Today, Manchester’s Gay Village is a veritable party district. Take it from someone who lived above one of its busiest nightclubs for two years. This is definitely the place where the rest of Manchester comes to party when everything else has closed for the night.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll find there’s much more to the village than just cheap drinks, cheesy pop music, 6am closes and innumerable pulling opportunities.
It’s’ an area that’s rich with social history. One that has, over the years, become an increasingly safe space for the city’s LGBTQ+ community (although, as we’re reminded every year, there’s still more work to do).
Even my straight female friends like to come here for a night out, because they feel safer in the village than anywhere else.
It hasn’t always been this way, though. As recently as the 90s, many bars in the area had blacked out windows to stop them from being raided by police for ‘licentious dancing’, an ancient law that stopped two women (or men) from dancing with one another.
In fact, walk past the New Union pub and you’ll see it still has its clouded glass windows today.
Historically, the community here has dealt with a lot of persecution from the police and the public.
The neighbourhood has welcomed a gay clientele since the 1940s, but, by all accounts, it’s only in the past twenty years or so that things have really started to turn a corner, despite homosexuality being decriminalised in 1967.
An excerpt from Mancunian Gay magazine in 1984 titled ‘Not tonight, Anderton’ tells the story of how one night 20 plain clothes officers stormed into Napoleons and forced everyone in attendance to provide their personal information before being allowed to leave – an incident that was later branded as “an obvious case of police victimisation” in a press release issued by the Gay Centre.
In spite of this, the first Gay Pub and Club Olympics event (now thought of as the inaugural Manchester Pride) still went ahead on the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1985.
Notably, it had the support of a new generation of Labour councillors elected in 1984 – who gave the gay community their support and appointed Lesbian and Gay officers.
Inspired by Ken Livingstone‘s early days on the Greater London Council, those new councillors created an Equal Opportunities Committee and appointed Maggie Turner and Paul Fairweather in what would prove a landmark move for gay rights in the north of England.
1986 saw things gradually improve for the community, as councillors’ ‘put their arms around’ the gay community, welcoming a Northern Pride event in 1986 and contributing public funds towards the celebrations.
As the ’80s continued, Manchester’s fight for gay rights continued with the Section 28 march in 1988 acting as a huge turning point as the Thatcher government’s draconian legislation brought people out onto the streets to protest in their droves.
Still, it wasn’t until the early nineties that the Gay Village welcomed its first openly-gay bar and even then police raids in the area continued right up to 1994.
The battles against institutional homophobia were still being fought, clearly, and some continued to call the Canal Street area ‘Satan’s Square Mile’ – but the opening of new nightclubs like Cruz 101 and seminal events Electric Chair and Poptastic saw the community pushing back.
In the years that followed, many would credit the Manchester Pride festival with pushing the boundaries and campaigning for equality, but at its heart, it all boils down to the defiant community spirit born out of this relatively small patch of land.
Repurposed at the end of the Industrial Revolution into a gay quarter that has since become one of the most famous in the world, Manchester has a lot of things to be proud of – and the village is definitely up there with the best.
From bars and restaurants to historical landmarks, a beautiful park and some stunning apartments, there’s so much to appreciate here if you take the time to look a little more closely.
The Molly House – A backstreet boozer with a cracking little tapas menu and top-floor outdoor terrace, this popular whore house-turned-pub is pretty damn chic. A colourful mural on its side, painted by artists Hayley Garner and Jay Gilleard of Nomad Clan, depicts famous faces from the city’s LGBTQ+ scene.
Iconic Bar – This intimate backstreet gin bar can be found just off the beaten path of the village, just opposite The Molly House. Located on Richmond Street, it has quite the spirits list and is a perfect chilled-out stop-off for any and all gin and tonic fans.
Habesha – A hidden foodie gem in the heart of the gay village, the Ethiopian restaurant Habesha sits above a pretty run-of-the-mill takeaway and is quite easy to miss. Look out for it. Serving up traditional Ethiopian curries on soft, spongy sourdough-fermented injera bread, it has been quietly ticking away for years.
Read more:The Ethiopian restaurant hidden above a takeaway in Manchester’s gay village
Richmond Tea Rooms – Boozy brunches and Alice in Wonderland-themed afternoon teas are the order of the day at Richmond Tea Rooms, found opposite Sackville Gardens. This out-of-this-world restaurant and bar really is a sight to be seen, with its interiors all inspired by Lewis Carroll’s magical fantasy world.
Napoleons – The oldest gay pub in the neighbourhood, Napoleon’s dates all the way back to 1941 and provides a safe space for trans people, crossdressers and drag queens. Its karaoke nights are very popular, and underneath there’s a great little Chinese takeaway that stays open late.
