Sex Wars: Attack of the Clone Zone

April 21, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the bunker we find ourselves on the bring of yet another Pink Pound war.

Following on from our recent article “Gay Dating Wars” we have stumbled upon an emerging row between two of the UK’s largest gay retailers.

The use of the word “Exclusive!” in the title of the story the Pink Paper (owned by the dark lord Prowler group) suggests they are relying on sources that may stem from gossip, rumour and pure speculation. The emphasis on this particular story is interesting as there is a clear motive behind it’s publication, and Clone Zone have quite fairly bashed back.

Decent Journalists and those who know some of the basics of media headline creation will see red when they read phrase “an anonymous member of the public” – tried and tested classic way of deceiving people into thinking the facts have been investigated and the anonymity is because what they are saying is true but want to protect their identity. Even so, it’s also a media excuse for making things up.

As it happens, the Pink Paper’s publishers Millivres Prowler Group are among the list of those owed significant amount of money which the Pink Paper estimate totals at least of £500,000 (according to an unnamed “insider”). Although most people in the same position as Millivres Prowler Group are right to be annoyed at not being paid but don’t be fooled into thinking this is news. The Pink Paper’s report on Clone Zone is nothing but a cleverly constructed case of commercial smear.

On the recently revamped Pink Paper website they recently introduced a commenting feature. Since it was launched it is rarely used, either few people are commenting on their articles or they are choosing to exercise some level of editorial control over public feedback so it is again surprising to see a flood of vicious comments making a range of plain nasty statements about the individuals involved.

The most obvious example of “self-trolling” in order to support the article is this one:

“use your pink pound elsewhere now – shop at prowler and any other decent trading company”

The weekly readers poll in the same issue, also run via the Pink Paper’s website apparently posted by “anonymous”  the day before the paper’s regular weekly publication date asks:

“Should directors whose firms go bust be allowed to run a business again?” – “If your bosses made your company go bust and made you redundant in the process, should they be allowed to side-step into another directorial role?”

You’d expect a “registered newspaper” to have more than 16 people voting in a poll nearly a week after it was created. This could be due to the fact that the relatively poor volume of traffic the site receives compared to it’s biggest rivals which are relatively small operations, many of them non-profit or social-enterprises run by one or two people from home.


In an unepected twist, those who have a clear interest in this particular fight have stepped into the ring and stood up for Clone Zone and have pledged to publish an official statement from the former directors. Manchester based charity the Lesbian and Gay Foundation who also publish a monthly regional gay health and lifestyle magazine “OutNorthWest” have today placed an article on their website under the headline “Clone Zone Bosses Upset at Pink Paper Headline“.

It should be noted that the LGF provide content to the Pink Paper but also rely on significant advertising revenue from Clone Zone. The LGF seem to be attempting to juggle a conflict of neutrality and may be attempting to balance the fuss or perhaps they are making a moral objection to Millivres Prowler’s bully-boy reporting around the situation of a business that has it’s roots in the same community they do.

Previous issues of OutNorthWest have seen several advert placements plugging the adult retailer over the years, the magazine’s editor claims they rely entirely on advertising revenue in order to produce the publication which has a readership of over 60,000. This month (February 2009) contains no advertising for Clone Zone. Although one advert for their more profitable arm “H20 Sauna” remains.

Gossip is an essential part of any community, it allows us to communicate and allows us to inquire about the status of our peers with our peers. The LGF may be quite right in giving so much space on it’s website to a story which airs the dirty laundry of two major players in the country’s gay business community despite this having implications on their own future.

Perhaps the LGF may now consider extending that same opportunity to the wider community, instead of giving so much airspace to rich sponsors even if they vanish tomorrow.

Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.
– Mohandas Gandhi

GayMafiaWatch asks…

To the Editor of the Pink Paper:
Are you so naive to think the public won’t see right through this story you’ve obviously generated to serve the direct financial interests of your parent company? What do you say to Clone Zone’s response that your article about that is unfair and upsetting?

To the Directors of Clone Zone:
What do you think about your alleged creditors using one of their national gay publications as a way of attacking you? and will you continue to stock the (free) weekly Pink Paper as a result? do you feel the change in the formulation of poppers and their resulting unpopularity due to new legislation have contributed to Clone Zone’s problems?

To the Lesbian and Gay Foundation:
Will the new owners of Clone Zone honor existing advertising deals made with yourselves? they appear to have removed all their adverts in your latest issue of OutNorthWest so what impact will this have on the magazine’s future? oh and one last question, who’s your daddy?

You! – tell us what you think, post your comments below:

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Ticket to pRide: another wristband rip-off!

April 12, 2009

Last year GayMafiaWatch published an article about Manchester Pride 2007 exposing “The truth about where your wristband money really went” – and how less than 1% of the charity’s income went to LGBT community groups.

Shocked at what we had uncovered, a number of people printed the article off and began handing it out outside the ticket offices to the dismay of festival organisers. Less than a week later, Chair of the Village Business Association Phil Burke resigned from the Board of Manchester Pride claiming the event was “run by dictators” and is “just about making money”.

Phil Burke’s resignation made the front page of the Manchester Evening News and sent shockwaves throughout the gay community causing many others to speak out, although he wasn’t the first despite being the most notable.

Fully aware of the articles published right here on GayMafiaWatch and over on a number of other websites over six months later neither Manchester Pride or its partners (all of whom keep scamming the public) have made no attempt to dispute or explain their deplorable actions. In fact they’ve continued to break their own rules and have once again distributed funding to a number of false community projects and dodgy enterprises in 2008.

Favoritism, cronyism, nepotism, downright self-serving greed is alive and kicking amongst the more influential members of Manchester gay community at the expense of everyone else they claim to serve.

Once again Manchester City Council’s flagship “Lesbian and Gay” charity – the Lesbian and Gay Foundation have been at the centre of the storm. In terms of the number of staff it employs the LGF is the BIGGEST gay charity in the UK.

In the terms and conditions on the application forms for Pride funding it clearly states:

“Multiple applications from the same organisation will not be accepted due to the large number of applications we receive”

Obviously the Lesbian and Gay Foundation feel they are EXEMPT this rule and have again submitted numerous application for their “core services” disguised as independent groups (which clearly they are not).

Here’s a break-down of their scam:

Icebreakers – Ongoing core costs to run the group over the next year

Carousel Group – Ongoing core costs to run the group over the year

Gay Married Men’s Group – Further development of the website – plus contribution towards venue hire and resources

Black North West – Costs towards developing a BME photo library plus venue hire & resource costs.

40+ Gay & Bisexual Men’s Group – Ongoing core costs to run the group over the year & costs towards workshops

Stepping Stones –  Ongoing core costs & money to buy a laptop for the group

Art Class – The Manchester Pride website simply calls this group “Art Class” – but the LGF’s own website lists at as “the LGF Art Class” and the logo has their logo imposed on top of it – as do all of the other groups listed above.

These groups are ALL facilitated by staff and volunteers of the Lesbian & Gay Foundation and meets at their offices.

They also enjoy large amounts of free publicity in LGF publications and access to resources such a free internet, phones and stationary (which other groups are denied). Even more sneakily they are using their funding to pay for room hire in their OWN building – already funded by Manchester City Council and other local authorities.

Maximum grants are around £1,000 (we hear they’ve all applied for the maximum) meaning that approximately £7,000 of extra funding has been skimmed off the Pride Community fund by the LGF in the guide of non-related groups – this is in addition to at least £25,000 they already get from Manchester Pride and the undisclosed sum they also get in return for managing the distribution of funds to other groups.

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation’s own board members also sit on the grants panel that decides who and who doesn’t get the funding – this is a breach of good practice and something the charity commission have vowed to investigate since we brought it to their attention last week following complaints from other groups.

So where is all this money going?

Other than the Lesbian and Gay Foundation…and a small selection of others? Manchester Pride’s Community Fund is meant to be for all “LGBT Community groups” – but the majority of those go to either groups that provide services exclusively to gay men or lesbians. Only two groups serving the transgender community received funding this year. The only dedicated bisexual group to receive funds from Manchester Pride (BiPhoria) have asked for costs pay for room hire costs, and also money towards their Pride stall (this used to be free).

So let’s get this straight – groups like BiPhoria apply to Pride only to hand to back to Pride for the privilege of having a (previously free) stall at the so called “Community Expo”?

