Manchester’s Gay Village, which is centred around Canal Street, close to the Chinese centre, has just about recovered from being featured in the popular BBC series ‘Queer as Folk’ when it became the destination of hen and stag nights, giving it almost a zoo like status. The reason it was chosen as the location, is that it has been around for quite a while and is a the gay party capital of the UK. There are so many clubs and pubs that there is very little room for anything else. If the canal were to freeze over, they would build at least 3 clubs on the ice.
Canal Street was a once prosperous site, situated alongside the Rochdale Canal, but when rail and then road took over as the preferred method of transport, it became a dark and run down area. Given that homosexuality was illegal until the late 60’s and then only legal in private if you were over 21 years old, it became a surreptitious area for cruising. Some say that it was first a big lesbian area. The Ogden Arms, then just a pub, was a prime meeting place. Now it is The Rembrandt, has a hotel, and is the favourite haunt of the leather and tattoo guys.
If you want to pay homage to its roots you should visit The Rembrandt, formerly the Ogden Arms, along with Napoleons, New York New York, Cruz 101 and The New Union as they were the beginning of the gay scene, when homophobic police raids were quite common.
Now the police have a more tolerant attitude and Canal Street is booming with pubs, clubs and restaurants, putting it on a par with London and Brighton. In fact some might say when it comes to clubbing, Manchester is the number 1 place to party. Some other bars of note are the Tribecca Bar and Bed, where the downstairs restaurant has full size beds, Cyotes and Vanilla cater to the lesbian crowd, though not exclusively, Spirit, Queer and Taurus are all worthy of a visit.
Manchester’s gay credentials are further enhanced by its annual Pride celebration, which is one of the best in Europe and that a survey by Diva magazine found the Manchester Metropolitan University is the most gay friendly university in the UK.
There are numerous gay friendly hotels in the Canal Street district, along with the new apartment hotels, which means that it is easy to visit from out of town, not that you will be doing much sleeping in this vibrant city, but it makes a good site for a holiday.
Manchester has so much to offer with its rich cultural heritage, particularly in music. Despite the Liverpool sound of the Beatles, Manchester had The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits and Freddy and the Dreamers who were big on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact the list of bands or musicians who have emanated from Manchester is long and illustrious such as The Smiths, Oasis, Elbow, Stone Roses, Joy Division/New Order, The Verve, Badly Drawn Boy etc., etc..
There is also an annual jazz festival plus the Hallé Orchestra and a thriving Opera scene.
Amongst the many art galleries is The Lowry, an amazing steel and glass building, rising over the old docks area, which displays the work of local hero LS Lowery along with other ventures catering for the visual and performing arts.
The theatre is thriving too, with many theatres showing a wide range of plays from the classics to the avant garde.
Manchester has its own International airport and good road and rail links, so it makes a good base if you want to visit Liverpool, the Lake District or Blackpool, which along with also having some great gay clubs, has a huge beach, the Blackpool Tower and some awesome roller coaster rides.