40 years of celebrity interviews … National Health & Wellbeing Survey 2021 … Manchester’s Gay Village before the ’90s


What 40 years of celebrity interviews taught me about attitudes towards gay men

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is a journalist, broadcaster and award-winning author. Star Turns, his anthology of interviews, is published this month (SunRise Publishing).

Walker has worked for The Observer, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mirror, The European and The New European. He stood as a parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems in Canterbury in the 2019 general election, before controversially standing down and falling behind his Labour opponent.

Star Turns brings together more than 70 celebrity interviews originally published in The New European over several years. With subjects ranging from Roger Moore to Peter Ustinov, Charlton Heston and Diana Rigg, Walker’s unique style throws new light on familiar faces from stage, screen and life. He regularly uncovers facts and facets not previously revealed.

In the 1980s, after the film Another Country made him a star, Rupert Everett had to contend with sly digs about his sexuality in Nigel Dempster’s Daily Maildiary. Photograph: Ronald Grant

It used to be “Don’t talk about my private life!” to avoid a tabloid onslaught. Thankfully there’s more acceptance today.

Michael Grandage’s film My Policeman, which has just finished filming in Brighton, tells the story of a married couple in a loving and enduring menage a trois. The third party is the husband’s male lover.

The adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ novel covers a period in recent English history – stretching from the 1950s to the 90s – when attitudes to homosexuality underwent significant change. What was once illegal, and supposedly scorned by right-thinking members of society, became accepted to the extent that, in 2014, same-sex marriage was recognised in law.

That Rupert Everett should play the titular policeman’s lover in later life is poignant as the actor, now 62, had to live through the tail end of the often painful journey towards greater enlightenment.

In the 1980s, after the film Another Country made him a star, Everett had to contend with sly digs about his sexuality in Nigel Dempster’s Daily Mail diary. It wasn’t until 1995 that the actor finally felt able to confirm what had become an open secret, in an interview with the Daily Express.

Young gay men may now wonder why it took him so long but, while homosexuality may have been decriminalised in 1967, attitudes didn’t change overnight. Everett himself made the point that few, if any, of his contemporaries felt able to be honest about their sexuality until they had first established themselves. He feels, looking back, that his openness about his sexuality had an impact on his career: he blames not filmgoers, largely oblivious to actors’ private lives, but risk-averse studio executives who could never, for instance, have countenanced him in a role as overtly heterosexual as James Bond.

Looking back at the celebrity interviews that Tim Walker has conducted over almost 40 years, it makes him wonder if the public were ever quite as obsessive – and puritanical – about the sex lives of stars as some newspapers. It’s depressing how actors such as Richard Chamberlain and Antony Sher asked their PRs to tell me on no account to inquire about their private lives. Both have since come out and found contentment, but Chamberlain would, in his Dr Kildare days, get himself photographed with women; and Sher went so far as to get married to one. Making such a fuss about not talking about his private life was, as Sher now wryly accepts, like “putting a gigantic neon sign over my head saying ‘This guy is gay’”.

It’s hard to blame either actor for being defensive, as the Aids epidemic had, in the 1980s, not engendered sympathy towards gay men from the tabloids, only more hostility. Liberace and Rock Hudson were afforded neither privacy nor dignity in their final days as they were dying. Piers Morgan, then an ambitious young reporter on the Sun, wrote an article calling for East Enders to be banned after it dared to show “yuppie poofs” kissing. He has since apologised.

There were others, of course, who got through those times by living their supposedly scandalous lives in plain sight. John Schlesinger, who made Sunday Bloody Sunday in 1971, never bothered going through with a conventional marriage, as his fellow director Tony Richardson had. I met him in 1991 when, midway through the interview, he got up and gave a male house guest who was leaving a kiss.

Psychologists talk airily of how shame always requires punishment – almost as if it’s a process some gay men have to work through – and LGBT rights campaigners may today say that not being open about sexuality amounts to cowardice, which holds back the cause of equality. It’s too easy, however, to judge with hindsight. 

What’s not in question is that the tabloids and some politicians had made these relatively recent years a distinctly hostile environment for gay people.

National Health & Wellbeing Survey 2021

Opening Doors London (ODL) is the largest UK charity providing activities, events, information and support services specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary or gender fluid (LGBTQ+) people over 50.

Every year they carry out research with the aim of improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people over 50. This year they are focusing on people’s health and wellbeing and our experiences using health services.

Whilst it’s always hard to influence for improvements in our healthcare, personal testimonies make the arguments for better healthcare much more powerful. Please click here for the survey.

The survey isn’t long or complicated but if you need help completing it, one of their volunteers can conduct the survey over the phone. Just leave a voicemail to request this on 07971 954 918.

For those who prefer to complete a paper copy of the survey, please contact ben.thomas@openingdoorslondon.org.uk and they will post out a survey and stamped addressed return envelope. 

The survey closes on 15 October 2021. Their final report and recommendations will be published on their website on 1 December 2021: http://www.openingdoorslondon.org.uk

Opening Doors London

Secret codes and blacked out windows – What Manchester’s Gay Village was like before the 1990s

The Rembrandt Hotel on Sackville Street in 1973 (Image: Manchester Library Archives)

It’s safe to say that walking down Canal Street in the seventies and eighties was a totally different experience to today.

While rainbow flags can often be seen draped across the walls and outside the bars today where drag queens, the LGBT+ community and allies proudly enjoy themselves, the few gay-friendly pubs in the area during the 70s were very discreet.

Most had blacked out windows so you couldn’t see what was going on inside – and for good reason as well.

Since homosexuality had been partially decriminalised in 1967, Canal Street was slowly starting to grow an identity of its own.

But just because the law had changed to allow two gay men to have sex together – as long as it was in private and both were over the age of 21 – it didn’t mean that public attitudes had yet changed.

Police raids were still a regular occurrence in the Gay Village.

Places like The New Union and the Rembrandt Hotel were often visited by police in an attempt to try and catch gay men engaging in sexual activity in public.

To get the lowdown on gay events and news happening in the area, people would have to visit one of the bars and discreetly ask the bartender for a copy of the “Football Pink”.

Under the clever guise of the Manchester Evening News football edition of the same name at the time, they were actually asking for a locally-distributed gay newspaper called The Mancunian Gay Magazine.

Started in 1978, the newspaper gave a voice to Manchester’s growing LGBT+ community and, for 20p a copy, contained articles such as “This Thing Called S & M” and “Gays – The New Untouchables?”.

But as Manchester’s gay scene was trying to emerge from the shadows, the police were gaining new tactics to catch up on what was happening in Canal Street.

Napoleons on Bloom Street in 1986 (Image: Manchester Library Archives)

The Mancunian Gay Magazine reported an incident in November 1984 where 23 plain-clothed police officers raided the Napoleon’s pub.

Police felt the manager was “permitting licentious dancing” – a local byelaw dating back to 1882 which prohibited dancing deemed to be a “breach of the peace”.

The pub’s membership list was seized and police obtained the names of addresses of everyone that frequented the venue.

Gay people, many not out to their friends, family, or colleagues, were at risk of being outed and potentially shunned by their local community.

The incident led to The Gay Activists Alliance calling an emergency meeting, where it was agreed that a police monitoring group would be set up with the support of Manchester council.

But, just as the emergent community was finding its feet, it was thrust back into the closet in the 1980s – thanks to the association of homosexuality with the AIDS epidemic.

James Anderton, Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable at the time, even went as far as saying in December 1986 that homosexuals and others with HIV/AIDS were “swirling in a human cesspool of their own making”.

Two years later, Margaret Thatcher enacted Section 28, a British law prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities.

This led to huge protests in the city with over twenty thousand people waving banners in defiance.

But, somehow, the LGBT+ community has always tried to find a way to rise above the discrimination.