  • Less than £3,000 went to Bisexual and Transgender groups.
  • The Lesbian and Gay Foundation claimed at least £7,000 more than it was allowed.
  • Less than £2,000 went to young people’s services.
  • An undisclosed sum was paid to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation for distributing the grants.
  • Only preselected HIV/AIDS organisations received funding from the HIV Fund – sums not published.

What about other groups they’ve funded? With only a very vague description for a group no-one seems to have heard of a group called “Gay in the UK” have been given funding to cover the cost of “practitioners and tutors”.

Considering they are intending to use their grant to pay for professionals (instead of bringing in volunteers with the same skills) for their project (whatever it is!) is it going to be value for money? or is this yet another bogus project set up to line the pockets of someone close to those dishing out the pennies?

Beyond the LGF’s clever little scheme of hoarding even more funding is what Manchester Pride’s website vaguely describes as funding to “set up a new voluntary LGBT photographic group”. Run by a group of professional village photographers known as “Exposure” who have asked or “initial set up costs of new voluntary LGBT photographic group” run by Paul Jones – one of Manchester Pride’s official photographers.

Exposure’s “Profile Page” on Flickr

Jones has also been paid by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation to take photos for their publications in the past. The majority of the photos posted by the group online appear to be professional, promotional photos for Manchester Pride as well as the Pride Games (well their black-tie dinner anyway!). Many of the photos taken by the group appear in various publications including the Manchester Pride website as well as corporate materials used by Pride’s three biggest beneficiaries – Body Positive, the George House Trust and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in numerous publications and regularly in OutNorthWest. The majority of photos are also taken at commercial events at a number of bars and clubs in the gay village including Vanilla, Cruz 101, Queer, Essential and Federation.

At the time of going to press GayMafiaWatch tried to find out more about “Exposure” and how ordinary members of the public could get involved but we got no reply. Even Manchester Pride themselves couldn’t give us an answer.

We original posed the question… is Exposure a dodgy operation or is it a genuine “community photography project”? Thanks to the vague and slightly misleading way Manchester Pride’s website has presented who and what gets funded when this article was first written we couldn’t be sure what it was until we began asking, got no response and then did our own bit of digging… so now we’ve got to the bottom of it it would be great to hear the same from others who wish to put their side of the story across… although silence is often the best indicator of guilt.

Update 22/04/09 –

Further Details regarding “Exposure”
Since this article was originally published we would like to thank Paul Jones for contacting us directly who to clarify for himself what Manchester Pride could not. You can read his response to our questions in the comments section at the bottom article. We have had to omit some personal details from his response along with an accusation claiming everything on GayMafiaWatch should be regarded as fiction – clearly this is not true! As if it were we’d be forever updating all our contributions and so far this is the most we’ve ever been asked to amend.

Out of respect to Exposure and Paul Jones and in the interest of maintaining the overall integrity of what is otherwise quite a detailed article that has provoked a mostly positive response we have retracted our statement that Exposure appears to be a “shady operation”. From what we know, Manchester’s gay community is rather close-knit and unlike London it does not have an infinite supply of community champions such as Paul Jones. That leads us to conclude that it is conceivable Exposure’s main activities which amongst other things include providing a free professional service run not for profit to commercial companies run for personal gain such as the bars and clubs on Canal Street is merely down to the cosy nature of the scene in Manchester or an admirable kindness of heart. Perhaps a bit of both? You answered our questions, we corrected our assumptions and you have requested an apology and here you have it. We apologise for any distress caused personally to those invovled.

There are times when public figures feel they are so far beyond the realms of accountability that there can be room for satire, and on occasion even humorous ridicule. Although the original article was very careful not make any direct personal attack on the character on Paul Jones as an individual as he has made clear he and Exposure are clearly one and the same, we do in fact owe Paul Jones a public apology for suggesting Exposure appears to be a fake project.  How valuable it’s services are to the community at large and who looses out if you are of the opinion that Exposure’s work is not worthy remains to be seen. People will at least be able to come to their own conclusions next time they see one of their pictures in another glossy brochure somewhere out on Canal Street knowing that’s where some of their wristband money went.

We would like to wish Exposure and Paul Jones the best of luck with their work and look forward to seeing them making a positive and continued contribution to their communities.

