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Outside London and Manchester, what are the prospects for village development? BRIGHTON has one of the largest gay populations in the country but no gay village. Bill Short, who lives there, says: "Brighton is a town where people go for a dirty weekend and never leave. It's such a gay-friendly place to live that there's no need for a ghetto, so the scene is scattered. St James Street is the nearest equivalent to Old Compton Street, but it doesn't have that same gay feel."

BLACKPOOL, too, lacks village pretensions. Despite the presence of seven gay bars, four owned by feted local gay businessman Basil Newby, it's too much of a holiday town with a large transitory population.

BIRMINGHAM, meanwhile, is being left behind. With a dozen gay venues in the city centre, many of them just off Hurst Street, and an annual "Five Days of Fun" carnival, Birmingham should have all the right ingredients. But as a gay city-centre resident, Chris Higgins, says most of the venues are hidden away down the backstreets, none of them has anything like a pavement cafe feel, and in recent years they have spent their time competing with each other rather than co-operating. Nevertheless, there are some signs of the village concept spreading.

LIVERPOOL: Stuart Linden believes that one of the essential ingredients, a sense of community spirit, could soon see a bona fide gay village developing here. "There is a lot of redevelopment going on in Liverpool," he says, "with new venues opening. The city has its own lesbian and gay Pride festival and the gay community is gaining strength." Redevelopment potential is another important factor.

LEEDS suffers from being too close to Manchester, although Shout!, the city's gay listings newsletter, this month proudly announces that three new bars will be opening soon, one owned by Bass.

SHEFFIELD has a good chance of developing a gay village, with three gay pubs already situated close together, on the edge of an area of industrial wasteland.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE: here, ironically, redevelopment looks likely to kill off what, just a few years ago, looked like an embryonic gay village. A building that houses two of the city's gay clubs is scheduled for demolition, and half a dozen gay bars within a few minutes walk are likely to suffer once the central focus of the nightlife is taken away. Where once Newcastle attracted gay weekenders from as far afield as Edinburgh, the traffic these days is likely to be in the opposite direction.

EDINBURGH: since the late 1980s, the gay village has expanded exponentially. It now has four cafes, four bars, three shops, one of the city's two gay clubs, one of its four gay hotels, and a sauna, all in the streets around the Edinburgh Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Centre, which recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Here again, says veteran gay rights campaigner Ian Dunn, who works in Edinburgh District Council's planning department, it's a case of a gay village growing up in an area that was once run down. Broughton Street, home of the gay centre, was a part of the city that was overlooked by the huge redevelopments which began in Edinburgh in the late 18th century. Just outside the Edinburgh New Town, with its anti- alcohol laws, Broughton Village, as it was then, was an area of brothels, pubs, rooming houses, and navy hostels. "It was an anonymous area full of folk with loose morals and not much money," remarks Dunn. Redevelopment passed it by again in the late 1960s and 1970s, depressing property prices and allowing the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group (now called Outright) to buy the building which is now the gay centre and the essential community focus for the village. Many lesbians and gay men live close by. "More than anywhere else," says Dunn, "when I come to Broughton Street I feel like I've come home."

GLASGOW: a new Gay and Lesbian Centre has just opened in Dixon Street. The street has had the commercial life sucked out of it by the nearby St Enoch's shopping centre, and the area between there and the River Clyde is ripe for redevelopment, so a gay village may well grow up. One building Dunn would love to see revived is the once-famous gay pub The Vintners, on Clyde Street, now nothing more than a rotting shell.

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