The Thompsons on Sackville Street in 1970 (Image: Manchester Library Archives)

The launch of Mantos bar in 1990 was heralded as the commercial start of Manchester’s Gay Village, solidified by the success of Queer As Folk in 1999.

The commercialisation of Manchester Pride over the years has also highlighted the area as a beacon for many LGBT+ people – although, of course, there are others who feel it is drifting from its roots.

It’s evident that the Gay Village holds many memories – both good and bad – of historic importance.

People enjoying themselves at Manchester Pride 2019. (Image: ABNM Photography)

Visit to Saltaire … Sebastian Vettel


Saltaire is a Victorian village in Shipley, part of the City of Bradford Metropolitan District, in West Yorkshire. The Victorian era Salt’s Mill and associated residential district located by the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saltaire was built in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the Yorkshire woollen industry. The name of the village is a combination of the founder’s surname and the name of the river. Salt moved his business (five separate mills) from Bradford to this site near Shipley to arrange his workers and to site his large textile mill by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the railway.

Salts Mill, Saltaire

Salt built neat stone houses for his workers (much better than the slums of Bradford), wash-houses with tap water, bath-houses, a hospital and an institute for recreation and education, with a library, a reading room, a concert hall, billiard room, science laboratory and a gymnasium. The village had a school for the children of the workers, almshouses, a park, allotments and a boathouse.

Out In The City members met some of our friends from Yorkshire and most of us dined in the pub overlooking the River Aire, before visiting Salt’s Mill.

The mill is now an art gallery including several large rooms given over to the works of the Bradford-born artist David Hockney. There is a lot to see and unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to properly explore the area. Some photos can be seen here.

Sebastian Vettel on speaking out as an LGBT+ ally: ‘Everyone has the same right to love’

Even by Formula 1’s dramatic standards, the recent Hungarian Grand Prix was a thriller – yet an image captured before it began may prove its biggest legacy.

The race seemed to have everything, from a shock first win for Esteban Ocon to the surreal sight of Lewis Hamilton lining up alone at the start.

There was another moment that made headlines around the world, though.

During the pre-race national anthem ceremony, Sebastian Vettel sported a Pride shirt in protest against anti-LGBT+ legislation brought in by Hungary’s government.

In a special episode of the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast, the four-time world champion explains why he decided to take a stand, and the difference he hopes it will make.

“I wasn’t nervous or embarrassed by the rainbow colours, or of what people think,” Vettel says. “I wanted to send a message, and I was very proud to do it.”

‘It doesn’t matter who you fall in love with’

Vettel competed in Hungary wearing a racing helmet featuring a rainbow

Vettel’s decision was not an impulsive one.

The Aston Martin driver knew that Formula 1 would be heading to Hungary this summer, and that the country’s government was widely seen as hostile to the LGBT+ community, passing a law earlier this year banning the promotion of homosexuality and transgender issues in schools.

In the weeks before the grand prix, the European Parliament voted in favour of taking legal action against the new law; Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded by saying school policy was a matter for his country, not “Brussels bureaucrats”.

“I remembered I’d seen in the news that the current government doesn’t have the most progressive views on certain things,” Vettel says. “There was a lot of debate about the laws that prohibit access to all ages getting a wholesome education and leaving some parts out, which I think is completely wrong.

So the idea was born that we have this moment before the race where we are able to put out certain messages, and I thought it was a good opportunity to send out a small sign.”

That’s exactly what the German did.

There was a rainbow sweeping up the side of his trainers and across his racing helmet; a Pride-coloured face mask as he walked around the track; and that T-shirt bearing the message: ‘Same Love’.

“It’s the name of a beautiful song by Macklemore, and I think it explains in a nice way some of the wrong perceptions people have,” Vettel says.

“It doesn’t matter your skin colour, it doesn’t matter your background, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who you fall in love with. In the end, you just want equal treatment for everybody.”

