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Monday 9 November 2009

Cruising crackdown prompts call for a ‘tolerance zone’

The police and Manchester City Council have announced the latest ‘crackdown’ on cruising in the city’s canal area. The Lesbian and Gay Foundation has promoted this in an article on its website, listing the various jail sentences that cruisers might incur (supposedly). (more…)


Filed under: Gay,LGBT,Manchester,Politics — GS @ 2:10 pm
Tuesday 5 February 2008

The ‘Pink Peak’ minority

Increasingly, it seems to me that life may have improved for a narrow segment of the UK lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population, but not for the majority. In some ways, for a large proportion of us things are worse now than they were 15-20 years ago.

(more…)


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester,Politics,With video — GS @ 5:21 am
Thursday 26 April 2007

Manchester Pride 2007 poster — no mention of gay, lesbian, bi or transgender (video)

The poster for Manchester Pride 2007 is out and about. But nowhere on it will you see the words ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘bi’ or ‘transgender’. The nearest you’ll get is the phrase ‘LGBT charities’.

(more…)


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester,Politics — GS @ 1:07 am
Wednesday 15 November 2006

South Africa approves same-sex weddings

BBC reports:

South Africa’s parliament has voted to legalise same-sex weddings – the first African country to approve such unions.

The controversial Civil Union bill was passed by 230 votes to 41.


Filed under: LGBT,Politics — GS @ 5:24 am
Thursday 21 September 2006

An inconvenient truth: Gay Manchester was better 20 years ago

Ad for Heros gay club, Manchester 1980's

I get tired of newspaper articles that make out that the gay ‘scene’ in Manchester used to be so seedy and bad years ago, but now it is so wonderful. It just isn’t true.

Take this article from 2003 which appeared in The Manchester Evening News — a newspaper that can be relied on to regurgitate hype about gay Manchester (just check out contradictory figures in the Evening News for attendance at Pride over the past eight years).

Here the Evening News quotes Iain Scott, owner of Taurus bar and restaurant in Canal Street who says:

“The last 10 years have seen the biggest evolution,” says Scott. “It has gone from three, maybe four, venues to over 30 venues in the Village Business Association.”

There may only have been a handful of venues around Canal Street. But if he is suggesting that there were only three or four in the whole of the city centre, then that is not true at all.

Flyer for Stuffed Olives mid-1980's with typewriter and magazines of the time

I moved to Manchester in 1982 and in the early to mid-1980s there were the following gay bars and clubs in Manchester city centre:

Stuffed Olives, High Society, No1 Club, Manhattan, Rembrandt, Dickens, Napoleons, The Union, New York, Heros, Archway, Thompson’s Arms.

A quick look at a couple of issues of Mancunian Gay magazine from the time shows some others that I don’t remember. The November 1983 mag lists: Why Not? on Ashton New Road and the Egerton Arms Hotel on Gore Street. The May 1984 issue lists Shadows on Union Street (later called El Cid). The June 1985 issue includes Paddys Goose on Bloom Street.

I make that 16 pubs and clubs. Not ‘three or four’.

‘Him Monthly’ August 1983 issue lists a leather/denim night every Friday at the Wheatsheaf pub on Camp Street (would you believe?) and there was the Poly gay disco also on Friday nights. And let’s not forget the Bloom Street Cafe and Gaze bookshop and Clone Zone which were also on Bloom Street.

There were two gay bars that we used to go to in nearby Stockport: The Baker’s Vaults and the New Inn.

Flyer for Heros gay club, Manchester, 1983

In those days, gay bars and clubs were almost entirely gay. There were no straight boys looking for a fight and no shrieking hen parties. On the whole, people were not on drugs and it was rare to see anyone drunk and incapable. It was really quite civilised and fun. You could enjoy a night out without worrying that you might have your face punched in or drink spiked.

Yes it’s true you had to knock on the door to get into some places. But that kept out the trouble-makers. These days they are inside the pubs and clubs.

Ad for Manhattan gay club, Manchester 1980's

In the 1980s some of the places were in better parts of town: Stuffed Olives and Heros were on the other side of Deansgate to Kendall’s department store. Manhattan was in Spring Gardens and No.1 Club was near the town hall. In fact, far less ‘seedy’ than Canal Street is now.

Ad for No 1 gay club, Manchester 1980's

Many venues were gay owned and run (unlike today). There may be double the number of venues that claim to be ‘gay’ now. But I reckon there are fewer gay men and women out on the scene now than there were in Manchester 25 years ago.

This isn’t just because everywhere is now ‘mixed’, but also because older gay people aren’t welcomed by and don’t ‘fit in’ to most places in 2006. Meanwhile, many gay youngsters reject what the scene offers and can socialise perfectly well without it.

Years ago, it really was like a family. You would see senior citizens in The Rembrandt and The Union alongside 18-year-olds. Out on the scene we had friends of all ages and some of the older ones were almost like aunt or uncle figures to us. We valued their experience and advice and enjoyed their company. They cooked meals for us (poor students) and threw the best parties in town.

But where do older people go in the wonderful gay village now, Evening News? Do tell… That public community has broken down and everyone is poorer now because of it. I would say, in general, there is more ageism, sometime bordering on age phobia (everyone aged over 35 is a paedo — it’s a well-known fact!) and perhaps fewer mixed-age relationships because those are less accepted (‘what will my mates think?’).

However, off the scene, mixed-age LGBT friendships are still very much around. Some of my dearest friends are aged in their twenties. But we rarely meet or do anything on Canal Street. If the gay village, scene and Pride don’t welcome everyone, what is the point of them? Are they a force for good or bad?

Ad for High Society gay club, Manchester 1980's

The old magazines also list a number of gay groups that met and there was the Gay Centre in the heart of things on Bloom Street.

The 1982 and 1984 issues list two clinics in the city centre area where you could get a sexual health check up. Compared to one today. In those days you could actually walk in and see someone immediately without having to wait up to six weeks for an appointment as you have to now.

The Pink Picnic 1990

The Pink Picnic 1990

Out, proud and very visible at the Pink Picnic 1990. It was held on a public footpath next to the Dovestone Reservoir at Saddleworth. No fences, politicians, marketing people, police or permission. All the money collected went to good causes.

And as for people not being ‘very proud to be seen’ until the gay village became over-commercialised and full of straight people in the mid 1990’s, with bars like Manto… What a travesty of the truth: tell that to the thousands of men and women who walked around the city centre (not in front of friendly crowds) and then packed Albert Square for the Section 28 rally in 1988, the Liberation ’91 march, or who took part in the Walk For Life every year.

They were out and proud on the streets. By comparison, how much courage does it take to go to a ‘mixed’ bar where you can pretend to be straight if anyone sees you there?

Liberation 91 march, Manchester

Watch historic video footage of the Liberation 91 lesbian and gay rally in Manchester, 1991

What is there is to be so proud of now? It’s all about money, youth, alcohol and hairless gym bodies. Our (non-political) Pride event excludes people who can’t afford to pay and the binge-drinking, drug-taking, self-destructive culture which it promotes results in many actually ending up with HIV and needing a lifetime of expensive combination therapy.

Raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a Jumble sale on Canal Street, August Bank Holiday, Manchester 1990
Raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a Jumble sale on Canal Street, August Bank Holiday, Manchester 1990
Raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a Jumble sale on Canal Street, August Bank Holiday, Manchester 1990

Above: raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a jumble sale on Canal Street, Manchester, August Bank Holiday, 1990.

Which makes a mockery of the relatively small amount that Manchester Pride raises for charity. In 2006 people with HIV were actually charged to walk in the Pride parade.

Currently, the gay village is something to be ashamed of, not celebrated. We have let big business and the City Council destroy the community that we once had.

Meanwhile the same people are behind this blatant rewriting of history because it suits them and their business purposes.

As for Iain Scott’s suggestion that in the 1950’s ‘all’ the buildings in the Canal Street area ‘were derelict’, this isn’t true. In a recent episode of BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, featuring David Dickinson, he revealed that in the 1960’s he worked in a building on Princess Street opposite the New Union. There were lots of businesses operating in the area.

Photo 1: from 1963, a shot of the site where Clone Zone stands now on Sackville Street. There are two neat little shops that are open for business. On the far right of the block is what is now Napoleons (then a restaurant) and beyond it a church which stood where the Bloom Street car-park is today.

Photo 2: The Rembrandt in 1962. The shoe repair shop next door was still there thirty years later.

Photo 3: this picture from 1973 shows a restaurant in the building that is now Thompson’s Arms.

Photo 4: a cafe and a couple of other businesses at the junction of Sackville Street and Major Street in 1962. This is the street that is between the CIS building and Bloom Street car-park.

In all, a thriving area I would say and probably with a wider variety of different businesses than there are now.

