The gay village, Canal Street, Manchester
Sunday 09 June 1996
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.
Life & Style blogs
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
GTA 5 Online spring DLC updates bring heists, new super car, multiple apartments and 'non-contact' option for races
To hell in a handbag
It’s a pizza! And a cake!! What’s not to like? (The calories)
Angus Steakhouse: How does tourist staple continue to thrive in today's gourmet market?
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 'Natural' energy drink banned for containing erectile dysfunction drug
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Kingdom Tower: Construction of 1km high new world’s tallest building to begin next week in Saudi Arabia
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...