Manchester LGBTQ+ Walking Trail

It’s always been queer up north, and Manchester has been at the very heart of LGBTQ+ culture for a long time.  

From Victorian drag balls to Canal Street, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the city’s famous Pride Parade, Manchester has always led the way with queer activism. Its people, its resilience, its unapologetic queer energy has been present for hundreds of years.  

In 2003, a Heritage Trail was commissioned for Europride, funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, to provide a better understanding of the city’s gay rights movement. The trail featured street mosaics designed by artist Mark Kennedy, unlocking many examples of queer life to remember, reflect on and celebrate. Some of these tiles still exist across the city. 

Follow this updated version of the trail by local Playwright and Tour Guide, Chris Hoyle, which features new stops and new stories that reveal more of the city’s fascinating queer life. 

Enjoy your tour of Manchester.

Commissioned and supported by Manchester ABID and Manchester Pride. Trail written by Chris Hoyle.

Trail stops

Read more about each of the stops

The New Union, originally called The Union is one of the oldest LGBTQ+ establishments in the UK. The pub dates to 1865 and has been frequented by gay clientele since World War Two. The pub was ideally located on the edge of Canal Street with easy access to the underpasses…

Manto, meaning ‘Manchester tomorrow’, opened in 1990, offering a modern, hip, queer bar for the next generation. Owners Carol Ainscow and Peter Dalton transformed an old trade union office into this new venue, with a full glass-fronted design and statement…

Alan Turing, inventor of the world’s first computer and celebrated codebreaker, is one of the most influential men of the 21st Century. He and his colleagues at Bletchley Park were responsible for helping to end World War Two, two years earlier than predicted…

The city’s first Manchester Pride event took place outside the Rembrandt Hotel over the August Bank Holiday in 1985. The inaugural celebration was a fundraising event, raising money for people living with, and affected by, the AIDS crisis. It was a proper community affair…

Canal Street was constructed in 1804 as part of the Rochdale Canal. When the cotton industry fell into decline, the area quickly became deserted and rundown. It was then reclaimed by gay men and prostitutes, forming Manchester’s red-light district.   After the…

Manchester institution Legends nightclub was the home to the famous Northern Soul night ‘The Twisted Wheel’ and many popular gay club nights.   Previously Rockies, the club had a large dance area and basement called MineShaft. In 1994, the club was raided by…

The present-day Minshull Street Crown Court is the site of the former City Centre Police Courts, where countless men were charged with homosexual offenses over a period of 100 years. After World War Two, the police dramatically ramped up their campaign to arrest more gay men…

Manchester’s first LGBTQ+ bookshops were opened in this area of the city. Long before Waterstones, in the 1970s and 1980s ‘Grassroots’ on Newton Street was the first bookstore to sell queer literature, including Gay News and The Mancunian Gay.   Tib…

Manchester Art Gallery has long been as supporter of queer culture. Artist, activist, and gardener, Derek Jarman had his first ever solo exhibition in 1992 and the gallery held a retrospective exhibition: ‘PROTEST!’, in 2021/22.   At this time, The Derek…

Church House was the site of the very first North-Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee meeting in 1964 (a time when all homosexual acts between men were illegal). Allan Horsfall was the most visible member and committee secretary. He was therefore one founders of the modern…

In 1830, Henry Stokes, a successful bricklayer, landlord and Special Constable was a strong pillar of the Manchester community. Henry lived on Cumberland Street, which no longer exists, but was a stone’s throw from John Ryland’s Library.   He became the…

Manchester City Council has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community and gay rights. In 1985, the Council appointed Margaret Roff as the UK’s first openly lesbian Mayor.  The Council was the first UK public authority to awards grants for LGBTQ+ causes. Over…

The Midland hotel has been a refuge for many stars since it opened in 1904. This is the spot where famed playwright Noel Coward met his idol, actor Ivor Novello, on the pavement outside. He could have mistaken him for busker. He was not the romantic idol the photos…

Needing no introduction, The Hacienda is world-renowned. The club opened in 1982 and Madonna played her first UK live gig there. By the late 1980s the venue had cemented its identity as the church of Acid House. The club brought together an eclectic mix of ravers to dance, sweat…