With Canal Street having dominated Greater Manchester’s LGBTQ+ scene for decades, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the monumental role the region has played in the growth and establishment of the community.
Outside of London, Manchester plays home to the UK’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGB&T) community – but quite predictably, the sparkling lights and rainbow flags of its Gay Village centred down Canal Street have continuously remained at the forefront of the entire movement.
The recognised street found its fame back in 1999, when three and a half million people tuned into Channel 4 to watch Queer as Folk; the series showed Canal Street to have both a vibrant nightlife and an amazing atmosphere, thus making it internationally renown. The area remains an overwhelmingly popular destination today, and continues to be somewhere for LGBTQ+ people to feel safe and express themselves.
But what happened before the explosion of Canal Street?
Well, decades prior, Greater Manchester was already setting the wheels in motion for a more inclusive region, and would eventually become the birth place of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality – starting in Manchester as the North Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee (NWHLRC), it initially worked for the removal of laws against gay sex between men.
After this aim was partially achieved in 1967, it changed its name and broadened its scope to include the provision of social facilities for gay men and lesbians. In 1971 it then adopted its present name, and had expanded to setting up local groups in London and elsewhere, as well as continuing to campaign for full equality. At its peak, CHE was the largest LGBT organisation this country has ever seen, with 6,000 members and over 100 local groups spanning across the country.
Just four years on from that in 1975, the LGBT Foundation was established, and today continues to support the needs of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans; each year, the foundation serves over 40,000 people, as well as providing information to over 600,000 individuals online.
As a result, they serve more LGBT people than any other charity of its kind in the UK, according to their website.
But that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Manchester City Council played an integral role in campaigning against Section 28, a controversial 1988 addition to the Local Government Act 1986 that stated local authorities must not allow the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ or allow the ‘acceptability of homosexuality’ to be taught in schools.
This archaic act prevented teachers from tackling homophobic bullying and permitted them to openly oppose homosexuality in schools. It also assumed that LGBT people were inherently dangerous to children and implied a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.
After Manchester City Council spearheaded the opposition against Section 28, it was eventually repealed by the Labour government in November 2003.
And fast forwarding to today, the region is continuing to make waves in LGBTQ+ communities all across the country.
Greater Manchester Police recently pledged to serve and protect the region’s LGBTQ+ community, with Assistant chief constable Garry Shewan, the GMP’s lead on hate crime, telling Buzzfeed: “The public now has increased confidence in our ability to deal with these offences.
“We have improved training for officers so they are able to provide better support for victims and risk-assess the potential for repeat victimisation, and our Pride Network has also done a lot of work to raise awareness of homophobic hate crime, particularly during Manchester Pride.”
Annual events like The Sparkle Weekend – two whole days dedicated to the celebration of gender identity – and the Penguin Weekend – an evening showcasing queer authors and writers – are also unique fixtures here in Manchester’s city centre, and just one part of the bigger machine working to make the world a safer, more inclusive place for those who identify as LGBTQ+.
For more information on LGBTQ+ charities, foundations and events in Greater Manchester and how to get involved, visit the LGBT Foundation website here.
Happy Pride Month everyone!
It’s been 25 years since the IRA bombing and victims are still waiting for justice
Why was no one ever arrested for the attack on our city?
Twenty-five years ago on this date, Manchester fell victim to one of the biggest bombs ever exploded in the United Kingdom.
It was a beautiful, unusually sunny morning in Manchester on June 15th, 1996 – England were about to take on Scotland in Euro ‘96, football fans were swarming the city centre for the next day’s Russia v Germany fixture at nearby Old Trafford, it was the Saturday before Father’s Day, and the Arndale Shopping Centre – built just twenty years prior – was heaving with weekend shoppers.
However, the festivities of the warm summer’s day were all set to change when a security guard on the other side of the city received an anonymous tip off.
Sometime after 9:38am, Gary Hall – a security guard at ITV’s Granada Studios – received a phone call from a man with a ‘very calm’ Irish voice, as per The BBC. The anonymous man went on to inform Gary that he had planted a bomb in the city centre and it would be exploding in one hour. Following the phone call, the police were immediately notified and they sprung to action locating the bomb and evacuating 80,000 people from the area.
However, this proved to be quite the task. At first, people were not keen to go; it was the 1990s and Mancunians had become seasoned to bomb scares. One hairdresser allegedly refused to let his clients leave because they still had chemicals in their hair, arguing it would be ‘too dangerous.’ Alternatively, a group of workmen wanted to stay put because they were on weekend rates.
Slowly, though, the severity of the situation began to sink in, and authorities were able to successfully evacuate the centre, with some people screaming and running for their lives.
Amid the chaos, police spotted a stationary white lorry parked on double yellows outside of Marks & Spencer with wires running from its dashboard. A bomb squad was swiftly dispatched from Liverpool; however, their attempt to dismantle the device using a remote-controlled robot failed.
At precisely 11:17am, the 3,300lb device exploded.
Smoke mushroomed above the city as the explosion shattered glass windows and rained building debris onto the people below. In the aftermath, emergency services scrambled to deal with the injured civilians – around 220 of them, to be precise – and fire crews searched shops and offices for casualties. In the confusion, some fallen shop mannequins were briefly mistaken for bodies while, over at Manchester Royal Infirmary, they were treating dozens of casualties within minutes.
Yet despite the horror and the devastation, not a single person was killed in the explosion.
Nevertheless, Manchester’s city centre lay in ruins, historic landmarks such as Manchester Cathedral and the Royal Exchange Theatre needed what has been estimated to be billions of pounds worth of repairs and renovations and, most gravely, hundreds of people were left with life-changing injuries, both physically and mentally.
But now, a quarter of a century on from the devastating attack, the people of Manchester are still waiting for justice.
Quite remarkably, an arrest for whoever was responsible for the bomb was never made – it is widely believed that, while both Greater Manchester Police and Special Branch investigations identified the prime suspect, he was never actually arrested because of fears it could derail ongoing peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.
Graham Stringer, who led the council between 1984 and 1996 and who is today MP for the city’s Blackley and Broughton constituency, told The Independent: “I am sure the security services know who did this and I think it got caught up in the peace process.
“It’s appalling. In a democratic society, for someone to blow up the centre of a major city and injure hundreds of people, and then get away with it? It is wrong.”
Stringer, who’s own mother was injured in the explosion, added: “Justice should be seen to be done. If bombers are going to be let off then we should at least know who is being let off and why and what the greater benefit of that is… I do think somebody should have been [prosecuted] even if they never got sent to jail.”
In a 2006 review, GMP said there was no longer any ‘realistic possibility’ of a prosecution.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole said: “The Manchester bomb affected many people which is why the case has remained open and has been kept under constant review. As the 20th anniversary of the incident approaches, it is now the right time for another assessment of the case in order to identify and explore any possible potential investigative opportunities.
“If new information comes to light it would be considered, and I would urge anyone with information relevant to the investigation to get in touch with police.”
The famous film and TV scenes that were actually shot around Manchester
Could Manchester be the next Hollywood?
It’s no secret that Manchester is growing in popularity among film makers these days, what with the recent rise of Salford’s very own film and TV hub, Media City.
But I bet you had no idea that so many huge TV shows and movies had been filmed here over the years. Here are some of the best ones…
Let’s start with an obvious one.
Though the Channel 4 series is famously set in a fictional Manchester council estate, it was actually filmed in a real Manchester council estate – Wenlock Way, in West Gorton. Other filming locations included Miles Platting, where Sheila lived, and The Pie Factory in Salford.
Frank Gallagher’s bleak yet rowdy haunt, The Jockey, was also set at a real-life pub, The Wellington Inn. However, it was knocked down by the council a few years ago, so I’m afraid there’ll be no recreations of some of Shameless’ more barbarian scenes.
Another Channel 4 special, Fresh Meat followed the comedic antics of an unlikely group of students who attended the fictional Manchester Medlock University.
In the series, the students were said to live in Rusholme though, in real life, a lot of the scenes were filmed at The Sharp Project. Manchester Metropolitan University’s campus and its student’s union also provided the backdrop for a lot of episodes, as they were at the University of Manchester.
Quite surprisingly, the latest Sony movie in the Spider-Man universe had several scenes filmed here in Manchester.
In early 2019, filming began on Sony Pictures’ Morbius – set to be released in 2022 – with location shooting taking place in London. However, the production team then moved to Manchester in late March to make the city’s Northern Quarter their home while they filmed a number of scenes featuring lead actors Jared Leto and Matt Smith.
The Northern Quarter was transformed to resemble New York (because why go to the Big Apple when you can visit the capital of the North instead?) and both Oldham Street and Stevenson Square were cornered off as extras adorned the streets.
Despite being famously Brummie, many scenes from the popular BBC series are actually filmed here in Manchester.
Some of the most prominent filming locations have been the Northern Quarter’s Dale Street, Mangle Street and Back Piccadilly – which can be spotted during some of the most pivotal moments throughout the series. Other locations include the Castlefield Canals – as recently as March 2021, Cillian Murphy, who plays the lead role of Tommy Shelby, was seen filming on a barge on the Bridgewater Canal.
The Stockport Plaza, Rochdale Town Hall and Victoria Baths are other locations where the film crew has been spotted.
Despite having a somewhat different vibe to Peaky Blinders, the fourth season of Netflix’s royal smash hit, The Crown, also had scenes filmed here in Manchester.
