The rise of Manchester’s queer club scene

Published: October 31, 2022 by odawson

Music is a gateway to finding your crowd within the queer community. Manchester’s queer club scene offers safe spaces to groups of people ostracised by society – breeding only limitless bounds to self-expression and self-love. The importance of these spaces was emphasised in the late 1980s and early 90s when queer people became more endangered – not only by the AIDS epidemic but also by the Government which only wanted to censor, silence and vilify queer people, who were subsequently forced into hiding.

Here in Manchester, this bore the emergence of queer club nights like Flesh at the Haçienda. This was a political and sexually liberating middle finger to society that launched in 1991 and gained huge success overnight – with high-profile musicians such as The Pet Shop Boys making appearances. Flesh spearheaded Manchester into high acclaim as one of the most queer-friendly cities in the UK – resulting in the nickname ‘Gaychester’.

Homoelectric was founded in 1997, which came at a time when gay culture had become monetised and overly saturated. Its rough edge draws inspiration from the New York and Chicago club scene. Branded as a space for misfits, its unwillingness to comply with the ethics of shiny floored bars infiltrated by mainstream society, is what attracted (and still attracts) a weird and wonderfully diverse crowd of hedonists to its acid house, techno and disco dance floors.

Homoelectric continues to inspire the emergence of many queer club nights today.

‘Queer as F*ck’ was the slogan used to launch Flesh at the Haçienda, which went on to inspire the 1999 BBC series ‘Queer as Folk’, written by Russel T. Davis. The series put Manchester on the map for gay nightlife, leading to the rise in popularity of many established lesbian and gay bars on Canal St – also known as Manchester’s Gay Village. This, however, also came with its disadvantages. The once underground safe spaces for queer people in Manchester had become a hotspot for tourists. Nonetheless, The Village certainly thrives today and remains a staple to Manchester.

But what happened to the underground queer scene? I hear you ask…

What Manchester’s queer club scene looks like today. Well, there are many independent organisations responsible for giving you a non-mainstream, ‘queer as f*ck’ night out in Manchester. Bollox is an LGBT-ran event to banish sociopolitical norms and welcome diversity, freakness and sex positivity. They host an array of politically-charged themed nights, where you can let loose and party in aid of social justice – what more could you want?

Homobloc is Manchester’s annual discotheque festival hosted by Homoelectric and is a fixture of the UK’s queer club scene today. The first festival took place in November 2019 and despite it being relatively new – several high-profile artists such as Robyn, Róisín Murphy and Hot Chip have headlined, which comes as no surprise with the tremendous success of Homoelectric.

The festival blends music with queer performers who showcase Manchester’s talents.

Many queer music events remain on the fringes of the city. Like that of sister venues, Hidden and The White Hotel. Outrageous events such as Body Horror and Gross Indecency are hosted at the latter. Body Horror is a sex-positive rave with a no-cameras-allowed policy, maintaining its elusive, underground status while drawing inspiration from Berlin’s Berghain. You can expect a night of electronic, tech, punk and experimental genres of music, where the possibility of a night full of sweat, sexual liberation and self-love is inevitable.

Words written and provided by Lewis Hadfield.

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