The gay village, Canal Street, Manchester

There has been a "gay village" around the Rochdale canal in Manchester for as long as Frank Pearson can remember. He's 45 now, and was going to the Rembrandt Hotel in Sackville Street when homosexuality was still illegal. Up until 12 years ago, recalls Peter Bessick, who now runs the Rembrandt, the district was full of cotton workers by day and prostitutes by night. Then the warehouses emptied and only the prostitutes were left.

Then, in 1990, along came Manto, the first of the capital-G Gay Village cafe bars, and the first gay venue in Manchester to come out of the closet with an open plate-glass front. It was stunningly well-designed. It sold decent food and herb teas. It was civilised and sophisticated and extremely cool.

Just over five years later, and the Village is packed out. Frank Pearson followed with Metz in 1994. A local brewery was going to make Via Fossa an Irish pub until its gay manager suggested that ``irishry'' wasn't really where 1990s Canal Street was at. The Manto Group itself has moved into property, converting one of the district's disused warehouses into loft-style yuppie flats. "City-centre living: that's going to be the next big issue," Julie Collinson at Via Fossa points out. "The way the area's developing into housing. It's going to be really interesting, seeing if the Village can make city-centre living work."

Usually, ghettoes are ghettoes because the mainstream has no interest in them. But the Village is so successful, everybody wants to be in on it. The regeneration-crazy city council adores it. Liberal straights adore it. Around the Village in general, there's anxiety about customers "pretending to be gay", and about "the true Village" being ruined by incomers.

Frank Pearson himself made his first fortune out of Foo Foo Lamarr, a raucous cabaret queen played by himself in drag. Since the 1970s, Foo Foo has been playing mainly to straight audiences. "You can't be gay and not accept all sorts," he says. "That's what I try to do with Metz." And yet, Frank also worries that the Village may end up "diluted by big business, bringing the wrong sort of people in". "All we want," says Nicky Pennington at Manto, "is for you to say the Village is completely brilliant." And yet, it is precisely because that is what everybody keeps saying that "the true Village" is getting worried. "Personally, I think of myself as me first and gay second," considers Jenks, maitre d' to Metz. "Black or white, rich or poor, straight or gay: I don't care what a person is so long as they behave themselves. And personally, I think that's the way the world is going. All the old boundaries are beginning to break down. But I know a lot of gays and lesbians feel threatened by the way their culture is going mainstream. If it gets diluted any more than it has already, I wouldn't be surprised if the Village just ups and moves."

Even as he is chatting, Jenks has half an eye on a table of manifestly non-gay lads, sniggering as they sip on their pints. "The worst sort are the office workers, the straight white professionals. Most people understand the need for boundaries. Except for privileged people, people who are not used to getting turned away."

A VISITOR'S GUIDE

LOCATION: Canal Street, between Sackville Street and Minshull street.

PLACES: Manto: 46 Canal Street, M1 (0161-236 2667) 12noon-11pm, Mon-Sat; 12noon-10.30pm, Sun; 2.30am-6am Sat-Sun "Breakfast Club" after-hours night.

Metz: 3 Brazil Street, M1 (0161-237 9852) 12noon-11pm, Mon-Thur; 12noon- 12midnight Fri-Sat: 12noon-11 pm Sun.

Via Fossa: 28-30 Canal Street, M1 (0161-236 6523) 11am-12midnight Mon- Thur; 11am-2am Fri-Sat; 12noon-10.30pm Sun.

Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit