Manchester Pride condemned for dropping ‘groundbreaking’ condom scheme: ‘It’s a music festival now’

Manchester Pride has cut funding for a “groundbreaking” scheme that’s been giving out free condoms and lube since 1994.

The free condom and lube distribution scheme in Manchester is the longest-running of its kind globally, and has given out more than 31 million safer sex packs across Greater Manchester over the past 27 years.

The scheme began at the height of the HIV epidemic in the UK, initially giving out free condoms and lube to gay and bisexual men working and living in or visiting Manchester. It now provides safer sex packs to people in the wider LGBT+ community, too.

Manchester Pride has financially supported the scheme since it began, but according to a statement posted on Facebook by the LGBT+ Foundation it is “no longer in a position to continued funding it in future”.

Mark Fletcher, chief executive of Manchester Pride, said in a statement that the free condom and lube distribution scheme was “absolutely vital” and that Manchester Pride has “been proud to support it”.

“Sadly the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Manchester Pride,” Fletcher said. “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.”

He added that Manchester Pride had to make “tough decisions” to “focus on recovering”, and encouraged other charities to come forward to fund the scheme.

Paul Martin, chief executive of the LGBT+ Foundation, which runs the scheme, in a statement: “We’re sorry to see the partnership with Manchester Pride is ending.

“But we are grateful for their support over the last quarter of a century and look forward to many more years of working with Manchester Pride in support of LGBTQ+ people in Greater Manchester.”

The LGBT+ Foundation has pledged that the scheme “will continue in future” but has called for “ideas or offers of support” regarding how it will be funded.

Manchester Pride accused of putting pop concert above community

The news has been met with anger from many in Manchester’s LGBT+ community, who point to the importance of the pioneering sexual health initiative in promoting safer sex and to Manchester Pride’s lack of “community focus”.

“Manchester Pride have demonstrated nothing but contempt for Manchester’s gay village and its community for several years now, but this is a new low, even by their standards,” wrote one person under the LGBT+ Foundation’s Facebook post about the decision.

They continued: “Stop paying for their pop concerts. Stop waiting for their permission to hold a march. Stop buying tickets to enter your own gay village, which the Pride board openly admit they don’t visit the rest of the year.

“Manchester Pride Ltd is a corrupt, profiteering racket, and shame on everyone who has allowed them to seize the power they have without challenge.”

Another person said the decision was “yet another sign that Manchester Pride only has its own interests at play and is not a community focussed or spirited organisation”.

They continued: “Keeping hold of the vital condom and lube scheme should not have been a ‘difficult decision’ by any stretch. Any thread of support I had for Manchester Pride has now evaporated.

“They should be utterly ashamed. It’s a music festival now. They are obviously more excited about making announcements about big name pop acts and raising their own profile. Move it to a park. Reclaim the Village. Reclaim Pride. Manchester truly deserves so much better.”

Manchester Pride recently announced the line-up for this year’s MCR Pride Live, which will take place between 28-29 August.

Zara Larsson, Annie Mac, Gabrielle, Katy B, Drag Race UK stars and Eve lead the lineup. Manchester Pride also said it has secured another major artist as the headline performer on Saturday, but says it “will not be in a position to reveal their identity until 27 August, right before the bank holiday weekend show”.

Weekend tickets for the two-day event first went on sale for £76.45 on Ticketmaster, with final release tickets costing £92.95.

PinkNews contacted Manchester Pride for comment.