Canal Street: Boom or Bust
It would be fair to say that our lovely Gay village has gone a bit stale of late. In fact its demise started a few years. The venues started to get stale; the drink prices went down and started to attract undesirables, mentioning no names, Manto. I mean really what were they thinking letting people go through the door in tracksuit bottoms, Rockport and genuine Elizabeth Duke? Don’t get me wrong I recognize that scallies need a place to socialize but why can’t they stick to Jeremy Kylie or Strangeways?
Perhaps my biggest hate at the moment in the Gay Village has to be AXM. I remember the nice days when it use to be on Canal St, it had a very strict gay door policy and attracted rather nice clientele. Unfortunately they took over Hollywood Showbar, which use to be one of my favorite camp pastimes. In order to fill the venue they opened up the door to everyone and ruined it as a nice and safe gay venue, turning it into Jeremy Kylies after show party.
Just this week Parlor Bar has closed it’s door as has my old favorite Spirit, both falling victim to the recession (are we still in one?) and declared ‘last orders’ for the final time. I can’t imagine Spirit being greatly missed, it was once my favorite bar but like the other bars on that side of the street fell victim to its own greed of opening up the venue to everyone.
It’s not all doom and gloom however: the fabulously camp and fun Churchills is undergoing a makeover this February and promises to be more fabulous than one of Miss Kitty Lashes’ frocks. Perhaps the most fabulous turn around has been for Essential, this place will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first gay club I visited when I was just 16. Dancing whilst wearing sunglasses and sipping an Archer’s alcho-pop I thought I was so cool. I’m happy to say they would no longer let people like my old self through the door.
Essential was the place to be: the queues to get in use to snake around the street, the pop lounge alive with electric sweaty bodies. But somewhere along the line it lost its way, just like Kylie’s Impossible Princess phase. In a bid to resurrect itself it changed names to the appalling Mancunia, whoever thought of that was obviously gurning at the time. Sadly the queues disappeared and before long it closed down.
It seemed like there was no hope left for the once world-class venue. However a fabulous Geordie DJ named Nicksy, better known for Galaxy 102’s morning show Nicksy, Lindsey and Irish Alan, suddenly did for Essential what a little pair of gold sequined hot pants did for Kylie’s career. Dragging Essential back into its prime, the dance floors were packed once again and the entry queue was back snaking along the street bigger than it had ever been. The music choice was again fabulous, the entrance fees were right for the venue (it had previously rocketed), the pop lounge was now the main arena and perhaps the biggest pull for Essential The Next Generation was to have all the X Factor finalist perform the following week after they left the show.
Essential has certainly once again, 10 years after it first opened, set the standard in the village. It remains to be seen if the other venues will play catch up or if they will continue their sad demise. But one thing is for sure, as us gays start to socialize in venues we perhaps didn’t once frequent such as Castlefield’s Dukes and the Northern Quarter’s LeMarrs, the venues in the gay village need to play catch up or they too will find themselves saying ‘last orders’ for the final time.