The Goose – Traditional boozer The Goose serves up typical pub fare, pints of lager, craft ale and cocktails seven nights a week with a warm welcome for all.
Churchills – Something of an institution in the Gay Village, Churchills always has a buzz about it. Originally known as The Mechanic Arms, it frequently hosts cabaret shows, karaoke nights and guest appearances from Manchester’s best drag queens
Arnero – For lovers of Indian Street food, Arnero is definitely a spot to check out whilst you’re here. Run by two best mates, Renu and Sanjeev, it’s been a fixture since 2013 serving much more than your traditional tandoori dishes (although you can get these too).
The Village Fish and Chip Shop – Quick and easy late-night takeaways are ten a penny in the village, but if you want something reliable just take our word for it and go to the Village Fish and Chip Shop. You can’t go wrong here. Equally, if you’re wanting cigs or sweeties (or y-fronts, for that matter), there’s a sweet little shop directly beneath selling all three.
Chuan – A relatively new addition to Canal Street, this Chinese barbecue restaurant and karaoke bar offers traditional hot pot at your table and has private karaoke rooms for those who want to get their sing on.
Vanilla – The only lesbian venue in an undeniably gay-dominated neighbourhood, Vanilla is probably more nightclub than bar. With regular DJs and different events, it’s been a fixture since 1998 and is known colloquially as the “lesbian mecca of the north”.
The Thompson’s Arms – Whilst you can drink in here during the day, the vibe’s much better at night when you can dance to pop classics, watch regular live drag and cabaret acts, and rub shoulders with friends old and new. Drinks are cheap and come the weekend it gets very busy, attracting all sorts.
Cruz 101 – This gay nightclub in an old textile warehouse is ready to party seven days a week, with a range of different nights playing everything from cutting-edge house to commercial floor-fillers and 80s, 90s and 00s classics.
New York New York – From cocktails in the glam Queens Bar, to live cabaret, DJ sets and dancing ’til late in the club, ‘Party Palace’ NYNY is open to party seven nights a week A safe, friendly, welcoming space for all, it’s sat in the heart of the Gay Village for over thirty years.
Oscars – This intimate, theatre-style gay bar shows film clips from a mix of classic and modern musicals and offers live music from singers and pianists on selected nights. Drinks-wise, think fine wines and cocktails.
The Eagle – This popular men-only gay club gets packed with guys, all of whom pretty much come for a similar thing. Whilst it’s not a hardcore cruise club, it often throws themed parties like JOCK and Deviant, and membership is required to gain entry.
G-A-Y – A lesbian and gay club known for blasting out the pop tunes into the early hours, G-A-Y is one of the big focal points of Canal Street and really is somewhere you can’t avoid ending up if you’re on a night out there. Open until 4am, it has a huge dancefloor and some cheap drink deals.
Centre Stage – Famous for showcasing drag queens with attitude, nostalgia and musical theatre, this tiny little Canal Street bar is a notorious venue that cabaret fans won’t want to miss.
Bar Pop – This buzzy bar with its coloured lights and cartoon characters at the door is a hub of queer activity, with different events every night. Their Diva cabaret has been named one of the best shows in Manchester, whilst fans of cheesy pop music must check out Monday night party SKINT.
The home of Manchester Pride since 1985, every year visitors flock to the Gay Village in their thousands to party in the streets and celebrate love in all its forms across the August Bank Holiday weekend. But there’s plenty going on here the rest of the year, too.
Beyond the vibrant late-night bar and club culture of Manchester’s LGBTQ+ community, those wanting to wander further afield will be rewarded with a number of poignant statues and art installations to muse over.
From The Beacon of Hope, a symbol of solidarity and memorial to everyone lost to HIV that was first conceived in 1997, to the 2001 bronze statue of Manchester computing legend and gay icon Alan Turing, head over to Sackville Gardens to get your culture and nature fix in one.
You’ll also find the ‘LGBTQ+ Queen Bee’, a symbol of pride created as part of the 2018 Bee In The City art trail. Funded by the local community, its eyes mirror the legacy and poignancy of Alan Turing’s life whilst street names and landmarks tell the story of its new home.
Beyond the gardens, simply wander the back streets of the neighbourhood and you’ll soon stumble over street art from the likes of Akse P19 depicting Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK star Davina Di Campo, and the aforementioned Nomad Clan mural on the side of the Molly House.
Look closely and you’ll also spot beautiful old loading bays from its time as a textile trading hub in the years of Cottonopolis when the area processed 65 percent of the world’s cotton.
Houses (well, mostly flats) in the Gay Village are, on average, some of the priciest in the city centre.
With an average price of £312,453.63, if you’re looking to buy in the area there are some seriously stunning apartments up for grabs.
