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24 Aug 2020 - 5 minutes

Our guide to Manchester's LGBTQI+ scene and its history!

Best LGBTQIA+ bars in Manchester blog header

In the early hours of June 28th 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, Manhattan. Patrons of the Stonewall and other lesbian and gay bars fought back when police became violent. The riots were to become one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement, and New York has since become a beacon for the gay community with one of the world’s biggest LGBTQI+ scenes.

Like New York, Manchester has played a big part in campaigning for the equality of the LGBTQI+ community here in the UK. 140 years ago, in 1880, The Manchester City Police raided a drag ball which was taking place at the Temperance Hall in Hulme. 47 men were arrested and charged with soliciting and inciting each other to commit “improper actions.”

Drawing of police breaking up a drag ball in Hulme, Manchester 1880


Drag continued to play a part in the city through the early 1940s when The Union Pub hosted drag shows during World War II, popular with American troops stationed nearby. Unfortunately, the 1950s saw the death of the great mathematician Alan Turing, often dubbed as ‘the father of modern computing’ and contributor to breaking the German Enigma machine during the war.

After serving at Bletchley park, Turing was appointed as reader in the Mathematics Department at the Victoria University of Manchester. It was during this time that he started a relationship with Arnold Murray, one that would see him charged with “gross indecency” and forced to undergo hormonal physical changes as part of his probation. Turing was found dead by his housekeeper two years after his conviction, with an inquest determining that Turing had committed suicide.

Black and white portrait of mathematician Alan Turing


The 1960s saw a positive shift in LGBTQI+ reform in Manchester. In 1964, Greater Manchester became the birthplace of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, developed from the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee that was founded by Labour councillor Allan Horsfall. Three years later, the partial decriminalisation of sex between men over the age of 21 took place.

Great progress continued to be made during the 70s and 80s, when Manchester City Council was hugely influential in the campaign against Section 28, an act that forbid local authorities from intentionally promoting homosexuality and stopped the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality in schools. The famous Manchester Pride was created in 1985 following a grant of £1,700 from the Manchester City council to put on a two-week celebration.

Nowadays, Manchester’s LGBTQI+ scene is largely centred around the cobbles of Canal Street and Manchester Pride has grown to become one of the biggest in the world. Last year, Ariana Grande headlined the Pride Festival which shifted to a new site at Mayfield.

Pride flag is flown over a crowded pride parade in Manchester


Due to Covid-19, Manchester Pride can’t take place in its traditional format this year. Instead, Alternative Manchester Pride Festival is taking place online between 29th and 31st August. It promises something for everyone who plans to celebrate Pride at home, featuring exclusive performances, arts and culture events, important conversations around activism and history and a whole host of other activities.

However, if you did want to head over to the village for a socially distanced drink or two to toast what would have been Pride weekend, we’ve got you covered. Below we’ve profiled some of the best bars and LGBTQI+ venues in the city and what they have to offer!

Exterior of G-A-Y club on Canal Street in Manchester's Gay Village


G-A-Y shares sister venues in London and is one of Manchester’s main gay nightclubs situated at the end of Canal Street. It has a good variety of music and live acts and is open every night until 4am.

People drinking outside on Canal Street outside of Bar Pop


Bar Pop is independently run, owned by a drag queen and boasts the largest in-house entertainment team in the North West. Bar Pop is proud to be an inclusive bar for its patrons and staff.

Exterior of The Brewers on Canal Street in Manchester's Gay Village


Formerly KIKI and Void, the Brewers is Manchester’s newest cabaret venue. Set over two floors, visit the Brewers bar for cocktails and live entertainment or dance the night away in the Brewers Club.

Exterior of Oscar's Show Bar on Canal Street in Manchester's Gay Village


Located in the heart of the Canal Street strip, Oscars Bar boasts a cabaret atmosphere and all the glamour that goes with it. From the red carpet to the light-up trays that drinks are served on, Oscars offers a unique twist on the Manchester nightlife.

Bikers pose outside New Union Hotel in Manchester's Gay Village


As mentioned before, The New Union (formerly The Union Pub) used to host drag shows during World War II and is still doing so today! The New Union is a hotel and show bar with a fun and lively atmosphere, awesome DJs, karaoke, drag cabaret and themed nights.

Interior of Via bar on Canal Street in Manchester's Gay Village


Via is the old lady of Canal Street. Incredible and unique, this premier gay venue offers everything from DJs, cabaret and live music to dancing and an extensive range of food. Pop in on a Sunday for its popular roast dinner!

Exterior of Centre Stage LGBTQIA+ venue in Manchester's Gay Village


Hidden in the backstreets of Canal Street, Centre Stage is a little gem of a Dive Bar. Centre Stage serves up camp cabaret & nostalgia. It also has a gorgeous outdoor terrace, perfect for enjoying drinks on a hot summer’s night!

Interior of Cruz 101 LGBTQIA+ club and bar in Manchester's Gay Village


Cruz 101 is Manchester's biggest and longest running venue. In fact, Cruz is one of the longest running gay clubs in the country having pioneered mainstream gay clubbing in the early ‘90s.

The club hosts regular weekly nights and special events throughout the year.

Whichever way you are celebrating Pride this year, please do so safely and sensibly. And if you’re interested in living in one of the world’s most culturally diverse and LGBTQI+ friendly cities, sashay your way over to our website and book a viewing to visit one of our stunning 2-bedroom, open-plan apartments today!

As RuPaul herself would say, “Shantay, you stay!”

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