Why Manchester’s gay village must be consigned to history

We still need safe LGBT spaces. But the future lies in decentralising the LGBT community in Manchester. We must reduce the power of a controlling elite that has us by the throat.

There may have been some good intentions behind the setting up of a “gay village” area more than 20 years ago, but now it’s time for all of us to acknowledge what a horrible and perverse thing it’s become.

It’s time to dismantle the gay village and spread our businesses, organisations, ourselves and our pink pounds across the city once again. The way things were quarter of a century ago…

Unfortunately, idealistic ideas about having our own area were exploited by marketeers, politicians, unscrupulous business types, events organisers and even charities. Now it’s time to show them who’s the boss: the consumer.

They recognised that once we were herded into a confined space we could be exploited and held to ransom — both financially and emotionally. Even fenced in or locked out if we didn’t pay up; Manchester Pride was born.

Many of those who currently present themselves as “community champions” kept quiet about our legal right of way along those public streets during Pride. In fact I suspect most of the businesses and organisations have known for years. These people are not our “friends.”

Like a modern day version of the Victorian freak show we were marketed to the lucrative 94% of the population that is (supposedly) not Lesbian, Gay, or Bi.

Once again, some unscrupulous business people played on well-intentioned notions of “equality”, flinging doors open to all, so they could almost triple the number of bars and clubs compared to the 1980s. The actual number of LGB people who go out to gay bars and clubs now is probably not much greater than then.

It was at the expense of our safety. But those who control the gay village don’t care. They’re doing nothing. On an almost monthly basis now we hear of rapes, beatings, stabbings, deaths and homophobia around the gay village — any one of which would have created a real outcry three decades ago.

Some serious incidents never make it into the media and the facts surrounding others are sometimes only partially reported.

Young LGBT people have grown up thinking this is how things must be and the village parasites are eager to foster this impression with their “you’ve never had it so good” schtick. It’s tragic.

Some of the business people became victims themselves. Once “the village” had been created, they could be held to ransom too with high rents and other demands. Less exploitative gay owned businesses were driven off the main streets.

For more than twenty years this gay village “experiment” has continued. It’s failed miserably. It’s time to face facts: the village can’t be “saved” or changed. Most of the businesses and charities there can’t be trusted to look after the best interests of our community.

Some of the venues are owned by large companies that won’t think twice about ditching the gay angle and switching to mainstream, when the time comes, if that will make them more money.

In 1984 the bars and clubs and other businesses were scattered around the city centre and some were even further afield. There was no web or Facebook and communication over the phone was expensive. But magazines like Mancunian Gay and Gay Times listed everything and word of mouth raised awareness to a great extent.

The communication options we enjoy now mean there has never been less reason for everything gay to be concentrated in one area so people can “find” it.

So what can we do to change things?

Firstly, stop going to the gay village and spending money there and don’t support any of the often rather cynical “charity fundraising” events that it organises. With its near £2 million a year budget, the LGF *really* doesn’t need a few thousands pounds from a Village People Weekend or a disasterous Pride that costs a million.

Encourage everyone you know to do the same. Spread the word.

Find gay-run and gay friendly “standalone” businesses that operate elsewhere, of all types and which have good values, and spend your money with them. Support terrific free events such as the Peel Park Pink Picnic.

Never again must we allow clusters of gay businesses to start forming in Manchester, because now we know what the consequences will be.

In the long run gay businesses will benefit from this too.

Once people no longer expect to go to Canal Street for everything gay, businesses will be able to set up anywhere in the city centre in less expensive premises. If the rent increases, they’ll be able to move.

It’ll also tend to make different types of business (eg. not alcohol focused), which currently can’t afford gay village rents, viable once again.

It’s sad but we must look at the bigger picture and to the future. Build something that could turn out to be much better and healthier for all of us and for those young LGBT teenagers coming up.

1 Comment

  • Gregor Martin says:

    I have to say I completely agree with your insightful comments; we do need to release the strangle hold on certain business cliques and open up to more ‘shops, stores ‘ etc in Manchester and surrounding areas.

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