Thanks to the industrial heritage of the Gay Village, many boast coveted industrial elements like exposed brick walls, beams and sash windows.
For those looking to rent, one bedroom flats start from around £850pcm.
With its own taxi ranks, regular buses running up and down Princess Street and easy access to trains and trams at Manchester Piccadilly Station, the Gay Village is extremely well connected.
A ten minute walk to Piccadilly, you can also catch the tram out of town from nearby St Peter’s Square – simply cross over Portland Street and make your way through nearby Chinatown to find it.
All the best Joshua Brooks gigs and events on this February-April
Now the January slump is finally behind us, we’re raring to get stuck into a new season of live music, club nights and more. Thanks to Joshua Brooks’ line-up, we’ve already got a fair few in our diary.
Since its revamp back in 2021, JBs has gone from strength to strength, not only welcoming back returning customers who’ve frequented the much-loved Princess Street venue for years but ushering in a whole new crowd. With plenty of food, booze, music and live events, it never disappoints.
With that in mind, Joshua Brooks has an absolutely jam-packed schedule of live music, club nights and more this month and leading right up until April, not to mention plenty more to come this year.
With the likes of Pola & Bryson, Monrroe, GLXY, DUSKEE and Kira headlining, legendary drum, bass and jungle label Shogun Audio is returning to Joshua Brooks this February. Expect a thumping sound system, cutting-edge visuals and a room packed full of ravers. Grab your tickets HERE.
2. Super Bowl LVII – 12 Feb
Although the majority of dates on the list are music-related, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, so of course these lot are showing the game. With sharing platters and £2 pints on offer, not to mention table packages, it’s going to be one of the best places to watch the Bowl.
3. Whippin Label Paty with Melé – 17 Feb
Whipping Records are bringing two of their most popular artists back to the Brooks with Mele and Toby Simpson set to rock up and play a mix of world music-influenced house, transatlantic hip hop, UK techno, classic Chicago grooves and more. There’s something for everyone. Find out more HERE.
Treating the basement to what’s bound to be a banging DJ set, Joshua Brooks is one of the next stops on TS7’s massive headline tour, kicking off hours of house beats and basslines from 10pm onwards. You’ll want to grab a ticket for this one.
5. Luuk Van Dijk – 24 Feb
Amsterdam DJ Luuk Van Dijk is one of the most diverse we’ve come across in recent years and he’ll be greeting this beloved Princess Street venue with his unique sound once again just before the end of the month. Secure your tickets now and you’ll get to listen to him all night long.
6. Yousef – 25 Feb
Yousef is one of our absolute favourites, playing a variety of deep and tech house to all-round floor-filling dance music and everything in between. With support from Powda and the Dunmore Brothers, he’ll be playing for three whole hours — what a way to close out February. Get your ticket HERE.
Heading into March, we all know how great Thursday nights at Joshua Brooks are, even more so when they tea up with Tribal to bring you resident trick label DJ Ammara, as well as Nick Spencer, Max Rottier and Mcminn. Now that’s value for money. You can book in for any phase or all of them (why not?) HERE.
8. Moxy Muzik with Darius Syrossian – 3 March
The following day, you have JBs second night of Moxy Muzik for 2023 with Iranian DJ Darius Syrossian, who’s set to put on a three-hour set of house, UK garage and minimal techno. Moxy is one of the best up-and-coming local labels and definitely know how to put on a hometown show. Don’t miss it.
A pioneer of modern progressive house, London-based producer Ilan Bluestone has shot to fame on the international dance music scene. With some big singles and remixes over the past few years, not to mention his sophomore album Impulse, this master of synths is a good reason to stay up. Tickets HERE.
10. Horse Meat Disco – 10 March
Not just one of the best-named dance nights: it’s simply one of the best dance nights full stop. The London stallions are bringing the likes of Supernature, Scott Forrest and Rhod Parry to set the night off on a four-horse race to fill the floor and take the roof of 106 Princess Street. We’ll see you there.
That’s right, Mason Maynard is making a special appearance at Joshua Brooks along with guests Calvin Clarke and Ervs. The set will run from 10pm until 4am and tickets are bound to go quickly. Grab yours now while you still can.
12. What Hannah Wants – 17 March
Let’s. Effin. Go. What Hannah Wants is to be heard and with a dedicated fan base already behind after some unforgettable nights at Warehouse Project, she certainly will be. Give us that hard-hitting house or give us death. Tickets will go on sale soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
A true raver born on the underground scene, Seb Zito sets are legendary. The owner of Seven Dials Records and Fuse London, not to mention a resident at Infuse Ibiza, the Joshua Brooks crowd will be treated to a full night of techno and deep house until 4am. Say no more — tickets HERE.
14. Hannah Laing – 24 March
Dundee’s Queen of House, Hannah Laing is making her way down to Manchester as part of her North Headline Tour and we can’t wait — her ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ edit alone is worth coming along for. Tickets aren’t yet live but you can join the waiting list now.
Next up is Max Dean, who after absolutely killing it at JBs back in December has been invited back to the basement once again. The house and minimal tech DJ is only 21 but is already making a splash on the electronic scene. He’s also got a few unreleased tracks just raring to go — maybe you’ll get to hear them.
16. Toman – 31 March
To close out Joshua Brook’s March offerings, Manchester is being treated to another rising Dutch DJ in Toman, as well as support from Pirate Copy. He’ll be playing what’s sure to be a lively three-hour set from 10pm and the student discount tickets have already sold out, so grab yours while you still can.
Joshua Brooks is kicking off April in style with a throwback for the ages. It’s been seven whole years since the last Just Skank event anywhere in Manchester and it just so happens that JBs has been selected for the night garage, D&B, dub and bassline. You simply cannot miss this one.
18. Fleur Shore – 14 April
As we hit the middle of the month, Birmingham’s very own Fleur Shore is back at JBs and playing all night long, from start to finish — this girl doesn’t need support. After a huge year playing all over the globe, she’ll be making the basement her own. Tickets HERE.
With festival season on the horizon, JBM Music and Retro Events are doing their bit to get you in the mood by hosting a warm-up party for this year’s Retro In The Park. The massive weekend line-up of DJs, worldwide acts and local artists might be over in Burnley but you can get in the mood a month in advance right here in 0161. Might as well get started early.
20. Full Circle – 21 April
Last but not least, our final pick from Joshua Brooks’ events this April is their Full Circle night which will take you back to what they call ‘the golden era of deep house’. With the likes of Route 94, Infinity Ink, No Artificial Colours, Brian Murphy and more on the playlist, we tend to agree. Get in booked in HERE.
I tried the Manchester roast with a dedicated cauliflower cheese menu named the ‘UK’s best’
Right, let’s talk cauliflower cheese for a moment. A non-negotiable on a roast dinner, I like mine steaming hot and encased in cheesy bechamel, slightly charred on top and oozing in the middle.
Truth be told, I’m more attached to cauliflower cheese than Yorkshire puddings (blasphemy up north, I know). Miss a Yorkshire off my roast and – as long as I’ve not ordered beef – we’ll be absolutely fine. But forget the cauliflower cheese? Well, I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive you.
Mentally prepared to eat my body weight in cheese, I’d already familiarised myself with the menu. Ok, technically two menus. Ducie Street Warehouse has a separate one just for its cauliflower cheeses: with eight different styles to choose from.
We’re talking cauliflower cheese with vintage cheddar, freshly shaved black truffle, bacon frazzles, garlic and herb crumble, four kinds of cheese, blue cheese, macaroni, plus a cheezy option for the vegans.
According to the team, it’s ‘the ultimate Sunday side that deserves a place of its own.’ I couldn’t agree more.
As for the rest, its separate ‘Sunday with Sides’ menu also seemingly has it all. Dry-aged local shorthorn beef sirloin, W.H. Frost premium chicken breast, rosemary roasted leg of lamb and a weekly-changing vegan roast ‘with all the trimmings’.
Add to that its promising-sounding ‘Slice Of ‘SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE’ – a carvery-style mixed-meat plate priced at £27.50 – and it does seem like they’ve really thought of it all.
I opt for a pink leg of lamb, whilst my cheese-eating partner in crime goes for the beef (which also comes out beautifully pink). Both are served with crispy roasties on a mountain of seasonal veg, topped with the biggest singular Yorkshire puddings I think I’ve ever seen.
Gravy is generous, but there’s an extra jug plopped onto our table too – just in case. Being a gravy glutton, I pile it on. It comes out a bit thick for my liking, but still tastes delicious nonetheless.
As for the cauliflower cheese? It’s worth every bit of hype it gets. We try the umami-rich black truffle, blue cheese, macaroni and Frazzles options, filling our tiny table for two with an absolute mountain of cauliflower.
As ever, my eyes are bigger than my belly, but I give it a good go: packing up the rest to take home and eat in bed later.
I won’t beat around the bush. This is a deceptively BIG roast. Granted, we did order four portions of cauliflower cheese on the side, but still. Some roasts look good but lack substance. Not this one. This is the roast that keeps on giving.
Further add-ons include Tuscan pork stuffing, honey-roasted heirloom rainbow carrots, maple roasted parsnips, lemon and garlic broccoli gratin, macaroni cheese, plus extra Yorkshire puddings and gravy, not that we can manage it.
I’d definitely go back with a group, though, and see if we can get through it all. I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday.