The past twelve months have certainly been manic for Manchester Pride’s Festival Director Jackie Crozier with highs, lows, announcements, events and of course Manchester Pride’s huge 21st birthday celebration over the August Bank Holiday weekend. With Crozier recently announcing that 2011 will be her last year as a part of the Manchester Pride team, we decided to sit down and talk to J.C. about why she loves Manchester Pride, her experiences as its Festival Director and the all-important question: who would make her ideal Big Weekend line-up?
Aside from your role as Festival Director, tell us five facts we may not know about you?
I was part of the organising team for the 2002 British Transplant Games in Leeds; I am a slight geek for politics and American history; I am a member of the Labour party, and a supporter of Manchester United. I also have the responsibility of power of attorney for my Gran, who has Alzheimer's.
- Favourite film: Thirteen days
- Favourite song of the past twelve months: Now that's pressure, can I have 3?
- Favourite drinking spot(s) in Manchester: Too many to mention
- Hobbies and past-times: Tap zoo, gardening, walking my dogs, gigs
- Favourite motto or mantra: No pain no gain
- Pet hates: Rude people and people who don't have any table manners
- Inspirations and heroes: My dad was my inspiration and my hero
- Favourite holiday destination: Thailand, although I loved Egypt. I've so many more places to discover
For those who may not know much about what goes on behind-the-scenes, explain what your role of Festival Director entails?
The role has somewhat of a managerial aspect to it; I oversee everything that goes on within the Manchester Pride office, approve decisions to be made and decide what needs to be done and when. I make creative decisions on what it is we do each year and how we go about doing it, and give the team my ideas on what we need to achieve. I attend a lot of meetings that decide the fate of the organisation and the route in which we wish to take it. In addition to this, I set our targets, do a lot of meeting and greeting at the various events we hold or attend and help front a lot of the Manchester Pride press we get in the run up to the event. I have since become an expert on giving quotes for things!
You have led Manchester Pride for four years now, and have been an active part of its team for six. What is it about the organisation that means so much to you? What makes it great?
Manchester Pride stands alone as the only UK Pride event to consistently raise such large amounts of money for worthy causes. There are a number of reasons why we are able to do this so efficiently, which include the event itself (with year-on-year of fantastic line-ups), our hard-working teams of staff, volunteers, patrons, board members, friends and more but also the wonderful city that we are in. Manchester Pride – albeit an event to celebrate the lifestyle and culture of the LGBT community – feels embedded in the heart of the North West. Yes, the event takes part within Manchester’s Gay Village, but it is supported fully (and attended by) plenty of those who are not LGBT themselves. There is a real sense of community both in the Gay Village and also the general city of Manchester – the support we give one another, our shared pride, is something you can really feel over the Big Weekend. Everyone who is at Manchester Pride (whether working, volunteering or playing), and all of those who are nearby when the event takes place, are pleased with what is surrounding them. Even in all of those words I cannot describe it – it is that same Christmas buzz we all get each December – which is why I aptly referred to the festival on stage once as ‘Gay Christmas’. There is something a little magical about Manchester Pride: that is why it means so much to me and that is what makes it so great.
Many people are unaware that Manchester Pride is a charity, nor understand the amount of work it does for LGBT and HIV charities. How important is it for the LGBT community in Manchester to support one another?
I think it’s extremely important. Many UK Pride events are very much a show, a party, for people to let their hair down and enjoy a little fabulousness for the weekend. Of course, this is all in the name of LGBT life and people, but I think there can often be a lack of message in the methods.
Manchester Pride brings meaning back to gay pride events; whilst it is still a time for fun, frolics, meeting new friends and old, we also endeavor year upon year to achieve certain things. As an organisation we have a fantastic legacy we are proud of – beginning twenty years ago as a single bring and buy stall outside The Rembrandt – and we will never forget that. This is referred to on stage each year, is why we always celebrate our birthday, and why this year we had two events to commemorate the history of our festival (Queer to Stay at The Lowry and our Bring and Buy day).
In addition to this, Manchester Pride takes very seriously the issue of HIV in our gay community, both here and further afield. This is why the George House Trust Candlelit Vigil closes the festival each year, as we come together in Sackville Gardens to light a candle for those we have lost, and have speeches, readings and presentations on the issue of HIV and how we can support those with it and fight the prejudice against them.
Finally, Manchester Pride’s parade is enormous, and does not only feature fabulous drag queens, gorgeous girls and buffed up men in speedos. We are proud to have had almost one hundred floats this year, that showcased the likes of the police force, The Co-operative, the BBC and ITV and many of the community groups that Manchester Pride works with. Our parade is more than just a colourful stroll throughout the city centre; it is an example of LGBT individuals from all walks of life, career and background making it known that we are here, we are who we are, and there is nothing wrong with that nor nothing that will change it. What is so fantastic about this is the support from the thousands and thousands of people (LGBT and non-LGBT) who come down, watch, wave and cheer.
At the end of the day, we are a minority, and so supporting one another in the LGBT community is crucial.
Manchester Pride has won the Pink Paper Award for 'Best Pride Event' five years running, four of which you had run the festival for. What sets Manchester's Pride event aside from the others in your opinion?
There are four elements of Manchester pride that make us stand out when compared to other UK Pride events: a week-long Fringe (featuring over fifty events from the realm of sports, theatre, arts and cinema to name a few), our Pride Parade, the Big Weekend (with music across three stages over four days, lifestyle expo stalls, markets and more) and the George House Trust Candlelit Vigil to close on the Monday. These bring together the education, celebration, demonstration and enjoyment of LGBT culture and lifestyle, with the vigil paying respects and remembrance to those no longer with us. No other event does all of these things and Manchester Pride have worked extremely hard to build these up – there is a real ‘community feel’ to our event.
