Lockdown, Mind Yer ‘Ed and HIV Step Up Scheme


As the next review of the Greater Manchester “lockdown” is due on 19 August, it appears that Out In The City cannot meet until at least Wednesday, 26 August. If anything changes, I will be in touch.

Out In The City meeting before lockdown


Talking About My Generation have interviewed a few of us for their mental health series: Mind Yer ‘Ed.MIND YER ‘ED: DISENGAGING FROM SOCIAL MEDIA AND KEEPING BUSY HELPED MY MENTAL HEALTH

Jean Friend, from Chadderton shares her experiences of adapting to the ‘new normal’ over the last few months and how she tries to keep her spirits up.

“Myself and my partner created a social bubble as soon as we could. I asked her this weekend what had helped to keep her mentally well. Cheekily she said: ‘Well I have not had you pecking my head’!

But her serious comments were very similar to mine. We both agreed keeping busy was important. I have done lots of jobs around the house that have needed doing for ages. Not having the usual demands from others has helped us both to relax.

I would describe myself as a depressive (probably not the best word to use) – by that, I mean I get down easily. Since leaving work 11 years ago I have been able to keep a watch on this and slow, if not stop, the downward spiral.

Unfortunately, this weekend I wasn’t quick enough. A particular political issue has been upsetting me and I engaged in a discussion on social media that sent me down the spiral. Disengaging from social media is a good idea and avoiding negative news reports also.

When I am down the advice of getting some exercise really doesn’t work for me. Just getting out of the door is almost impossible. So having a reason such as meeting a friend or going for my prescription has helped. Before we made our social bubble we would cycle to a meeting place and go for a socially distanced ride. We were lucky with the weather so finding green spaces was a great help.

I am lucky enough to have a garden and lockdown has given me the chance to grow more this year.”


Pauline Smith from Radcliffe talks about her experiences living alone during the pandemic and all the new things she’s been trying while in lockdown.

“I went into lockdown on 12 March before the Government made an announcement, which in my opinion, if you’d followed any type of news outside of the UK, we should have gone into lockdown at the end of February.

I was at a Talking About My Generation reporters’ meeting, where there were only four of us. I realised then that now was the time to actually stop coming into Manchester. Some of the social groups that I’m in didn’t shut down till the end of March, but I’d already made my decision.

I had to think about how I was going to survive this, as it wasn’t looking to be a short-term thing.

In the first instance, I had someone else do my shopping, but then I realised this was crazy. I live alone so if I kept this up, I knew I wouldn’t actually see another human being for months, so I started going out.

I’m at Lidl for about 8 o’clock in the morning when they open and I’m very fortunate that the market hall is literally on the other side of Lidl. During the trip, I’ve at least spoken to the woman on the cash aisle and to the butcher, the egg man, and the greengrocer lady. So, I still get human contact and I’m getting really high-quality produce.

I’ve missed human contact in the sense of being able to share space with friends and family and being able to hug people. Other than giving somebody cash at the local market, that’s the closest I’ve come to touching another human being since 11 March.

One of the ways I’m surviving lockdown is by looking at new things. Even though I’m 72, I’m still open to learning new things. I’ve found that the more interests you’ve got, the easier it is to cope.

I’ve discovered I could write poetry again, which I hadn’t done since I was a teenager. Since the start of lockdown, I’ve written 11 or 12 poems. Some were written for particular people and have not been published. I’ve written some prose pieces as well. I find it emotionally satisfying that I’m writing things that people are going to enjoy.

Also, because I couldn’t get all my ingredients when shopping at Lidl, I got creative when cooking. I looked online and found recipes that I could tweak and turn into something else. I found that with very simple recipes I could eat magically in a sense. I enjoyed that, because I enjoy the relaxation of cooking, my creativity is really coming out.

The other thing that has really helped was calling friends and them calling me. I decided to start calling people that I may not know well, but I knew were struggling. I then signed up for Brew Buddies where I also call vulnerable LGBT people.

My son has been very supportive too. When everyone was all doom and gloom, he’d be calling me twice a week and would often Facetime me as well. He said: ‘You’re much more relaxed because you’re not racing to meetings, sometimes five times a week.’

I don’t get so down by the whole thing that I think it’s overwhelming. I think a lot of people have really struggled with lockdown because it’s really affected the way that they live and in a sense, I’m fortunate because I’ve lived chunks of my life before where I’ve been alone. Although I live alone, I wouldn’t classify myself as lonely.

