Home' LOTL : Dec 12 Contents 29
lotl.com • Lesbians On The Loose Magazine
Travel | Lifestyle
This city is flat and compact, making it very walkable. Locals
blithely ignore the traffic signals and the traffic, going wherever
they want on foot or hopping onto the free trams. Canal Street
is the centre of the neighbourhood called the Gay Village. A cen-
tury ago, according to Green Badge tour guide John Ryan, this was
the run-down, seedy part of the city, where gay men could meet
far from the public eye or watchful police. Here stands the New
Union, now celebrated as one of the oldest gay pubs in town, but
once a secretive, female-owned “molly bar” where a three-piece
lesbian band used to play so gay men could illegally engage in “li-
centious dancing ,” and more.
Now gays, straights and the undeclared all legally enjoy a large
number of “gay” pubs on and around Canal Street, lesbians tend
to congregate at the Vanilla Bar, a place as comfortable and un-
threatening as its name. Large, well-lit and actually decorated, it
bespeaks inclusiveness with a large sign outside proclaiming “Boys
Are Welcome!” and, amazingly, a male bartender. During Pride
weekend, the Vanilla Bar hosts
the block party of dykes known
as Girlzone, where women dance,
sing , flirt and keep each other warm
throughout the inevitable down-
At long-term community bar Tau-
rus, most evenings co-owner Mike
“Polly” Pollard climbs the steps of a
platform outside his bar and rants.
Usually in bad drag, as good-natured as she is foul-mouthed, Polly
screams free entertainment, gossip and commentary to all within
On Pride kickoff evening, once the people around me started
slurring their words—making their lovely-but-difficult accents
incomprehensible—I returned to the serenity of the Radisson Blu
Edwardian, an imposing and comfortable hotel in the Italianate
palazzo-style Free Trade Hall. Now a champagne bar and high-end
restaurant (Opus One), the ground floor once served as a venue
for political speakers including Winston Churchill and feminist
Christabel Pankhurst, and later as a concert hall for everyone from
Bob Dylan to the Sex Pistols.
The hotel impressed me with its history, but the streets struck
me as super-friendly. Every night when I walked alone, people I
passed said hello, often calling , “You all right, love ?” and offering
directions when I looked lost. Nowhere else in England have I met
such accommodating locals: Here is the “friendly North” of the
country. At midnight, I roamed through small alleys and forgot-
ten areas of downtown, never worried about anything more than
keeping my feet dry.
Foodie highlights of the city include the Richmond Tea Rooms,
a fiercely fabulous old building owned by two men who run a
cocktail bar on one side and on the other an Alice in Wonderland-
themed tearoom (featuring cheeky signs saying “Drink Me” over a
row of teapots and teas, “Eat Me” over the cakes).
My favourite meal was at Australasia, an elegant restaurant started
by an Australian. The wine list was largely European, and the cock-
tails included a fantastic cumquat-cucumber mojito full of fresh
mint leaves and crushed ice.
En route to the parade on Saturday, my friends and I stopped at
the newly opened Alchemist Bar on New York Street. It’s a light,
airy space furnished with distressed-leather sofas imprinted with
equally distressed Union Jacks. Senior mixologist Aaron Small-
man introduced us to the signature cocktail, the Mad Hatter’s Tea
Party: An elderflower mixture is poured over dry ice in a teapot,
so that thick, creamy steam emerges from the spout, covering both
mixologist and drinker in a white cloud. Once it clears, the bever-
age is poured: a pale green, sour-floral brew much appreciated by
my friends, especially those who’d missed breakfast.
Feeling festive after our liquid brunch, we reached the official
starting point for the Pride parade. The parade’s entire route,
over a kilometre long , was lined with crowds, usually several peo-
ple deep and sometimes two people high, where grown-ups had
children up on their shoulders.
Thousands of not apparently
gay people and straight allies
had come to watch, many in cos-
tume. Bunny rabbits held hands
with elves, gypsies cavorted
with princesses, flamenco danc-
ers waved flags—and that was
just the adults! It seems a lot of
Mancunians see the parade as a
carnival-like chance to dress up and have fun, regardless of their
orientation—and isn’t that how we want our celebrations to be ?
For the nighttime concerts, I went to the VIP viewing tent—a
raised platform at the back of the audience, featuring a roof and a
well-stocked bar. I got a Pimm’s cup (the summer drink of choice
in sunny parts of Britain; also available in Manchester) and hung
around waiting for the headliners, UK 90’s band Steps.
A tall man with a shaved head moved in front of me, blocking my
already limited view. I put a soft hand on his prominent bicep and
suggested, nicely but firmly, that he shouldn’t stand there.
“But it’s Steps!” he squealed, in explanation and apology, and
obligingly sidled sideways. I gathered that he meant he’d been so
carried away that he’d neglected his usual English (and gay) man-
ners, and he was sorry, but he hoped I’d understand. I did, sort of.
He and everyone else kept moving in perfect, robotic, smiling
synch with the music, swiftly changing position with each line
of the lyrics, none of which I could make out. For me, it was just
a throbbing , over-amped bass and masses of damp, happy Brits
dancing to music they’d loved for a long time. Though they might
have been drunk, they knew their moves by heart. I wished I knew
them, too, but I liked just being there, watching. Even though I
hadn’t located their breast-shaped hill and I couldn’t really join in
their dance, I felt like part of their Pride.
Canal Street is the centre
of the neighbourhood
called the Gay Village.
Links Archive Nov 12 Jan 13 Navigation Previous Page Next Page