‘It meant a lot to me’

Matt Bishop spent 10 years with McLaren and was communications director for the W Series before joining Aston Martin in January

Vettel’s actions resonated with Matt Bishop, Aston Martin’s chief communications officer, a veteran of the F1 world, and a founder-ambassador for the Racing Pride group.

“I joke that, when I arrived nearly 30 years ago, I was the only gay in the F1 village,” says Bishop.

“Now I’m not that, but LGBT+ people in Formula 1 are still a rarity. So to have someone like Seb, who is a straight man who completely understands that one should be able to live and let live, and love and make love to whoever you like, is very heartening. It’s what we call allyship, and as I said to Sebastian, it meant a lot to me.”

Following Vettel’s actions in Hungary, messages of support came in from across the LGBT+ community as well as from Lewis Hamilton, who posted a message on Instagram promising to “join you next time with the same shirt”.

“I was surprised it was so much of a big deal,” Vettel admits. “Ideally, there wouldn’t be any reaction because it’s just normal.

There are countries still arguing about whether gay marriage should be legal or not legal. I think there’s enough marriage for all of us, you know. It makes no difference to straight people whether gay people are allowed to get married or not, but it makes a huge difference to gay people to be able to get married like everyone else.

So yeah, I was surprised – but it shows that there’s still so much that needs to be done.”

And what about the reaction of those who felt that the Aston Martin driver should stick to racing, and that “politics and sport shouldn’t mix”?

“I get the point,” Vettel says.

“I grew up in the sport, and had lots of discussions with experts and media and communications, and you hear this statement a couple of times. But are we talking about ‘politics’ when we’re talking about human rights? I don’t think so.

I think there are some topics where you can’t duck or say: ‘It doesn’t belong here, let’s not talk about this.’ Some topics are so big that they belong literally everywhere, and everyone has to be aware.”

‘Just push the door open … you will become a superstar’

“I wasn’t surprised that LGBT+ people would take Sebastian to their hearts,” Bishop says.

“But I think it’s particularly important when someone who is well-known as a straight family man takes up the cause. And I’ll tell you this. If a gay man becomes a Formula 1 driver, drives for a good team and wins, he will become the biggest and most loved sports star in the whole wide world.

So if somebody is in Formula 3 or Formula 2 and is nervous, just push the door open. It will spring open for you, and you will become a superstar.”

Vettel believes that showing an inclusive attitude is vital.

“If I can be an inspiration, that’s great, but in the end, the whole environment has to be inviting,” the German says.

“So if small things like what I did help to raise awareness and express support, that’s great. But we have to stop judging people on what they like to do and who they love. We should be seeing the people first, and everyone is different and everyone has a beauty about them.

Let’s just treat people the way we want to treat them, equally, and not based on who they love.”

Sebastian Vettel and Matt Bishop were speaking to Jack Murley on the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast.

Gay Afghans fear extermination … From a Whisper to a Roar … Carl Bean dies aged 77


Gay Afghans fear extermination – how dare the government be the judge of refugees’ sexuality?’

In 1956, after Soviet tanks had rolled into Budapest, the UK resettled around 11,000 Hungarian refugees in a matter of months. In 1972, after Idi Amin gave them 90 days to leave, the UK resettled nearly 30,000 Ugandan Asian refugees. Between 1979 and 1983, the UK resettled around 16,000 Vietnamese refugees. Between 2015 and 2020, the UK resettled 20,000 Syrian refugees. All of these resettlement schemes were part of major international refugee resettlement programmes.

There are already as many as 20.7 million refugees around the world, and that is before any possible exodus from Afghanistan. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 1.47 million of those refugees require resettlement this year. Last year, fewer than 35,000 refugees were resettled, a fraction of a percent. The High Court recently commented that such figures “show the stark contrast between humanitarian need, and the availability of resettlement as a solution”.

Around 10% of refugees live in camps and some have spent years or even decades doing so. Turkey hosts 3.7 million refugees, Colombia 1.7 million, Pakistan 1.4 million and Germany 1.2 million.