It’s very much the old “is the glass half full or half empty”. My attitude now at this stage is even if the glass is empty, I can fill it up, if it’s halfway, then it’s halfway full and if it’s a really nice glass of wine, then I’m not just going to gulp it down. You’ve got to really experience the lows to appreciate the ups.

I haven’t thought as far ahead as to when lockdown is over but if you’d ask me what I’d look forward to the most, it’d be that I’d be able to mingle again.

To be able to see my friends and family, hug each other and be able to look in their eyes rather than look at them on a screen. To go on public transport, go to a concert or a play or sit in a restaurant where every table is full and the waiters are not wearing masks.  When or if that’ll ever happen, I don’t know.”


Tony Openshaw from Chorlton, shared his experience of living through lockdown alone.

“I’ve found lockdown really difficult, the reason being I live on my own. Having contact with people was something I’d taken for granted. I have a very active social life having retired five years ago. It has been really isolating and I felt very lonely.

I’m involved in a group in Manchester called Out In The City which is a social / support group for members of the LGBT+ community who are over 50. Two years ago I started running the group as a volunteer but we’ve had to stop meeting up because of lockdown but we’ve been keeping in contact.

I accepted the offer from Age UK to have a regular phone call so that a volunteer could ring me every week to give me some support. That was really nice because I have ended up giving support to a lot of others but I have to think about myself as well … it is what I needed.

All my neighbours would come out and clap for the NHS. I’ve lived on my street for 37 years but I’ve got to know them better over lockdown than I ever did before. The lady over the road even popped her number through the door to see if I needed any shopping or help which was nice. After we stopped clapping weekly we started dancing.

Every Thursday now we go out at 8.00pm, with up to 50 people sometimes and we have music and dance! We’ve been doing that for about eight weeks now. It’s good exercise and it’s nice to get to know the neighbours. I also found out that our street has its own Facebook page and they’re taking song requests on there!

I’ve been making some podcasts, I started about a year and a half ago with Sonder Radio who encouraged me to start making podcasts. They know I like reggae and dub so I’ve made about eleven of those, two of those in lockdown. It’s like being a DJ but I give anecdotes and facts too. I did one specifically for Black Lives Matter. I really wanted to support it but I was a bit worried about going to the demonstrations in Manchester, however, I did go to the local ones in Chorlton.

There’s another group called Manchester Cares who put older and younger people together for social reasons but they’ve also had to stop meeting so I’ve also been making some podcasts for them, which I’ve called Tony’s Coffee Time Picks. I do it all at home on my laptop.

I used to volunteer for George House Trust but that has been suspended because of the virus. I really miss that. For ten years I was supporting someone who was HIV positive and blind. I would take him out every week for social activities. Unfortunately, he died when he was 50, which was emotional for me having known him for ten years. Instead of being involved with somebody else on that level, I started to do driving for them, taking people to appointments. I used to do it once a week and I found it really rewarding and I miss doing that.

What the lockdown has affected is my mental health and my emotions, not seeing people. As soon as restrictions were eased I wanted to go and see people in the park, social distancing, and wearing masks. I’ve been to the pub and to a restaurant so I was quite willing to throw myself back into it as soon as possible, still taking all of the precautions. I wanted to throw myself back into life again because that’s what I’ve missed.

I was in a relationship for 31 years and my partner died with cancer when he was 54 and that was nine years ago. Had he still been alive we would have been together 40 years this year. Being gay meant that my family ostracised me totally. I have a younger sister who I’m close to and she’s very supportive but she lives in Slovakia and I only see her once a year. That’s why I’m on my own and I feel quite isolated because I don’t have the support of family, just friends that I’ve made.

It does feel like groundhog day where every day is the same so I’ve just tried to contact people when I can. I try and have a positive outlook, I feel like I’m a positive person.

A lot of people lean on me because I’m the organiser of Out in City. So I have tried to be a backbone to everyone in that group and help them. But I recognise that I need it as well – you can’t just give out all the time. I recognise that I needed help as well.”


HIVe Step-Up Scheme 

The Passionate about Sexual Health (PaSH) Partnership is a collaboration between BHA for Equality, George House Trust and the LGBT Foundation. The PaSH Partnership delivers a comprehensive programme of interventions to meet the changing needs of people newly diagnosed with HIV, living longer term with HIV or at greatest risk of acquiring HIV.

