irish towns.

Quick clouds flit in the sky’s corners.

Flat out in the heat like a film,

the city’s empty, the future of a hundred towns.

The kids run off; we share a cold and fizzy beer

but I close my eyes as you say, ‘We could not,

would not be anywhere but here,’

Next Door is available to buy here.

Our favourite reads

On the anniversary of the Peterloo massacre, Tribune Magazine has republished E.P. Thompson’s “landmark essay” that examines the events of that day and the actions of the authorities. He writes: “At the centre of the obsession is this: what happened on that day was unintentional, and the crowd (or part of it) was the first aggressor.”

We liked this piece from The Athletic about Manchester United’s Brandon Williams, who goes back to his mother’s greasy spoon cafe in Harphurhey. “Don’t say you haven’t been warned. It is there, in black and white, at The Snack Attack cafe, in Harpurhey’s indoor market, to let you know what you are dealing with. The message is, ‘Never underestimate the power of an extremely pissed off woman’.”

This interesting piece from Social History blog takes a look at the oral history of shoplifting and the emergence of Manchester’s new retail culture. Dr Charlotte Wildman from the University of Manchester writes: “The successful shoplifters of today are smartly dressed girls who walk into the stores with the assurance of credit customers, deliberately select their spoils, cover each other’s movements — or, as it is known in the slang of the craft, ‘make a good smother’ — and get away with thousands of pounds worth of goods in the shopping seasons.”

A vivid feature in BBC News takes a look at a gig by American soul icons Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Muddy Waters at a disused train station in Whalley Range in 1964. Dr Chris Lee, a professor at the University of Salford, said it was during a time when Manchester had the “hottest jazz and blues scene in the country” and the rest of the nation was just catching up. Watch the performance here.

Longtime Miller Vaughan Allen, who is the chief executive at CityCo and leads Manchester’s Business Improvement District, has responded to the Centre for Cities research last week which suggested less than 17% of office workers have returned to their offices in Manchester city centre. You can read his counter-analysis here.

Photo of the week

This photo shows ‘sunray treatment’, a medicinal use of ultraviolet light, prescribed to poorly children up until the 1960s. Some dermatologists think the treatment is linked to skin cancer. In Manchester: Something rich and strange, historian Paul Dobraszczyk writes: “Light was the cure for a range of childhood maladies and a restorative cure for many ills. Patients wore goggles and little else as they absorbed the magical rays.”

Letters to the editor

We loved that wilderness. (‘Palaces, parties and high-rise property: The story of Manchester’s forgotten island’.) It was like a hidden treasure in the heart of the city with a mysterious perfect tarmac road that went nowhere and that nobody drove on. It was magical and strange. But, as the article says, it wasn't always like that, so maybe we should take heart. Once it was unimaginable that the land could be abandoned — but it was. Maybe history will repeat itself and a future generation will once again wander around amongst the remains of defunct buildings, with wild flowering shrubs and grasses and butterflies and birds while the city hurries past. Colleen, Withington

My daughter is part of the Covid cohort who have had to deal not only with A-Levels in which politicians were making it up as they went along but now also columnists and every other clueless person sharing their half-arsed ‘take’ on whether the results are meaningful or not. (‘Excited, nervous, patronised by the media: The thoughts of school leavers on results day’.) The meaning is not in the grades. It’s in pushing on through and getting to now, and somehow making sense of it and moving on. All we have the right to do is listen to them and try to understand what they’ve managed to do — thank you for helping with that. Wonderful to hear students’ voices and see them daring to allow themselves hope. Lucy, Stockport

Please send your letter to with your name and where you are from.

That’s it — you’re all caught up.