The United Kingdom hosts 132,000 refugees.

A Taliban fighter stands guard near a damaged car after multiple rockets were fired in Kabul on 30 August 2021.

So the government’s proposed resettlement of 5,000 Afghan refugees over the next year and a further 15,000 over an undefined future period is not particularly generous. That is not to say it is not welcome and necessary: there is an urgent need to resettle Afghan and other refugees from around the world.

However, for a country so boastful of its tolerance, we are only helping a handful and we are failing LGBT+ refugees by refusing to believe their identity

The fall of Kabul; the resurrection of the Taliban – it was a harrowing scene for most. But for LGBT+ Afghans, it’s a nightmare come true.

Nemat Sadat, an author – believed to be one of the first Afghans to publicly come out as gay – has warned it is not hyperbolic to compare the Taliban’s plans to the actions of the Nazis.

Nemat Sadat has warned the Taliban’s violence towards the LGBT+ community is akin to the Nazis

“They’ll weed them out and exterminate them from Afghan society,” he said. “The Taliban will impose a ‘bait, kill and dump’ policy. That is, they will appoint informants to lure gay and bisexual men online and in public spaces and take them to a secluded spot and kill them and dispose of their bodies.”

Rainbow Railroad, a charity that helps LGBT+ asylum seekers, revealed that it has been in contact with more than 200 LGBT+ Afghans who are trying to escape.

The UK government is being urged to make LGBT+ Afghans a priority group for evacuation.

In a letter sent to Dominic Raab, Stonewall and Rainbow Migration said: “LGBTQ+ Afghans need our support. But they will not be able to benefit from the Government’s evacuation programme unless they receive targeted support …

Like all of those seeking to flee, it is clear that robust security efforts are needed for vulnerable people to be able to leave the country to seek safety.”

But how will the government respond – when their track record on LGBT+ asylum is abysmal, to say the least.

According to Gov.UK statistics, there were 1,212 asylum applications lodged in the UK in 2019, where sexual orientation formed part of the basis for the claim. This only represents three percent of all asylum applications.

However, only 464 of those applications were actually granted.

Zac Daily, 32, says he was unsuccessful at applying for asylum in the UK for three and a half years as the government “didn’t believe” he was gay.

Zac Daily had to fight to prove to the government he is gay for years in order to claim asylum 
(Image: Zac Daily)

It’s unfathomable: being so excruciatingly vulnerable about the sexuality you have been forced to repress – just to be told it’s not believable.

“It was very hard to convince the government I was gay because I was not out at the time,” Daily said.

“How was I supposed to prove I’m gay? What did they want me to do? They said I should go back home and live a gay life in secret, and I’ll be fine”.

Now I know this is a nuanced debate. The government has extensive reports on how they shouldn’t stereotype LGBT+ asylum seekers, and how they should deal with the matter sensitively – but we cannot let a situation like this happen again.

From a Whisper to a Roar – Love & Protest Stories of LGBT+ Women since 1967

From a Whisper to a Roar created by Project Coordinator Evelyn Pittman and Sound Artist Lori E Allen is a project which aims to collect reminiscences from lesbian, bisexual and transwomen over a period of roughly fifty years – from the time of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, when the focus was on men and the legal fight.

At this time there was silence around women’s issues and women’s voices were rarely heard. Over the intervening years women gradually came out of the shadows.

Women’s voices grew louder and they have become activists on many levels. Thus the project is called ‘From a Whisper to a Roar’. They hope that this project will, in a small way, add to the volume. 

You can listen to the oral histories and podcasts from the project here.

Carl Bean, singer of gay pride anthem, dies aged 77

Bishop Carl Bean. Via Unity Church Fellowship

Gospel singer, minister and LGBT+ rights advocate Carl Bean has died. He was 77 years old. Bean’s life and work had a far-reaching effect on the future of the LGBT+ community.