The sexual health team have launched a step-up scheme, which offers a range of exclusive interventions to Greater Manchester residents at risk of contracting HIV. They will be providing one to one sessions based on safer sex goal plans, providing HIV and STI testing, offering condoms and lube, and hosting a range of exciting workshops to offer rounded and holistic support to build confidence and promote sexual wellbeing.

The scheme opened from the 1 August 2020 and an individual can self-refer via the website: http://www.sorthiv.org.uk/self-referral

To be eligible, an individual must be 18+ and a resident of Greater Manchester and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Diagnosed with repeat urethral / rectal STI infections
  • Reporting unprotected sex with multiple / casual partners / group sex
  • Been prescribed PEP in the last year
  • Need support in adhering to a PrEP regime which protects them in combination with their regular clinic monitoring and prescription for PrEP.
  • Use chems with sex
  • Sell sex / have transactional sex / pay for sex
  • Having sex with someone living with HIV with a detectable viral load.

HIV: Let’s sort this together.



Local lockdown continues – so no meetings at present


The local lockdown which affects Greater Manchester and other areas started at midnight, 30 July 2020.

The government is legally obliged to formally review the arrangements by 19 August but had said it would look at the numbers on 6 August.

On 7 August, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that Greater Manchester’s local lockdown will continue.

Under the new lockdown restrictions, pubs and restaurants will remain open but two households will no longer be allowed to mix indoors. The restriction extends to cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues.

People living in the lockdown zones can still continue to meet in outdoor public spaces in groups of up to six people. They will still be required to socially distance.

We will have to review the situation week by week, but don’t worry – we will be back:

Builders starting work on new £2.4 million LGBT+ centre for Manchester


Today (6 August 2020) is an exciting day for our LGBT+ Centre rebuild. We’re breaking ground on the project with the support of Russell T Davies, the TV genius behind Queer As Folk and Doctor Who, will be wielding his shovel to get them going.

Builders are to start work creating a bespoke £2.4 million LGBT+ centre for Manchester.

In June, demolition workers smashed down the old centre, which was the first of its kind to be built in Europe.

However, construction teams will now create the three-storey new building. It will create the space the team needs to help an extra 50,000 people a year.

The building will be at Sidney Street, a short walk from the city’s world famous Gay Village centred on Canal Street.

Russell T Davies backs new LGBT+ Centre

Gay writer Davies became famous when he created Queer As Folk. The UK drama series, set in Manchester, brought gay sex to mainstream TV audiences. A US version went on to achieve huge popular success.

In 2005, he led the revival of Doctor Who. The very British sci-fi series went on to become a vital commercial hit for the BBC. And it won Davies fans around the world.

He’s also created Casanova, Years and Years, and The Second Coming. After Doctor Who, he pledged to work solely on gay scripts to raise the representation of LGBT+ people on screen.

Dr Ali Hanbury is from Proud Trust, a UK charity for LGBT+ young people, which is responsible for the centre.

She said: “We’re extremely excited that Russell T Davies has lent us his support to mark the beginning of building works at our Sidney Street site.

Not only is he an internationally acclaimed writer and somebody I have the utmost respect for, he has also been instrumental in bringing the LBGT+ issues to the mainstream through his work.”

A new building for a new LGBT+ generation

The previous LGBT Centre had served the community for 30 years.

It opened in 1988, when safety and discretion were the biggest concerns for many of its users.

As a result, it had high windows, mirrors on reception and no post-box to make LGBT+ people feel safe.

However, nowadays those same security features are making people feel unwelcome. Moreover, the building had fallen into disrepair in recent years. And in 2019, the charity concluded it was no longer fit for purpose.

Hanbury said: “Building work was due to start earlier this year but was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic so we’re delighted that we can finally get underway.

So many people rely on our centre. They include those with addictions, people fleeing from abuse, those at risk of becoming homeless and many people who suffer from acute loneliness.

We have been continuing our good work with a virtual LGBT+ centre in the meantime. But to have a physical building again will be brilliant, especially now we will be able to help so many more people and create a thriving hub for LGBT+ people in Manchester.”

Until this year the LGBT Foundation also had a community centre on Richmond Street, in the Gay Village. However, the organisation says it too outgrew that space and decided not to renew its lease. It is now offering more online services as it looks for new premises.


Goodbye to 5 Richmond Street 

The LGBT Foundation is looking for a new home somewhere in or near the Gay Village both as a meeting place and as an office location.

