Manchester is rich with gay venues, events, and culture spanning many decades. If you’re queer yourself, it’s most probably a huge part of choosing where you’d like to spend your uni years.
From the Gay Village, a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Gardens, to the quirky and alternative drag and queer scene of the Islington Mill, this city has so many diverse options for you to explore! Let’s take a look at a few of them.
An undeniable place to start is the Gay Village, a collection of over 40 venues stretching along the Rochdale Canal. During the day, it is home to all sorts of amenities such as cafes, restaurants, hairdressers, and even a doctors’ surgery! Oh, and we can’t forget the incredible murals that are displayed on the walls.
At night, the shots roll out, and the streets are filled with drag queens and colourful outfits. You’re bound to find big names in the club scene, such as G.A.Y and Cruz101, along with hidden gems like Via and Vanilla, Manchester’s sapphic bar. And we can’t forget that the Village is the base of Manchester’s Pride festival: a huge celebration that happens every August to celebrate our individuality and sexuality.
The beauty of Gay Village is that everyone feels welcome, whether you’re a fellow queer or an ally. With a never-ending list of local and international drag talent every week, The village is a quintessential part of your gay experience in Manchester.
For the more alternative crowd, Bollox Nightclub on Grosvenor Street might be an option. Bollox Nightclub refer to themselves as “Unashamedly Queer” and operate a no-rules music policy. This loosely follows dirty pop, punk rock, electroclash, smash, and retro hits. It’s basically a place where Joy Division co-exists with Donna Summer, and Kylie lives peacefully with Nirvana. Close to most of the uni accommodation, Bollox will be back in full swing come September.
If you’re looking for something less loud and dancy, there are so many places around the city centre for you. For example, there’s the famous Affleck’s Palace, which you can find standing proudly in the Northern Quarter. Full with over 50 independently owned shops, businesses, cafes, tattoo parlours, and more, this four-storey building is packed to the brim. There’s also an LGBTQ+ shop that stocks literature, flags, makeup, and more, and a gender-inclusive hairdresser that employs queer people and specialises in having a one-price menu, regardless of your gender. This is the perfect place to come if you want something a little bit more alternative chopped into your style.
Another hidden gem in the Northern Quarter is The Feel Good Club, a dazzling coffee shop owned by wives Kiera and Amy. This place spreads the message of good mental health and sets out to “make you feel good with each visit”. They serve locally roasted coffee and have partnered with their neighbours to serve everyone a top brunch and good vibes every day of the week – plus the occasional yoga class, art exhibition, and wellbeing talks.
Manchester’s Queer History
I always wondered why Manchester was so queer and accepting, beyond the politics, until I looked into the history and understood why. In the 60s, the Campaign for the Homosexual Equalities Act was birthed in Central Manchester. This spread through into the 80s and 90s, where the council was hugely influential in the campaign against the highly harmful Section 28. Even past all the LGBTQ rights stuff, Manchester is the birthplace of Emmeline Pankhurst, whose statue you can go and visit in St Peter’s Square; a massive face in the women’s equality fight back in the 1900s.
Manchester city is full of many gems celebrating queer life, such as small rainbow mosaics on the floor and murals spread across walls. This city is such a welcoming place for any queer person to feel at home and safe in their identity and wellbeing. With the community here not having its sole focus on the party, there is something for everyone.