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.


Puffta – Cashing in on Coming Out

May 12, 2007

Puffta, the self-styled online magazine aimed at young gay men has been designed solely to make money out of gay young people, who are sold a lifestyle to aspire to through it’s clever marketing campaigns. The site bills itself as “the UK’s leading site for gay teens” which is “often imitated”. Google doesn’t seem to think so, in fact there are dozens of ‘gay youth’ sites out there that rant dozens of pages high which have been about for as long as Puffta if not longer and who aren’t now fuelled by an unlimited PR machine. No doubt they are just as popular, but then who can say as Puffta is the only site to make this bold claim.

Not so long ago this little known website set up by 17 year old Simon Johnson in his bedroom was originally up and running as a lifestyle and support site for young gay men. It has recently been transformed into by the Millivres Prowler Group (in it’s own words) a” premier brand for gay youth”. Which is precisely what now Puffta is, it’s a product, a resource in which to sell and make a profit out of by it’s owners and advertisers. The site is a medium by which teenage gays are trained as future customers.

So what’s so wrong about that I hear you ask? Women’s magazines target lonely housewives with celebrity gossip whilst and make money by peddling cleaning products and make up, teenage girls magazines have done the same for years, and straight ‘lads mags’ have controversially exploited macho masculinity to sell cars and soft porn so what’s the big deal with the owners of Puffta making a few quid out of young gay guys?

Firstly, Puffta has attempted to establish the darker and damaging aspects of the so called ‘gay lifestyle’. Many of which you could argue are responsible for many of the social problems younger gay men face today. Young gay lads notoriously aspire to look buff, pretty, sexy, thin – because they are told to by the media. Puffta reinforces these often unrealistic aspirations, leading to even more lads who simply ‘do not fit in’ to feel excluded, suffer low-self-esteem, self-harm and attempt suicide.

As well as their original titles of the Gay Times, and Diva, the Millivres Prowler Group recently acquired struggling original gay news rag “The Pink Paper” and gay tabloid mag “AXM”. Millivres Prowler are now the most influential powerhouse in the gay media. It now appears Puffta is under their control.

Pop, Porn and Potions

Sexy black pop divas, photo galleries of pumped up steroid muscle-mary’s and reviews of pricey high street labels, crikey Puffta has pulled out all the stops to pull in an audience, “It’s what every gay boy ever wanted!” claims one reader. At least it’s what Puffta thinks they want, or what it wants them to want. It’s a narrow, vulgar and offensive generalisation of what it means to be a junior queer in Britain today. The cliché’s are blinding, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a parody.

What about other types of music other than commercial pop and dance? There’s nothing wrong with porn but then most guys I know that purchase dirty videos and magazines are in a position to – they earn good money and have no problem walking into clone zone or even HMV to buy it up front, or they have good networks of gay friends they can borrow and copy it from. When you’re living at home with your folks and are shit-scarred of walking into a shop to buy a mucky DVD and you don’t yet know many other gay guys to borrow from – except those you’ve chatted to online. I’ve done it myself. Younger gay men hunt the net for whatever they can find for free, or download pirate copies. There’s no money in that and that’s what Puffta is concerned about.

Cashing in on Coming Out

“Puffta priorities:
1. Going out (clubs/bars)
2. Drinking
3. Fashion & toiletries
4. Mobile phones
5. CDs & DVDs
6. Computer games
7. Holidays”

The Puffta “media pack” says it all. It makes an attractive pitch to potential advertisers;

“Teens don’t just spend their
own money, they spend
their parents cash, too!”

“Less work – more play! – Target not the limit”

This doesn’t help send out a responsible message to young gay people at all, combined with corporate gay charities such as Stonewall who are proud
to fund their anti-bullying initiatives in schools though an insane number of sponsorship deals with credit card companies like American Express, or the disproportionate number of queer students who drop out of university deep in debt (according to the National Union of Students).

“SPENDING POWER… Gay youth are consumers like everyone else.
Commercially aware, they know their brands but can be
particularly fickle. They have disposable income and
punch above their weight with their spending power.
They are male, aged 13-21, and are UK-resident.”
“The student market is worth £15 billion”

Puffta sponsored LGBT Student Pride in 2006.

The press pack does attempt to hold the horses and claim that’s not what Puffta’s solely about.

“What is important to stress is that Puffta is responding
to a genuine consumer need for something different,
rather than in any sense being supply-led to generate
ad sales revenue.”

This argument falls flat on it’s face when they then compares Puffta’s “something different” appeal to that of proper magazines. As far as I’m aware there are no
magazines on sale in the UK that publicly target 13-21 year old gay men in this way. Puffta is a website, it came runner up in the Boyz Magazine reader awards second only to Gaydar, and as we’ve already mentioned, there are dozens of quality internet resources out there that it duplicates. What makes Puffta different is that it’s full of targeted advertising and without that it would not exist. So what does Puffta think it is? Is it a community website, a dating service, a ‘lads mag’, a support group? It’s glossy packaging for all of those.

Sign up as a member to Puffta and you’ll be lucky to”see the SEX edition. We’re hot.” “We talk sex, sex, sex” – “hot xxx gallery” “naked men – how to see them” We’ve turned the members area into a special sealed SEX edition”. You’re also invited to enter a competition sponsored by condom giant Durex (owned by multinational corporation SSL International which has an annual turnover of £608.9 million). Puffta and Durex neglect to mention that as an ‘at-risk group’ most young gay men can get unlimited condoms and lubricant free on the NHS – or from gay youth groups and clinics such as Brook, nor do they visibly mention the need to use lube for anal sex. What an excellent foothold in the market for SSL thanks to Puffta… and you get to see some dirty photos in return.

Puffta does young gay men no favours. It is dangerous.

There are some very good articles on Puffta, and the site’s editors do try make a responsible effort to be a little objective, but that’s often contradicted by catchy cover stories which home in on people’s insecurities such as:

“Spotty Boys – ‘Scrub-up!” – a review of anti-acne lotions that Puffta recommends, with a gratuitous advert on the right hand side of the page for one such product. The title of the article is almost like an order. We all know that if getting rid of acne were as simple as investing in face wash then. Nearly everyone gets spots in their teenage years, it’s part of growing up and always has been. Our hormonal juices give us no choice. But when there’s so much pressure to look the part and bed that hunk, this type of article fuelled by product placement by big pharmaceutical companies should expect to be questioned.

“Smoking – Makes you Fat!” – If you’re not fat then you don’t worry about it do you? The article assumes the reader is thin. If you’re overweight then that kind of headline is going to grab you attention – and it can cause distress. The article is a cleverly disguised seemingly sensible article promoting anti-smoking. It’s basically saying being young, gay and overweight is bad, and Puffta does not approve! Besides, the evidence to base such a ludicrous claim like “smoking make you fat” is dubious and vague.

“Muscle Please!” – We popped down to Soho Gym Camden to have a look at the muscles on offer. We asked the beach ready beauties what muscle they like the best. Accompanied by vain articles entitled “Steroids – Bottled Muscle”. The article glamorises steroid use and links it to an exciting gay lifestyle of partying and sex with hunks. It neglects to mention the specific and horrific side effects Steroids can have on your health and your wealth. Puffta wants you to look good, and you want to look as
good as the blimp breasted model boys on nearly every page of the site. You’ll be able to show them off on the beach. Not surprisingly there’s been a steady boom in the gay travel industry with resorts like Gran Canaria, Sitges and Myknos – gay travel firms are big advertisers in Puffta’s sister publications, they bring in the big bucks. The popularity of such hedonistic sex holidays amongst gay men is not without a downside.

Recent surveillance by the Health Protection agency shows an alarming peak in the number of younger gay men acquiring HIV, syphilis and several other sexually transmitted infections that were at one point in decline, as well as new ones such as LVG. It blames the increase on increased travel from the UK by men who have frequent, casual sex with men to locations like Gran Canaria. The press pack tells us that holidays are Puffta’s priority #7. Back home the link between unprotected sex and use of drugs and alcohol causing a decrease in of inhibitions and an increase in risk taking is stronger than ever before according to the Terrance Higgins Trust. The gay scene has a lot to answer for. Going out/Clubbing – Puffta Priority #1, Drinking – Puffta Priority #2.

One Last Puff

Friends tell me “that’s what gay life is all about”. I say Puffta provides a good window on to many parts of gay life but it’s all to easy to feel they are pushing a way of life. It feels uncomfortably contrived. Puffta isn’t solely to blame for damaging the image of young gay men, nor do I believe it isn’t more than capable of realising it’s mistakes and evolving into something slightly more helpful to the gay cause but the devastating longer-term consequences of which we can see today in the older generations of gay men, who luckily were not the targets of this kind of mass-gay-junk-shop commercialism springing up all over the place are worrying at the least.

Just as well Puffta is only a website and not a magazine, because it’s just about Sold Out.

  • We’ve made every effort to ensure quotations and points raised in the above article are accurate at the time of going to press.
    If you would like us to print a correction please leave a comment below. Feedback and discussion is welcome.