Many people seem to think there will be no new home, however that rumour is false. However a lot of the well-being support which has been given remotely during lockdown will almost certainly be given from different locations.

Many people will have fond memories, so here are a few photos:


Alan Turing Banknote

Alan Turing, the World War Two codebreaker who later took his own life after being convicted of ‘gross indency’ because of his sexuality, will appear on new polymer £50 notes from next year.

The design will use the famous 1951 picture of Turing by Elliott & Fry which is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

The new note will also include the mathematician’s signature, birthday in binary code, and a quote he gave to The Times newspaper on 11 June 1949 which reads: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

New venue postponed?? / Women’s views / Keith Haring documentary … and more


New venue postponed??

Breaking news is that there is a Greater Manchester local lockdown from midnight, 30 July 2020. Separate households are not allowed to meet indoors (including pubs and restaurants).

We were planning to meet every Wednesday from 1.00pm to 3.00pm starting the 5 August at Methodist Central Buildings, 4-5 Central Buildings, Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JQ.

We need to keep an eye on the news for clarification regarding indoor meetings … so watch this space!

The venue is in Central Manchester. There are a few steps at the front of the building (stairlift available) and a lift to the first floor meeting room. Tea and coffee will be provided.

In normal circumstances the room is big enough for 60 people, so is sufficient regarding social distancing. For more information please contact us here.

We intend to go back to our Church House venue in January.


Women over 50 in the LGBT communities

A researcher working with MICRA (Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing) at the University of Manchester is conducting interviews (by telephone) with people over 50 about their current experiences of social distancing and self-isolation at the time of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Already six gay men from Out In The City have been interviewed, so they are interested in how women are coping with social distancing, what support they are able to access, what gaps in support might exist, and how social distancing is affecting their everyday lives.

They want to talk to a range of women from a range of backgrounds. If you agree, the interview will be recorded, but all data is anonymised and only used for research purposes. If you are willing to collaborate with the research, please contact Dr Luciana Lang and she will arrange with you a suitable day and time.

Contact Dr Luciana Lang at the University of Manchester on 07999 447 282 or luciana.lang@manchester.ac.uk


Keith Haring documentary

Keith Allen Haring was an American artist whose pop art and graffiti-like work grew out of the New York street culture of the 1980s. Much of his work includes sexual allusions that turned into social activism. He achieved this by using sexual images to advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness.

This highly recommended and compelling film – told using previously unheard interviews with Haring, which form the narrative of the documentary – is the definitive story of the artist in his own words.

Watch the film on BBC iPlayer – Keith Haring: Street Art Boy.


Live music is coming back!

If at the end of August you are having live entertainment at your venue, please consider Wolf, for pop, soul and classics. Send a message to bearwerewolf@btinternet.com

I saw them in February in Sale Moor and they were fabulous … and two members of the group are from Out In The City!


Make LGBT conversion therapy illegal in the UK
The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) has written to Elizabeth Truss MP, Minister for Women and Equalities, to request further information about the Government’s plans to ban LGBT ‘conversion therapy’. In the letter the Committee asks for more detail on proposals for ending so-called ‘conversion therapy’, and an update on when changes to the law might be brought forward.

Catherine McKinnell MP (Chair of the Committee) and Elliot Colburn MP (a member of the Committee) highlight in the letter that, in addition to the current petition with over 200,000 signatures, there have also been two large petitions on this issue in previous years. They also note that despite its inclusion in the Government’s 2018 LGBT Action Plan, legislation has still not been introduced.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, you can do so here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300976


Community Centre survey

The LGBT Foundation have launched a Community Centre Survey as they decide what their next steps are as an organisation.

The thoughts of people who are over 50 are really important in helping them to decide what the future space or spaces might look like. So please have your say!

Next meetings


Next meetings

The next meeting for Out In The City is on Wednesday, 29 July from 1.00pm to 3.00pm.

The venue is The Moon Under Water, 68 -74 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2FN. We will be sitting inside at the back of the pub. In order to keep social distancing we will sit at tables of four people.

New venue

From 5 August, we will be meeting every Wednesday from 1.00pm to 3.00pm at Methodist Central Buildings, 4-5 Central Buildings, Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JQ.

The venue is in central Manchester. There are a few steps at the front of the building (stairlift available) and a lift to the first floor meeting room. Tea and coffee will be provided.

I asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought, and he replied: