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Big Weekend visitors asked to send their messages of strength and hope to the LGBT community of Manchester’s sister city of St Petersburg.

Manchester Pride Trustees today announced that this year’s Big Weekend festival will be dedicated to the LGBT people of St Petersburg, currently experiencing persecution following the introduction of homophobic and transphobic legislation.

Despite equality of age of consent, the removal of a ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military in 2003, and the ability for transgender people to legally change their gender following transition, recent laws prohibiting “the promotion of non-traditional relationships” have dehumanised and stigmatised the Russian LGBT community.

Manchester Pride urges visitors to this year’s Big Weekend festival to write their messages of support to the LGBT residents of Manchester’s twin city of St Petersburg on the luggage tags provided. The tags will be displayed over the weekend before being passed to Manchester City Council for delivery to their counterparts in St Petersburg.

The campaign will be launched on Friday 23 August at the opening of this year’s Big Weekend in the Gay Village, with festival goers being asked to join a mass ‘kiss-in’ ahead of writing their message of support to St Petersburg’s LGBT community.

Chief Executive of Manchester Pride, John Stewart said “Manchester and St Petersburg have enjoyed a cultural and economic friendship for over fifty years, and this relationship is the ideal channel for Manchester Pride to show its alliance with the city’s LGBT community.

“Manchester is known throughout the world for its gay village and views of acceptance and compassion. It is in this spirit of fellowship that we offer our messages of courage and hope to Russia, with love.”

Vicken Couligian, Manchester Pride chairman added “It would be almost impossible for the LGBT community of St Petersburg to host an event like Manchester Pride.  We are incredibly fortunate to be able to openly celebrate the diversity of Manchester and the surrounding region, but it only feels correct that we should acknowledge the persecution that the LGBT community in Russia, and other countries throughout the world, experience on a daily basis.”

The ‘To Russia, With Love’ wall of support will be located alongside the Main Arena on Bloom Street.

Advance Big Weekend tickets are still available at a price of £21 from and selected outlets.