Tuesday 16 February 2010

The LGBT History Series (16) - Canal Street, Manchester

Canal Street in Manchester is a unique space of urban culture. Today the area is voraciously protected by society and the municipality as a place of gay or queer culture. It centres around a street of cafes, pubs, bars and clubs in the centre of Manchester which has been populated by 'gay-bars' and is an international queer tourist attraction.

Author: Wrboyce, Permission: Creative Commons

Before the 1960s Canal Street was a space of subverted queer culture - its dark, isolated spaces close to the train and bus stations were perfect spots for cruising men and women without detection from the fierce Manchester police. This focus lead to many of the existing pubs and social spaces around Canal Street receiving a queer clientele.

In 1991 a gay-club called 'Manto' was opened on Canal Street, but unlike other gay-clubs with blacked-out windows and indeterminate names, Manto had large glass windows making it a place to see and be seen. Over the next two decades, Canal Street's queer presence has been cultivated and built into the infrastructure of the city; with Manchester's Pride march being one of the highest grossing events in Manchester's festival calendar. The clientele of Canal Street have showed their power and passion for their space in the past; in 1996 they staged a boycott on a chain-pub which opened on the street but refused to support the Pride festival. It had to close, and was re-opened as a 'Queer'.

The gay district has been described as 'homonormative', happily expressing and publicising the acceptable faces of homosexuality whilst the political issues of sexual expression are excluded, as gay culture becomes desexualised and sanitised so as not to offend wider sources of consumerism.

Canal Street looks onto Sackville Park, which displays various queer memorials and dedications including the Alan Turing statue referred to earlier in the series, and the 'Beacon of Hope'. This is Britain's only material memorial to those who've suffered or died from HIV/AIDs. The candlelight vigil on World Aids Day is traditionally the end of the Manchester Pride Festival

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canal_Street_%28Manchester%29_Sign_Post.jpg