We are not a flag waving Pride event; we are a celebration of LGBT life and we do it in a real Mancunian way. The Manchester Pride parade along with London is the biggest Pride parade in this country. How many other UK Prides have had the UK’s biggest soap opera take part for the past two years? Artists such as Gossip, Girls Aloud, Chicane, Marc Almond, Human League, Sugababes, Pixie Lott, Alexandra Burke, Roisin Murphy, Blue, Patrick Wolf and Kelis have all graced our main arena stage. Which other Pride events have had talent like this?
OK, Bristol got Kelis this year, but we had her first…
Of the six years you have been a part of the organisation, what would be a few of your best bits?
It would have to be winning the Travel & Tourism Award. Manchester Pride work so hard at putting this festival on and I have never felt so proud as I did that evening as we were praised with the award for doing so.
I am proud to work with Fruit TV as a media partner; each year they introduce hours of footage from the festival – their highlights video always gives me goose bumps.
During 2007 the idea of scrapping Pride Fringe was discussed, having only the Big Weekend, as no money is generated from these events for the charities and groups we work with. However, I felt it was important to showcase our community over Manchester Pride and wanted it to stay a part of our festival. Today, the Pride Fringe is absolutely flawless, the events are superb and all of those involved should be extremely proud of the work that they do.
Despite the fact that Manchester Pride is clearly close to your heart and you have done some amazing things for the festival, you recently announced you would be leaving the organisation in the New Year. Why is this?
I feel after six years with the festival I have personally taken it as far as I can. I feel particularly proud of the money raised, the introduction of big screens to the event, Pride Fringe, our parade, winning the Tourism Awards, the level of PR and marketing that we achieve at the festival and the difference Manchester Pride has made with the community. I first stepped foot into a Manchester Pride event in 1995 and started working for the festival in 2005. All good things must come to an end, however, and new challenges must be sought. I've had a particuly difficult year with losing my Dad suddenly last November. That knocked me for six as I was a real Daddy’s girl, even at 36, and I've had some health problems to deal with. I'm currently off work recovering from a major operation and when I return to work for the final few months I am looking forward to welcoming the new Festival Director and my next role, wherever and whatever that may be.
What will you miss most about working at Manchester Pride, and is there anything you won't miss?
Wow, where do I start? There are so many elements to the festival that I am going to miss, from the people I work with, to seeing the village turned into a mini event site over the Big Weekend, to the hundreds of volunteers and community organisations, to our lovely fundraising partners LGF (the Lesbian and Gay Foundation) and GHT (the George House Trust).
There are not many things I dislike, however I won't miss the personal attacks from people within our community. There are always going to be people who have strong opinions on Manchester Pride and the Gay Village and we can't please everyone all of the time – I think we all know that. However, there are ways to communicate with organisations and personal verbal attacks on my staff and me are not one of them, nor are helpful or productive in any sense. At the end of the day I am doing a job that I love, and have loved for the last six years, and I am part of our LGBT community and have feelings too. Manchester Pride is not the big commercial organisation that some people think we are; we are a small dedicated team, with amazing volunteers, who give their time and energy to make sure that everyone attending the festival has a wonderful time.
Recently you were awarded the Community Champion prize at the Lesbian and Gay Foundation's Homo Hero Awards. How did it feel to receive this accolade?
I was absolutely over the moon. I’m still not quite sure why people voted for me – as I'm just doing my job – however I thank everyone who took the time to do so.
Manchester Pride patron and one of my close friends Heather Peace collected the award for me, along with Les Pratt from our Board of Trustees and Darren Adams, Deputy Festival Director. It was the day after my operation and so it was all a bit of a blur when I got a lovely text message from Darren and a call from Heather saying I had won. Once I had realised though I was, as I said, absolutely over the moon.
The LGF’s celebration of their ‘Homo Heroes’ is extremely important, and their demonstration of respect through this ceremony is admirable. We are lucky enough in Manchester to have an LGBT community with some very selfless, hard-working and passionate people – these people do not do it for any kind of glory, but the recognition awards like this show for them do let them know that we understand their efforts, and that we are grateful for what they do. This year being lucky enough to receive one of the awards put me on the other side of the audience, and I felt honored that others wanted to thank me in this way..
Do you plan on staying active and involved with LGBT rights and causes in the future?
I would like to continue working with or volunteering my time within the LGBT community. I still haven't started looking for a new role yet, however I would like to look at joining an organisation as a trustee to pass on my skills and knowledge of the community I have worked in for such a long time.
Who would be your dream headlining line-up, Friday through Monday, for a Manchester Pride event?
I've been asked this so many times and I don't think it has changed...
- Friday – Blondie
- Saturday - Groove Armarda
- Sunday – Gossip, followed by The Pet Shop Boys
- Monday – Adele (she would be amazing at the Vigil)
If not the Festival Director at Manchester Pride, what would be your dream job?
That's tough as I’m lucky enough to have had my dream job already… I would say another fantastic and ideal role would be to run my own festival here in the North.
What have you got planned for the future?
I'm currently recovering from the operation mentioned above, so it’s feet up for a couple of months. I'm under strict instructions to take it easy, so I will be doing as I'm told. I leave Manchester Pride mid-February, so at some point I should start to think about my potential future roles…