UPDATES: small additions were made to this article on 5 September 2009.


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester,The media — GS @ 6:08 am
Thursday 24 August 2006

Greg Palast on ‘The Fear Factory’

I’m going to tell you something which is straight-up heresy: America is not under attack by terrorists. There is no WAR on terror…

Greg Palast on why fear sells better than sex and how The War on Terror is the Weapon of Mass Distraction. Read it here.

Greg Palast’s investigative reports appear on the BBC, in The Guardian and in Harpers. However, research costs money and he ‘ain’t too proud to beg‘.

Work in progress includes:

1. The untold story of the New Orleans flood.
2. Shoplifting your vote: November 2006 fix.
3. The next oil war.
4. [Confidential.]


Filed under: Politics — GS @ 7:57 am
Monday 1 May 2006

Bargain Hunters: cakes

UPDATE (October 2008): this video has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.

It was Marie Antoinette who supposedly said ‘let them eat cake.’ We found that Sainsburys in Manchester takes a different line…

Bargain Hunters: cakes

STORY LINKS: Polari on Wikipedia, Polari, Julian & Sandy (audio clip in ogg format) from BBC Round the Horne, Spar, Sainsburys, Manchester sun & rainfall.

Bargain Hunters is our reality shopping programme. Can we get some good last-minute deals at the local grocery stores? It’s a race against the clock!

Amusing to see the two signs as Chris walks into the second shop: ‘hello’ and ‘play here’. I think you’ll get me when you watch the video… We were both suffering when we made this one. I had a cold and could hardly speak and Chris had just given up smoking.

ABOUT THE SHOW

Chris and I have been going shopping together for a long time now. It’s always a laugh and, recently, we decided to see if the fun would come across on video. Making the videos has added a whole new aspect to it for us.

We’re very genuine and honest about the whole experience, though we wouldn’t want anyone to think we take it too seriously. Being alpha-males, I guess we both enjoy the thrill of the chase ;-D

Oh and Chris doesn’t want you to think he is a cheapskate who lives entirely on 50p bargains!

FRIENDSHIPS

I’ve known Chris since 2001, when he was 18 and moved in next door to me. We’ve been friends ever since, though he no longer lives next door. Yes I’m old enough to be his dad — and I’m sure we’re both glad I’m not!

He keeps me up-to-date with the things that twenty-somethings are interested in and sometimes I can help him because I’ve had a bit more experience of life. Plus we have some cross-over in interests.

It can be tough being young and gay and I believe that older men have a responsibility to help the younger ones stay out of trouble. And, for the cynical people out there, often there is no sexual side to these friendships.

RICHARD

When I was with my partner of almost nine years, and both aged in our 20’s, one of our friends, Richard, was in his 60’s. We used to visit him every Sunday. We valued his friendship and I’m sure he felt the same. He had some marvellous stories to tell, like the one about him being allowed to take home a German prisoner of war for Christmas!

Down the years there were probably always these old ‘aunties’ who took younger men under their wing. I hope it continues today, though I’m not confident it does so much. I see a lot of ageism now: guys who won’t talk to any gay man who is over 30. They are missing out…

Maybe this is another sign of the breakdown of the gay community, which seems to have happened over the last 15 years. I’ll be returning to this subject soon…

CAMP NAMES

It was a tradition for these old aunties to give you a ‘camp’ name. Which was a hark-back to the days when gay men referred to each other using female names. Like Polari, the ‘gay language’ of the 1950’s and 1960’s, camp names allowed gay men to talk about each other openly in public without raising suspicion: ‘did you hear what happened to Myrtle? She was seeing this guy…’ etc.

This was not connected with how effeminate the men were. Often, even the roughest, toughest gay man would have a camp name and probably would answer to it! Which all added to the fun, as you would see some tattooed ex-convict called Terence, with a face like a pitt-bull, answering to the name ‘Tess’. As Oscar Wilde said: ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’…

My camp name was Linda and my partner’s was Angie. I was named after Linda Lewis — a woman journalist on BBC North-West Tonight — and my partner after Angie Watts from Eastenders!

Camp names are a part of British gay culture that appears to have been throttled by the political-correctness of the 1980’s and ’90’s…

Actually, Chris has a camp name: Marigold, which came about because he helped someone clean his house and he wore rubber gloves to do it: ‘Marigold’ brand.


Filed under: Food & cookery,Fun,Manchester,Shopping — GS @ 6:05 pm
 
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