Bean first rose to fame in the early 1960s as a soul singer in New York and Los Angeles, founding the group Carl Bean and Universal Love. His profile continued to rise into the 1970s, and he hit a new level of fame in 1975 with the Motown disco hit “I Was Born This Way”, a disco track with the message of gay pride: “I’m happy, I’m carefree and I’m gay / I was born this way”. As the title might suggest, Bean lived his life as a proud gay man throughout his career.

As a gay man, Bean was rejected by his family and his church. He, therefore, founded the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, a congregation aimed at LGBT+ African-Americans in 1982. Bean intended the church, which now has 17 individual locations worldwide, to “proclaim the ‘sacredness of all life’ thus focusing on empowering those who have been oppressed and made to feel shame.” Bean would also go on to found his own AIDS charity in 1985, the Minority Aids Project.

Bristol’s first rainbow crossing appears in the city centre

Freedom Exhibition … 1957 wedding … Double Ender … Survey


The Freedom Exhibition is curated by Heard Storytelling and is part of Manchester Pride’s Superbia programme. It runs for one month from 26 August. The outdoor garden gallery is free to experience, with no booking required.

Norman, Pauline and Tony were three of the eleven ‘living portraits’ celebrating true stories told by LGBT+ people. We had candidly shared our lived experiences in a series of audio recordings to accompany beautifully shot portraits captured at the Kampus neighbourhood.

After the launch night Norman’s interview on Granada Reports and Tony’s interview for BBC North West Tonight were aired on 27 August 2021.

From secret bars in the 1970s to the top of the tallest trees – the fascinating stories take listeners on a journey of love, loss, adversity and triumph. The exhibition has been conceptualised to deliver a powerful message of solidarity, life and hope.

The Out In The City group met on Canal Street and made our way to Via for food and drinks before visiting the exhibition.

Peter took a few more portraits which can be viewed here.

If you would like to contribute to the virtual guestbook, please send a message via WhatsApp to 07842 667862. These messages will be shared on Kampus social media platforms and website.

These gay wedding photos from 1957 are incredible … but who are the grooms?

Decades before gay marriage became legal anywhere in the United States, same-sex couples were committing themselves to each other in front of friends and loved ones. Few records of these ceremonies existed – until now.

Neal Baer is a board member at the ONE Archives Foundation in Los Angeles, dedicated to preserving LGBT history. He and fellow researcher Michael Wolfe stumbled across a series of photos taken at what appears to be a gay wedding in the 1950s.

The photos were acquired by a collector a few years ago who had bought them at an online auction. He realised their significance and donated them to the Archives.

The couple in the pictures appear to be in their 20s or 30s, so they would be in their 80s or 90s if they were alive today. The grooms and their guests are dressed up in dark suits with flowers in their lapels.

The celebration took place in a modest flat with the blinds drawn. It featured a ceremony officiated by someone who appears to be a member of the clergy. The grooms are shown kissing, cutting their wedding cake and opening presents.

Here’s what they know about the pictures: they were printed in 1957 at a neighbourhood drugstore in Philadelphia. They capture a ceremony featuring two grooms. The photos also depict the exchange of rings before witnesses, an officiant leading the ceremony, the kiss, the cake, the gifts, and more.

The owner of the drugstore where the film was dropped off to be developed decided they were inappropriate and refused to return them to the unknown grooms.

Now, Baer and Wolfe are trying to identify the couple.

“We have put in months and months and months investigating who these guys are,” Baer said. “We just left pretty stunned,” researcher Wolfe adds. “We were a little bright-eyed about, ‘Oh, we’ll just go and find the guys in these photos,’ but it’s turned into a long-term project. We get to go and hunt down this amazing story.”

“Does anybody recognise them?” says Baer. “We’d love to know that. What would be a huge help is just getting these photos in front of a bunch of 80 and 90-year-olds. We are hopeful that in the connected age that we could spread them fairly widely and get more eyes on them,” adds Wolfe. “There are too many recognisable faces among the set that we couldn’t find a match.”