For details on how we conduct our investigations fairly visit our Feedback page.

What’s changed since last year?

Groups not giving funding directly back to pride or which are not run by members of Pride’s board and partner agencies is in the minority – although due to the addition of a few extra groups it is slightly more than last year.

In response to criticism and in a a U-turn to previous ways of doing things, Manchester Pride decided to open a surprise round of funding called the “Events Fund” but again their intentions are questionable. Events “must take place during the 10-day pride festival” and funding is limited to £500 per group. Details of successful applicants will be announced sometime in April – no doubt we’ll also see a number of dodgy projects that are run by people linked to Pride showing more evidence of nepotism and conflicts of professional interest.

The “events fund” only came about because they couldn’t get rid of all the funding in the first round and only totals £7,000 altogether out of the total Pride income over nearly £1 Million. Many groups have decided to boycott the grants scheme in protests at events in 2008 and the way money has been collected and distributed). If you are aware of the diverse number of LGBT community groups in Greater Manchester you will no doubt notice a number of names missing from the list of who they funded out of 2008’s funding.

This full list can be found here. Perseverly lots of the smaller community projects which remain (for now!) independent of Manchester Pride and it’s partners end up giving their grants BACK to Manchester Pride. They have to use their funding to pay for the privilege of a stall at the “Lifestyle Expo”, for the cost of an entry and licenses into the Pride Parade and also to hire meeting space at the offices of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation. Ludicrous when you consider Pride would be NOTHING without the contributions to pride from these groups over the years.

Smaller community groups and charities were noticeably missing from last year’s “Lifestyle Expo” stall area and many chose to boycott the space in protest at the recently introduced stall charges. It’s ludicrous to think they are so unwilling to back down considering all the extravagances Manchester Pride splashes out on in terms of promotions – giving large sums of money to marketing companies such as Oz Promotions and free advertising for media giants (such the Gaydar and the Pink Paper) and public sector sponsors seems to be top priority. Showcasing the grassroots LGBT community and giving them a genuine platform is not a priority.

The illusion of the event being about making money for charity has been well and truly shattered once again.

What is Manchester Pride really about?


We’re not disputing that there are many hard-working, selfless people who work and volunteer for Manchester Pride. However there are other, more ruthless people who wish to capitalise on the festival.

In 2007 the Charity Commission launched an investigation into Manchester Pride and concluded that what happens during the August Bank Holiday weekend in Manchester’s fenced off gay village are “not charitable fund-raising events – they are events organised by Marketing Manchester”.

welcome to vulgariaMarketing what?! Marketing Manchester – paid for by tax-payers in Greater Manchester, Marketing Manchester as been described by many as being “a well-oiled PR machine” that has a number of objectives, the first being to make money for a small but powerful elite of business people by increasing tourism and investment.

Led by Andrew Stokes (aka “Drew”) who also happens to be the Chairman of Manchester Pride, this “arms length” management company resides in a swish converted warehouse in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

They even have a Yacht harbored in the luxury French resort of Cannes where Mr Stokes entertains rich Saudi businessmen. We hear Mr Stokes is currently in Dubai at a property fair “selling Manchester” just as he’s committed to “selling pride”. Bon Voyage!…

Further reading on this subject:

Reclaiming Pride in Manchester
Tips on how you can do your part in reclaiming Manchester’s Pride festival by supporting alternative events and links to different bodies that provide funding and support to community groups.

Where your wristband money really went in 2007
Our article dissecting how the money raised for charity was really spent from money raised by sales of wristbands for Manchester Pride in 2007 and distributed to projects in 2008.

External Links: (not by GayMafiaWatch just in case you were wondering)

Manchester Pride Investigation
Gary Seven has been researching the web of spin, PR and false information that surrounds Manchester Pride which the organisers seems to think the public has no right to know. He puts the facts to the speculation surrounding how raising money for charity has become a secondary consideration and little more than a convenient fig-leaf to cover huge profit-making by businesses.

Manchester Evening News: Pride festival ‘just about money’
Festival accused of betraying its gay and lesbian roots by a leading Gay Village businessman. Phil Burke, chairman of the Village Business Association, says the annual event is no longer a celebration of lesbian and gay life, but a cynical money-making operation.