Thursday, August 29, 2002

IT'S ALTERNATIVELT GRIM AND GLITTERY UP NORTH: Coverage of a weekend of festivals from the Guardian's excellent Northerner mailout:
Autumn is coming. So the north took to the streets in the dying days of summer for a series of noisy parties: Creamfields in Liverpool, Mardi Gras in Manchester and the Leeds Festival in Yorkshire.
All three were enjoyed by the thousands who rocked away the late summer bank holiday but all three had their problems.
In Leeds, up to 500 revellers in Temple Newsam park spoiled the fun by tipping over portable toilets and setting fire to them in what police described as acts of "sustained, determined and mindless" violence in the early hours of Monday. It took three hours before order was restored by 200 officers.
Leeds council had originally refused the festival a licence but organisers appealed to magistrates and won. A question mark now hangs over next year's event, with some Leeds councillors determined that it will not go ahead.
A spokeswoman for the organisers said: "The action of under 1% of the crowd should not be allowed to detract from a very successful weekend."
But the Yorkshire Post was having none of that in the cold light of Tuesday morning.
"Enough is enough," proclaimed a leader. "No licence for next year's event should be granted and no new deal signed ...
"That a mindless minority should attempt to ruin the events for everyone, risking its future in the process, is therefore deeply regrettable.
"But if the city of Leeds is to make it clear that mob violence is unacceptable, there can unfortunately be no alternative to ensuring that this festival does not take place in the area again."
Problems in Manchester and Liverpool were less dramatic. Manchester's gay Mardi Gras has had a volatile past, with rows over organisation, security and the amount of cash (or lack of it) going to charities.
This year's event looked as if it would bite the dust before it started. The organisers decided to cancel the celebrations when police refused to allow drinking on the street outside Canal Street at the heart of the gay village. They complained of homophobia; the police said they were concerned only for public safety. After last minute crisis talks, the event was back on (and the homophobia charge withdrawn) and hundreds of elaborate costumes were not wasted.
The traditional parade of floats wound its way through the centre of Manchester: lots of nuns, men in silver jockstraps, line dancers, safe sex squaddies in combat gear and Mr Gay UK draped over the back of silver BMW.
There were also lots of water pistols, bubbles and foam but no disorder. The festival ended with a candle-lit vigil in Sackville park for those who have died of Aids.
The Creamfields festival on the old Liverpool airport site in Speke, now in its fifth year, had an unfortunate prelude when police began investigating corruption claims and arrested an organiser for allegedly bribing a council official.
But the event passed off happily, with 40,000 revellers bopping away as Merseyside police looked benevolently on. There were just 30 arrests.

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