Manchester’s Gay Village, annual Pride Festival and strong LGBTQ+ community have long been celebrated as a core part of the history, identity and culture of the city – and rightly so. Canal Street was the setting for groundbreaking, hit TV series Queer as Folk in the late 1990s, and the canal-side bars and clubs here remain at the heart of Manchester’s LGBTQ+ community. As the scene has evolved, however, so have the LGBTQ+ venues, club nights, arts and culture and sports spread further afield. The Northern Quarter, the filming location for It’s A Sin in 2019, is also where you’ll find Aatma, spiritual home of club night Pop Curious?, as well as dedicated menswear shop Oi Polloi, and the unashamedly kitsch gifts at Oklahoma.
So, for more LGBTQ+ venues, club nights, culture and sports beyond the Village, read on.
Outdoor drinking, dining and entertainment destination Escape to Freight Island has become a new platform for LGBT+ club nights and performances including Homoelectric and House of Ghetto. Based behind Manchester Piccadilly station on Baring Street, Escape to Freight Island also is right around the block from The Star and Garter, another key filming location for It’s A Sin. Further into town is Albert’s Schloss just off Deansgate, which plays host to regular cabaret, raucous live performances and gospel choirs. Further off the beaten track, however, are Hidden and the White Hotel: both occupy out of the way warehouse spaces and host some of the most sought-after club nights in the city.
Further still out of Manchester city centre is The Old Abbey in Hulme, an idiosyncratic building behind Manchester Science Park that champions inclusivity across all fronts, including hosting LGBTQ+ nights such as Alt Femme. It’s a much-loved pub on the former Greenheys estate, with covered outdoor seating and serving pizzas, burgers, sides and desserts. Over in Levenshulme, meanwhile, is proudly LGBTQ+ friendly pub The Levenshulme; the rainbow stripes across the facade signal its inclusivity, while the beer garden and entertainment nights here keep people coming.
LGBTQ+ CLUB NIGHTS
LGBTQ+ dance party Kiss Me Again makes regular appearances at SOUP in the Northern Quarter, Escape to Freight Island and Manchester Pride, as well as curating an hour of techno club and house offerings on NTS Radio monthly. Bollox operates a ‘no rules’ music policy at venues including The Deaf Institute, Depot Mayfield and The White Hotel, mixing Kylie with Nirvana and Donna Summer with Joy Division. Underground night Homoelectric is one of Manchester’s best known and most established, with off piste tunes for ‘homos, heteros, lesbos and don't knows’ chosen by five resident DJs, while High Hoops champion ‘all races, genders, nationalities and sexualities on one dance floor’ through queer raves, club nights and parties across the city. Meanwhile, What She Said Club has been designed specifically for LGBTQ+ women, non-binary folk and their allies, with events focused on promoting the best up and coming, and current, female and non binary singer song-writers, DJs, and producers.
ART AND CULTURE
Alongside Manchester Pride are a roster of other LGBTQ+ events throughout the year, including Contact theatre’s much-loved celebration of queer culture, Queer Contact. Running for over a decade, the festival has featured Russel T Davies in conversation, performance from Cheddar Gorgeous and dancehall music from House of Ghetto. The Sparkle Weekend in Manchester is the world’s largest free-to-attend celebration of gender diversity, while over at Hope Mill Theatre is the annual Turn On Fest, in partnership with Superbia, featuring cabaret nights, performances and more. Biennial international arts festival Manchester International Festival has a strong strand of LGBTQ+ events, performances, artists and DJs – and if you’re looking for year-round culture, head to HOME, where the programme regularly champions LGBTQ+ issues, and platforms queer artists.
Final mention goes to Manchester’s LGBTQ+ friendly sports clubs. Rainy City Roller Derby is the city’s finest all female flat track roller derby club, providing a welcoming safe environment for players at all skill levels. Manchester Frontrunners is Manchester’s only LGBTQ+ running club, while Manchester Village Spartans rugby club, based in Sale, is the world’s second-ever gay and inclusive rugby club, as well as being a founding member of International Gay Rugby (IGR). Last but not least, there LGBTQ+ badminton club GHAP Badminton; GHAP stands for Gay, Healthy And Proud.
By Polly Checkland Harding, Freelance arts copywriter and journalist