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‘Liars’ and ‘political pygmies’ in Town Hall row

Jonathan Schofield on Parade row escalation and why we need the same event back next year

Written by . Published on September 13th 2010.

‘Liars’ and ‘political pygmies’ in Town Hall row

“The Lib Dems are always missing the point,” says Cllr Pat Karney. “In Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool and other cities they’ve made serious gains, in Manchester they’re party political pygmies. Manchester Day is exactly the type of community festival we should be helping get off the ground. Their negative attitude is why they never make real in-roads in the city.”

Events which build identity make Manchester’s historical and present significance more immediate and relevant to its own young people. They are of crucial importance in terms of well-being and pride. Building up the latter qualities is as important as providing more hospital beds.

Cllr Karney pauses.

“I’m going to sit down with their leader Simon Ashley and give him some advice on how to build his Liberal Democrat group despite their incompetent leadership.”

The anger stems from the Lib Dems at the Town Hall questioning the value of June's Manchester Day celebration.

Quoting a Mori report commissioned by the city, the leader of the Lib Dems, Cllr Simon Ashley said: “The report from MORI has used an estimate that 40,000 people attended the event. The Council still estimate 75,000. The Council estimate that £5.7m was spent by visitors to the Parade. MORI's figure is closer to £2m. The event cost the council tax payer £300,000, in our opinion too much. I have told Labour what our position is on the Manchester Day. Get the sponsors, cut the subsidy to a reasonable level and we will support it.”

In an email to Cllr Karney, which Confidential were copied into, Cllr Ashley goes on to say, “The fact is you were caught out telling lies. The event did not pay for itself 20 times over, and 75,000 didn't attend.”

Both Cllrs Pat Karney and Cllr Mike Amesbury think the Lib Dems have got their sums wrong too. In the words of Cllr Amesbury, “The Lib Dems called for Manchester Day to be scrapped in their alternative budget in March and have failed to support the event taking place next year in the Scrutiny Committee. As for their claims over the amount spent in the city, if they looked at the figures properly it was £4,123,424.”

This is much closer to what the Labour council originally claimed. Subsequently the £4m has been confirmed by Tim Martin the research manager of Mori.

Bitter words on both sides.

The result is that there is now a consultancy period over whether future Manchester Day Parades should be held at all.

At Confidential we completely support the idea, the row over money and attendance figures is secondary to building civic identity and feeling.

Manchester has to invest in its image with great events. To have the Manchester Day Parade half-arsed with crappy floats and terrible costumes would have been embarrassing and would have actively worked against city image. It needed seed-funding to get it started, just as Mardi Gras (Manchester Pride) did all those years ago.

But more significantly Manchester Day wasn’t just about good looking floats.

This was a city centre celebration that brought in poor districts of Manchester and put them centre stage. It made communities work together so they could be the stars in their own city centre.

Manchester has always done collective city wide celebrations. Post World War Two and into the nineties these dipped in number and quality which seemed to reflect the city’s lowly ambitions.

Latterly we’ve been thinking big again. Whether it’s with the Christmas lights, the markets or the Manchester International Festival things are looking up. The Manchester Day Parade should be part of the annual timetable of events that seek to include every type and description of citizen - unlike, say, niche events such as the Irish Festival or Manchester Pride.

That’s the key.

Events which build identity make Manchester’s historical and present significance more immediate and relevant particularly to its own young people. Feeling good about your city and knowing its place in the world is of crucial importance in terms of well-being and pride.

The city is more than Manchester United and Manchester City. But if an alien were to land and talk to nippers across the city, he’d scarcely think so. The ideas on the floats in Manchester Day recognising Rolls Royce, Romans, Suffragettes, the other Manchesters across the world, dance groups and so forth, surely should be part of a continuing programme of identity building initiatives.

Just before the holidays this year The Willows Primary School in Wythenshawe had a Manchester Week. It was a total winner. The kids were enthusiastic, fascinated by their own city and the buildings and stories it contained. Every school in Manchester should follow suit with a similar initiative. Other boroughs should tag along too.

The culmination of Manchester Weeks in schools could be each one having a float in the Manchester Day Parade thus making it bigger and better each year, and personalising it for each child in each school.

From a Confidential point of view, the money spent on Manchester Day was just a beginning, funding should be neither cut back nor the event abandoned. Instead the Parade should be encouraged to grow and grow. As it does its prestige will rise, and as the economy recovers, there’s no doubt that extra sponsorship can be found from other private and public sources.

We reckon that Manchester Day must remain a permanent fixture on the entertainment calendar, irrespective of internal bickering at the Town Hall. It's exactly the sort of idea that can help make our own young people feel proud about the city on a deeper level than just football. Councillors on both sides of the political divide, if they look at the big picture, can surely see that.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2010.

The reason why the Liberals don't have much success on Manchester City council is because the city of Manchester is quite a small area consisting mostly of run down, deprived, inner city areas full of people who vote Labour so they can fall even further behind everyone else.

Love ManchesterSeptember 13th 2010.

Manchester has been forging ahead in recent years, not falling behind.

Hmm...September 13th 2010.

I think the Parade was wonderful and needs to be repeated.

However...the £4million+ 'economic impact' is simply ludicrous. It suggests the average spend per head of people attending was around £100 if the attendance was 40,000 people. That's ONE HUNDRED POUNDS for every adult and every child. For an event dominated by family attendance. Totally ridiculous. Even if it were the case, for the argument to be made, the council would have to prove that the same amount of expenditure (on shopping principally) wouldn't have made on any other Sunday. So, never mind how many people attended, how many EXTRA people were in the city on that Sunday?

The council do the same trick after every International Festival (and the press never questions it). MIF is brilliant, it doesn't need totally made-up 'economic impact' figures to prove its worth.

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2010.

I went to the parade. The floats were great. Absolutely no atmosphere tho. And we spent one pound each on a coffee from Carluccio's. And £1.60 on train fare. Probably not the most massive economic impact, as we'd have been in the city anyway. So just the quid on the coffee.

Kevin PeelSeptember 14th 2010.

I'm shocked that the Lib Dems don't think investing in our culture and shouting about our civic pride is worth £300,000. Once again we see them talking down our city.

Confidential are right, we need to build on the success of this year and allow the festival to grow and grow, not put a price on how much we care about our city.

James11364September 14th 2010.

"Every school in Manchester should follow suit with a similar initiative. Other boroughs should tag along too.The culmination of Manchester Weeks in schools could be each one having a float in the Manchester Day Parade thus making it bigger and better each year, and personalising it for each child in each school."

Actually outside the National Curriculum schools are independent. The notion that there should be some pressure or even compulsion to take part in a Civic Celebration is rather odd. Of course if they wished to do individually it so be it.

Children should be encouraged to engage in and think constructively and critically about their community They and thier community should be proud of their achievement. Having a float is fun but it gets you literally nowhere.

Incidentally the origin of two of the parades, Pride and St Georges Day were actually small scale and local. They were civisised so that the original communities have very little ownership or involvement with these events nowadays. Manchester day is completely synthetic ('to ensure quality'), commissioned from an events company in Salford

It's just a passing show.

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