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Photos of Manchester’s legendary gay clubnight Flesh go on display at Kimpton Clocktower

The new photography exhibit  documents the anti-Clause 28 protest and The Haçienda’s hallowed club night Flesh

Georgina Pellant Georgina Pellant - 29th July 2022

Photos of Manchester’s legendary gay clubnight Flesh and Clause 28 protests have gone on display at The Kimpton Clocktower Hotel.

Documenting and celebrating the city’s LGBTQIA+ community, the new exhibition appears as part of the venue’s longstanding partnership with arts institution the British Culture Archive (BCA).

Named  ‘Together As One – A Celebration Of Manchester’s LGBTQIA+ Community’, the exhibit launched on Thursday 28 July and will be in situ throughout the summer.

Photographs on display capture two pivotal moments in the city’s queer history.

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Image: Peter J Walsh

Photography by Peter J Walsh documents the anti-Clause 28 protest, which was held in Manchester and saw over 20,000 people take to the streets to protest Clause 28 – an attempt to suppress the gay community at a time when it was already struggling to deal with the HIV & AIDS epidemic and the backlash towards the community driven by media. 

Walsh, who is more well known for documenting the city’s nightlife during the ‘Madchester’ years is one of the few who documented this important protest that would help change the face of LGBTQIA+ rights in the UK. 

Speaking on the Clause 28 Demo, Manchester, 1988 imagery, photographer Peter J Walsh said: “The Anti-Clause 28 demo was one of the largest demonstrations I had covered in Manchester during that period.

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Image: The Manc Group
Image: The Manc Group

“The starting point was on Oxford Road, by the Poly and the participants seemed to go on as far as the eye could see. Manchester City Council reckoned there were 20,000 people on the demo. It was loud, happy and vibrant.

“The country had been under Thatcher’s rule since 1979 and people were determined to fight back against this law.

“The left-wing council of Manchester welcomed the marchers and stood with them in solidarity against the divisive Tory Government. The LGBQTQIA+ communities civil liberties were under attack by Thatcher and we were prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and say enough is enough.”

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Read more: The history of Manchester Pride (and how far it’s come)

Elsewhere, photographs by Jon Shard capture The Haçienda’s hallowed dancefloor club night, Flesh, first launched in October 1991.

Flesh was the flamboyant mid-week night at The Haçienda, which welcomed everyone, black, white, gay, straight and was also the home of the clubs’ first female resident DJs, Paulette and Kath McDermott. 

Image: Jon Shard

Flesh arrived during a turbulent time during the club’s and city’s history., the comedown from the Halycon years of 1988-1990 was in full flow and regular ‘Hac’ nights were losing their appeal due to a number of heavy gang-related incidents and laddish clientele putting off the punters.

The Haçienda and nights such as Flesh fit into a tradition of creativity and cultural innovation in Manchester, which can be seen throughout the city today.

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Speaking on the Flesh at The Haçienda imagery, photographer Jon Shard said: “My friends and people around me, would be talking about it all month.

Image: The Manc Group
Image: The Manc Group

“People came from all over, you had people from Europe coming over for it – it was always packed and full of energy. It was one of the most important nights there – probably the biggest gay night in Europe. 

“It was always special. I was there for every single one, it was the best night to shoot because of the carnival atmosphere. It was really colourful, everyone would spend two or three days working out what they were going to wear for it.”

The new exhibit ‘Together As One – A Celebration of Manchester’s LGBTQIA+ Community’  follows on from the success of ‘A Woman’s Work’, the first instalment by the BCA in the hotel,

Throughout the summer, Kimpton Clocktower Hotel and The Refuge Bar and Restaurant will be hosting a series of summer activities in celebration of all things Pride.

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Image: The Manc Group
Image: The Manc Group

From Sparkle Weekend celebrations, a new exhibition celebrating Manchester’s LGBTQIA+ community in partnership with British Culture Archive, and of course the iconic Come As You Are Weekender – there’s something for everyone.

To find out more about the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel x British Culture Archive ‘Together As One – A Celebration Of Manchester’s LGBTQIA+ Community’, visit the hotel’s website here: