What will you do first? … Gay Activist’s Alliance … News from Los Angeles


What will you do first?

The first major re-openings are set for 12 April, under step two of the roadmap, with pubs, shops and hairdressers all scheduled to re-open.

Haircuts, nails, pub garden or gym – what will you do first?

The History of Manchester’s Gay Activist’s Alliance

(Thanks to Superbia Spotlights for this article)

Manchester was at the forefront of promoting the rights of LGBT+ people in the UK. It continues to be the home to a vibrant Gay Village and one of the largest LGBT+ communities in the UK.

Have you heard of GAA (Gay Activist’s Alliance) a national campaigning group started in 1978 following the prosecution of Gay News magazine for blasphemy? There was a very active group in Manchester who campaigned, picketed, and fought for LGBT rights at a time when the community had very few.

Paul Fairweather came to Manchester in 1978 to work for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), which was the main gay rights organisation in those days. He’s been active in a whole range of LGBT+ activities since.

In the first half of the 1980s, he was working at the Lesbian & Gay Centre, in the second half of the 1980s he worked for Manchester City Council as one of their Gay Men’s Officers. Paul has a keen interest in LGBT+ history, in particular, that of Manchester. 

Paul Fairweather’s article in the Mancunian Gay for the ‘Anderton Must Go’ campaign

In this talk Paul takes us through a presentation about how Manchester’s Gay Activist’s Alliance came about, why it was formed, how it actually operated as an organisation and the campaigns it ran to advance the rights of LGBT+ people in the city and beyond.

Find out more about the lesbian bus driver sacked in Burnley, the picket of a gay bar in Didsbury, how a Labour club in Hulme banned a gay disco and an ongoing campaign against homophobic Chief Constable James Anderton.

No Queers Here campaign against Hulme Labour Club

Following the presentation, Paul hosts a Q&A session with friends Greg Thorpe, Andrew Lowrey, Terry Waller, John Cotterill, Ann Algar and David Mottram.

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News from Los Angeles

Meatball, an LA drag queen, performs at Precinct.
The club in downtown is raising funds so it can remain open. 
Photograph: Jeremy Lucido

Historic queer institutions across southern California that have been safe spaces for LGBT+ crowds for decades are in danger of closing permanently.

“I can’t imagine a world without Precinct,” said Meatball, a drag queen. “These places were our safe havens.” 
Photograph: Jeremy Lucido

The Covid-19 pandemic has permanently closed more than 100,000 bars and restaurants across the United States but in LA, which has been under some form of lockdown restrictions since last Marchthe impact on nightclubs has been particularly brutal.

Four iconic Los Angeles gay bars, touting a combined history of 130 years, have permanently closed during the pandemic and many more have warned that they are on the brink of shutdown.

The four LGBT+ bars shuttered in West Hollywood last year, included Rage, a legendary nightclub that closed after 37 years, and Gold Coast, a 39-year-old dive bar down the street on Santa Monica boulevard. Then in January, as LA become one of the worst Covid hotspots in the nation, Oil Can Harry’s, a beloved gay country bar in Studio City, said it was closing for good after half a century of hosting gay line dancing.

Rick Dominguez, back row, second from left, was part of the dance group LA Wranglers that performed at Oil Can Harry’s in 2012. The bar closed permanently in January. Photograph: Courtesy Rick Dominguez

Oil Can Harry’s still had a siren on site that staff used in the 60s to warn customers that police were coming and allowed them to quickly switch to partners of the opposite gender, said Rick Dominguez: “New generations aren’t going to get to know this space.”

Tony Soto, who performs at Akbar, says he’s hopeful that bars will survive the pandemic. Photograph: Paul Brickman

Tony Soto, a drag queen who performs at Akbar and Precinct, said some performers gave up and fled LA during the pandemic, but he was hopeful that the bars that have survived would draw big crowds once it was safe: “We are social animals, we need to be around each other.”

He has been doing weekly shows on Zoom, but was desperate to be in the same room as his audience again: “I haven’t heard real applause and real laughter in over a year.”

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