Bury and Salford in running to host huge gay festival

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The Independent Online

The gay scene in industrial Salford and Bury is not quite a match for Paris, Rome and Vienna but both are anticipating the prospect of following those cities as a host for Europe's biggest gay festival.

The host city for the 2003 Europride festival, which attracted 200,000 to Vienna last year, will be revealed today and by rights it ought to be heading to Manchester, a city basking in international awareness created by the Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk, which was filmed in its gay village.

After a week of lobbying at last week's Europride organisers' association in Cologne, where the 2002 festival is to be held, the city is the favourite to beat Copenhagen and Marseille to the 2003 event.

But a long-running spat between the city's council and gay community over the direction of Manchester's annual Mardi Gras festival has resulted in a council declaration that Europride may not be welcome, and prompted gay leaders to approach neighbouring municipal authorities instead.

The Mardi Gras festival was founded in 1989 with a few stalls around a pub on Canal Street, but fell under the aegis of the council in 1998. To many it seemed the gay element was being erased by municipal influence, particularly when the words "gay" and "lesbian" were removed from its official title. "They wanted to make the event more of a party for Manchester," said Julian Lyons, a Europride bid co-ordinator.

Manchester city council's representatives on gay and lesbian issues are demanding greater involvement than they are being offered by the gay community if they are to support the Europride bid.

Bury, surprised by the prospect of following in Cologne's footsteps, has said it will consider hosting the festival, and Salford council's leader, Bill Hinds, is "ready to listen to what they have to say".

The Manchester bid team showed Europride organisers the delights of Salford, Trafford and Bury when they visited during last month's GayFest festival in Manchester.

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