Greater Manchester is often used as a filming location, so we’re getting very used to seeing the stunning cityscapes, charming period towns and spectacular countryside on our tv screens. Whether it’s the bright lights of Manchester City Centre, Stockport’s Market Hall or Bolton’s historic quarter, our region often provides inspiration for filmmakers spanning all genres.

With one of the UK’s most iconic ‘gay villages’ Canal Street, one of the countries largest Pride celebrations, the UK’s national transgender celebration weekend and one of the UK's largest areas for LGBTQ+ resident populations, Manchester is a thriving gay-friendly city. It’s also got a longstanding history in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community with icons like Alan Turing hailing from the city and a radical history of challenging inequalities. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a city with such a strong LGBTQ+ legacy as Manchester has also provided the backdrop to a number of queer film and tv series.

If you’re visiting Greater Manchester and would like to check out some of the locations that have helped define LGBTQ+ film and television, here is a guide:

 

Queer as Folk

Queer as Folk is a 1999 British television series that follows the lives of three gay men living in Manchester's gay village around Canal Street, so it’s only right that it was filmed there too. Written and produced by Russell T Davies, of Doctor Who fame, Queer as Folk has been described as a defining Gay TV show, lifechanging and at times life saving.  While other TV shows and soap operas had featured gay characters, their portrayals were rare and often controversial. Queer as Folk marked a milestone in LGBTQ+ reputation, showing ordinary lives of a community that weren’t often seen and mixing it with humour, allowing the rainbow community to be portrayed as ordinary people for one of the first times on screen.

Take a walk around Canal Street to be transported back to the beloved series. Stop for a drink and take in the Manchester district that inspired a groundbreaking piece of television. You can even still visit Cruz 101, a gay dance club that was rebranded as Babylon and became an iconic trademark of the show that is open to this day, and the ideal place to dance to the early hours.  and die-hard fans can even venture to Didsbury, Levenshulme High School and Crumpsall for a glimpse of the characters homes and school life.

Canal Street, Manchester

It’s a Sin

Another of Russell T Davies’ groundbreaking series, It’s a Sin, was also filmed in Manchester and Bolton, as well as other locations across the North West. The series, which stars Olly Alexander, Neil Patrick Harris, Keeley Hawes, Callum Scott Howells and Lydia West follows a group of friends during the 1980s and 1990s AIDS epidemic, aired on Channel 4 in  2021. The show received critical acclaim for its emotional and honest depiction of the HIV/AIDs crisis.

Despite being set in London, It’s a Sin was delivered with the help of Screen Manchester, the film office for Manchester City Council making the most of historic buildings, pubs and city streets in Greater Manchester.

Fans of the heart wrenching drama can visit Paton Street, close to Piccadilly Gardens and the Gay Village which provided the backdrop for the London street where the friends lived together. You can also go for a drink at The Embassy Club on Rochdale Road, the Thirsty Scholar on New Wakefield Street and the Star and Garter on Fairfield Street to follow in the star-studded cast’s footsetps.

Other filming locations included Victoria Baths, Eccles Shopping Centre, Heaton Hall, the former Crossley House Youth Centre in Openshaw and Le Mans Crescent in Bolton. If you visit Greater Manchester it won’t be hard for you to be transported back to this series, and how it beautifully captured such a devastating and poignant moment in LGBTQ+ history.

 

Coronation Street

The World’s longest running soap opera Coronation Street has been filmed in Greater Manchester since 1960 and remains one of the UKs most popular TV shows. Over the years the famous cobbles have been home to many famous LGBTQ+ characters from Todd Grimshaw to Sophie Webster who have all seen their fair share of drama. However, Coronation Street made headlines in 1998 for being the first British Soap Orea to have a transgender character, and the first permanent transgender character in a serial drama across the world.

Hayley Cropper, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh, was originally born male as Harold Patterson and was in the soap for 16 years before a heartbreaking death from cancer in 2014. Hesmondhalgh’s portrayal was met with critical acclaim and won plenty of awards, but most of all the character captured the hearts of a nation. Having a transgender character on the soap, although not played by a transgender actress at the time, made LGBTQ+ history and paved the way for many following her.

If you’re a fan of Coronation Street past or present, you can visit the working set at MediaCityUK. The Coronation Street Experience offers you a chance to join Weatherfield's finest and experience the magic of the soap for yourself, with a guided tour, replica sets, classic props and costumes. Plus megafans can even enjoy a Star Tour, which gives the option to meet a mystery cast member.

 

Cucumber

Another of Russell T Davies series, Cucumber, was filmed in Manchester city centre alongside its spin-off show Banana. Cucumber explores 21stcentury gay relationships in Manchester particularly across the older generation. The series is centred around a middle-aged insurance salesman and his younger cohorts. The main characters are in a settled, long-term relationship which turns on its head after a terrible date night in the first episode.

Most of the characters in the show are either gay, or not entirely straight and interestingly, the show exists in the same setting as Russell T Davies’ previous series Queer as Folk.

The series was filmed in various spots across Manchester City Centre including the Northern Quarter and Canal Street. If you walk the streets of the city centre, you may recognise some of the historic buildings and nightlife spots from the series.

 

As The Sun Rises

As the Sun Rises is an indie one-off LGBTQ+ drama by award-winning filmmaker James Postlethwaite. It was 100% publicly funded using a crowdfunding platform and was filmed in Manchester and Nottingham in 2017.

The drama centres around Andy, who is in a loveless relationship of almost 10 years with his partner Emma. He then meets Sam, an openly gay man, who instantly falls in love with him. The 60-minute-long film follows a man trying to live two lives and come to terms with his sexuality. Its conclusion is dramatic and unimaginable, so audiences are sure to be gripped.

The majority of the drama was filmed in Didsbury and Manchester City Centre, so look out for landmarks like Beetham Tower, Albert Square, Spinningfields, Deansgate and the architecture of the Northern Quarter.

 

Film Festivals

Not only is Manchester and Greater Manchester a popular destination for filmmakers, the city also hosts regular film festivals and creative gatherings.

HOME, Manchester’s leading independent cinema, theatre and art gallery, regularly shows LGBTQ+ films and art events, shining the spotlight on inclusivity. Throughout Pride month and beyond, it often runs queer film festivals that explore the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community from differing perspectives. It even hosts a Gay and Queer Cinema course, exploring the history of same-sex desire and relationships on screen.

To find out more about LGBTQ+ friendly activities in Greater Manchester, and what makes it such a welcoming destination for all communities, visit our ideas and inspiration page.

To learn more about events in Greater Manchester, visit our What’s On page.