On Monday 19th August Manchester's Mardi Gras was cancelled after police decided
to enforce a ban on public drinking across the whole event due to be held over the
Bank Holiday weekend. This would have meant
that thousands of partygoers would have been forced into the Canal Street gay village.
In a press statement Mardi Gras organisers The Village Business Association said they had been
left with no choice but to cancel the event, Following the Greater Manchester Police's
decision to enforce a restrictive alcohol tolerance zone on this year's Mardi Gras.
The GMP designated zone allowing drinking in the street was to have been limited
to Canal Street alone.
"We took the considered view that due to the enormous numbers historically attracted
to The Gay Village for Mardi Gras, the prospect of cramming thousands of party revellers
onto Canal Street was simply unsafe and could have led to a disaster of Hillsborough
proportions" said a Village Business Association spokesman.
"We have spent three weeks in meetings, making telephone calls, sending emails and
talking to the various groups involved in an attempt to marginally extend the
alcohol tolerance zone in order to accommodate the huge numbers. When it was clear
that the other parties would not even discuss our concerns we had no alternative
but to cancel Mardi Gras 2002".
The spokesman continued "Despite the cancellation of established elements of the
weekend such as the parade through the city centre, the entertainment in the park,
and the market, the message to the gay community is Manchester Gay Pride will
continue over the weekend with even more focus on 'Operation Fundraiser'.
The authorities may be shortsighted in their handling of the alcohol tolerance
zone but this will not stop gay men and women and their friends partying, and the
bars and clubs are committed to ensuring that as much as possible will be raised
for the charities, with all the venues continuing with their planned events."
On Wednesday 21st August, just two days before the event weekend, there were further talks between
the Police, Manchester City Council and the event's organisers. A compromise was reached
where by the alcohol tolerance zone was extended, and the Greater Manchester Police denied a
previously publicised allegation of homophobia.
Steph Kay, treasurer of the Village Business Association, said a lot of bridges had been built at
the meeting. "We took on board the police's concerns on health and safety and they listened to us
as well," she said.
"We are going to put on the biggest and best Mardi Gras the city has seen."
"Manchester is the gay capital of the UK and we want to show everyone that we can put on a party", she added.
Next Year Manchester is set to host Europride - the largest gay event in Europe.