In the episode, Princess Diana – portrayed perfectly by actress Emma Corrin – embarks upon her now-famed solo trip to New York to visit the not-for-profit Henry Street Settlement to meet with homeless mothers and children, as well as an AIDS patient at Harlem Hospital.
Our trusty Northern Quarter was used once again as an alternative to the Big Apple, with Stevenson Square and Dale Street being magically transformed into NYC, all decked out with yellow cabs, Subway entrances and a whole lot of extras wearing outfits reminiscent of Diana’s time.
Netflix’s 2020 crime drama, The Stranger, featured a ton of locations right here in Manchester.
Stockport, Manchester city centre, and Bolton were just a few of the spots used to serve as a fictional area called Cedarfield, Greater Manchester.
Some of the locations used on the series included the city’s St Peter’s Square and Whalley Range, as well as the disused Moor Lane Bus station in Bolton, the Plaza theatre and cinema in Stockport, and the Peel Memorial in Bury.
Meanwhile, indoor scenes were filmed in the suburban district of Didsbury in Manchester, while the animal farm scene was shot at White Peak Alpacas in Mobberley, Cheshire.
Another unexpected one!
Viewers can spot a glimpse of Dale Street, Finlay’s Warehouse and Tariff & Dale early on in the 2010 Marvel blockbuster, Captain America. The film is one of the early instalments in the huge Disney franchise, following Steve Rogers – played by Chris Evans – as he becomes the Captain America fans know and love today.
It marked the first time Marvel Productions had filmed outside of the US, with producers picking the Northern Quarter to recreate the Big Apple in the 1940s because of its towering buildings and pre-war architecture.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the grungy teen drama series, Skins.
The E4 show took the UK by storm during its six seasons on air, so much so, that an additional seventh season was commissioned, which followed three of the most popular characters from the previous seasons.
Skins Redux revisited Jack O’Connell’s Cook and were shot here in Manchester, with filming locations in the Arndale shopping centre, Dale Street in the Northern Quarter, and alleyways in Salford.
The Darkest Hour
Manchester Town Hall and the John Rylands Library could both be seen doubled as the WWII-era Houses of Parliament in the 2019 Winston Churchill biopic, The Darkest Hour.
The Working Title Films production team chose the two staple Manchester locations to film key scenes in the film, recreating the Houses of Parliament in 1940.
The locations offered the perfect period back drop, and with permissions secured and with Manchester’s long established film friendly approach to film & TV production, it ensured the crew had a hugely positive experience of filming in the city.
The best day and weekend trips from Manchester if you fancy an adventure
Some perfect staycation spots for you to explore
It’s getting increasingly unlikely that many of us will be able to travel abroad on holiday this year, as restrictions are still in place in most of our favourite holiday destinations.
But let’s not worry about that, because the UK has some of the most exciting and beautiful destinations on our very doorstep, and with the weather set to improve over the next couple of months, this year will be the year of the STAYCATION!
In response, we’ve all been looking at the best ways to get around the UK. With trains being SO expensive, a few creative companies, like Virtuo, have turned to making hiring a car 10x easier than ever before.
Perfect for those hard-to-reach destinations where trains are few and far between or the ideal choice when looking at a road trip with your mates, Virtuo has made hiring a car as easy as possible, with no queues, no counters, no paperwork – everything is done through their app!
All you need to do is download the Virtuo App, get your licence validated and you can be sat behind the wheel of a Mercedes A-Class in minutes.
With rentals available from just 1 day, right up to 90 days – we thought we should look at some of the best places the UK can offer…
Less Than 1 Hour Drive…
Chester not only looks absolutely stunning, with its huge Tudor-style half-timber buildings stretching down the main streets, but the city also packs a serious number of things to do within its modest size.
Famed throughout the North West for the quality of its shopping, as well as the main high street at Eastgate there’s also Cheshire Oaks where you can bag yourself some serious bargains. Just down the road from the Outlet Village is Chester Zoo – one of the UK’s best tourist destinations and a fantastic day out for all the family.
Located right on the edge of the Peak District, Buxton is the perfect distance away from Manchester, and the drive through the peaks is gorgeous. The town centre is packed full of stunning architecture, great bars and restaurants and, not forgetting; the world famous Opera House.
Just outside town you’ll find the stunning Pooles Cavern, where you can delve deep into the vast network of caves under the peaks, and just next to it – Go Ape! where you can dangle 100ft up in the air and scream.
Just a short drive outside of Manchester you’ll find the Pennines, and its many quaint, beautiful villages and towns. Head down to Saddleworth where you can explore Dovestones Reservoir, before taking walks through the rolling hills and gentle moors.
There’s Uppermill, Delph, Denshaw and Dobcross, all within a few minutes’ drive of each other, each one offering up an impressive choice of excellent shops, bars and some world-class restaurants. Don’t forget to visit The Old Bell Inn in Delph and its collection of over 1,300 gins!
Jodrell Bank & Tatton Park
Once the largest radio telescope in the world, Jodrell Bank is a fantastic day out for the family, with something for everyone underneath the imposing 90m high Lovell Telescope.
This year sees them open The First Light Pavilion, a stunning new £21m exhibition space and gallery in the gardens. Speaking of gardens, just a short drive away is the HUGE Tatton Park, 2000 acres of lush gardens, as well as a farm, a deer park and the medieval manor house – Tatton Hall.
Us Mancunians may have a bit of a rivalry going on with the people of Liverpool but you shouldn’t let that stand in the way of visiting. Recent years have seen considerable investment in the city, and it’s almost unrecognisable nowadays – and best of all – it’s still a lot of fun!
There’s plenty of attractions that you can take the kids to, including The Beatles Story on the Albert Docks, followed by a ferry across the Mersey if you don’t mind wind and seagulls. The city’s streets are packed with some of the best shops in the region, as well as some truly wonderful restaurants and bars.
1-2 Hour Drive…
In such a huge area as the Lake District, it would be impossible for us to completely do it justice in just a few lines of text. There’s Windermere, Coniston, Bowness, Keswick, Ambleside, plus some truly delightful scenery to drive through on the way.
There’s also an unusually high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants here, including L’Enclume in Cartmel, The Cottage in the Wood in Braithwaite, and The Old Stamp House Restaurant in Ambleside.
Everyone loves Blackpool. You can’t go wrong with a stick of rock, a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat and a massive bag of Fish and Chips on the pier. Everyone remembers being driven here as a kid and playing the game where the first person to spot the Tower wins.
Well, you can still do that, as long as you keep your eyes on the road too! There’s plenty to do in the seaside town, from visiting the Pleasure Beach to booking out a B&B on the Golden Mile and holidaying like your nan. Blackpool’s still got it – trust us!
The city itself is actually really small, surrounded by ancient city walls and with a skyline dominated by the huge York Minster Cathedral. It’s always a pleasure to explore the tiny alleys and back streets of the city, with a dead good pub or restaurant pretty much everywhere you look.
There’s loads to do here and SO much history that you’ll struggle to fit it all in within a couple of days.
One of the UK’s most stunning drives must be that from Manchester to Brontë Country, a vast, windswept area of moorland straddling the West Yorkshire and East Lancashire Pennines.
It’s also home to the gorgeous Hebden Bridge, and Haworth, the tiny village where the Bronte family lived. There are literally hundreds of walks in and around this area, and if you visit a village there’s always plenty of things to see and do.
A huge forest over in Cheshire, Delamere is great for a day trip so you can truly be at one with nature without having to sleep in a tent and cook your dinner over a damp campfire.
The landscape is stunning and there are plenty of things to do and activities to keep you entertained. There’s loads of walking routes, cycling routes and places to take the family. Close by is the town of Frodsham, a great place for a cracking Sunday Lunch.
For a few days…
Looking at the cost of a train from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston is enough to bring a few tears to a grown man’s eyes – so if you’re looking to visit ‘The Big Smoke’, driving is often the cheapest and easiest option. As you’d expect with the country’s capital, it’s a superb place for a staycation, with a seemingly infinite number of things to do.
A little bit of advice from us would be to stay away from Zones 1 and 2 and instead explore the suburbs of London, home to an ever-increasing range of world-class restaurants, bars and attractions. South of the river you’ll find Peckham and Brixton – both fantastic, while North – Islington, Camden, Hackney and Walthamstow.
Just saying ‘Cornwall’ isn’t enough to describe this huge stretch of the country – one which is pretty difficult to navigate unless you have a car. The region is massive, and there are significant differences between the different towns and areas, almost as if it’s just begging to be explored with 4 wheels.
The beaches are stunning, the quaint villages are perfect for a few days relaxing and you’ll always find outstanding restaurants, old pubs and some of the best seafood in the world.
The Highlands are vast and they are truly magnificent, and there’s LOADS to be getting on with up there. You can take in the Lochs from Inverness to Fort William, from there you can climb Ben Nevis or perhaps embark on the UK’s answer to Route 66 – the North Coast 500 – easily one of the most beautiful and exhilarating road trips in the world. I’ll be doing it for my birthday this year – and I can hardly wait.
Mt. Snowdon, and indeed the whole of the North of Wales, is truly stunning, and the perfect distance from Manchester for a weekend away. Alongside ample walks and nature trails, you’ll find canoeing, rock climbing, horse riding – plus loads more.
One of the best ways to explore the National Park is to drive to Llanberis and then take the Snowdon Mountain Railway, one of the world’s steepest railway inclines.
Virtuo Car Hire is available in Manchester right now. You can get things rolling here.
Featured image: Virtuo & Jim Roberts Gallery/Flickr