The US Supreme Court didn’t recognise the right for gay people to marry the person of their choice until 2015.

The 1950s was very oppressive for the LGBT community. Many people lived in the closet because they feared losing their job if anyone learned they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. In fact, the federal government during the 1950s said gays and lesbians were unfit to work in the public sector. The government engaged in a massive witch hunt to hunt down and fire members of the LGBT community.

In 1952, The American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disturbance” in the first edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the listing of known psychiatric disorders. After considerable lobbying by activists, the APA removed homosexuality from the second edition of the DSM in 1973.

Double Ender

Double-Ender is an evening of two fast-paced, entertaining, and sometimes laugh-out-loud monologues performed and written by Joshua Val Martin and Jez Dolan. 

They share personal, candid stories about LGBT+ people – past and present – living, learning, and loving in a rapidly changing Manchester.

Joshua Val Martin shares stories of his company Free Manchester Walking Tours. He has some unusual encounters as he takes people on tours of the city: fetish events, the Uruguayan rugby team … and Noel Gallagher. And there’s the dark underbelly of warring tours.  Who’s got more right to the story of the city? 

Jez Dolan; part stand-up, part-lecturer, and fantbulosa sing-a-long host, gives the lowdown on Polari, the subversive and lost language of gay men spoken in the gay pubs and secret spaces of yesteryear.  You’ll learn your actual Polari; it’s bona to vada your dolly old eek! 

Leave the theatre with a far wider and cheekier vocabulary than the one you went in with … that’s a promise.

Double-Ender has been crafted with love and is out on tour:

The Edge, Manchester (Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 September);

The Met, Bury (Thursday 30 September);

The LBT, Huddersfield (Friday 24 September) and

Oldham Coliseum (Thursday 14 October). 

Booking details here


In May 2021, the UK Government proposed plans to make photo ID compulsory for voting. Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation have launched a survey and welcome responses in order to understand the impact that this proposal can have. They are especially keen to get responses from LGBT+ communities that have been traditionally under-represented. Here is the link for the survey.

Justice, Rights & Resistance – Pride is a protest as well as a party (Photo: Jordan Roberts)

Drag Yourself Out … Vesta Tilley … Queer Lit


Drag Yourself Out

During Pride James and Tony, as two members of the LGBT Foundation’s Pride in Ageing project in conjunction with Southway Housing, performed their drag debuts on the Alan Turing stage in Sackville Park.

These are the “before” photos:

These are the “after” photos:

To see the process have a look at the photos here.

The performance was exciting.

Here we are as Di Chotomy and Patsy De Kline getting lots of attention in the gay village.

We were exhilarated and exhausted afterwards.

After changing and washing off the make-up, we had another wander around the village but this time we were invisible.

Vesta Tilley

Matilda Alice Powles (13 May 1864 – 16 September 1952) was an English music hall performer and an early drag king. She adopted the stage name Vesta Tilley and became one of the best-known male impersonators of her era.

Vesta Tilley (in and out of drag)

With her father’s encouragement, Powles first appeared on stage at the age of three and by six she was appearing to sing songs dressed as a man. She would later perform male roles exclusively, saying that “I felt that I could express myself better if I were dressed as a boy.”

Her career lasted from 1869 until 1920. Starting in provincial theatres, she typically performed as a dandy or fop, but she also found additional success as a principal boy in pantomime.

By the 1890s, Tilley was England’s highest earning woman. She was also a star in the vaudeville circuit in the United States, touring a total of six times. She married Walter de Frece, a theatre impresario who became her new manager and songwriter. At a Royal Command Performance in 1912, she scandalised Queen Mary because she was wearing trousers.

Becoming Lady de Frece in 1919, she decided to retire and made a year-long farewell tour from which all profits went to children’s hospitals. Her last performance was in 1920 at the Coliseum Theatre, London.

She then supported her husband when he became a Member of Parliament and later retired with him to Monte Carlo. She died in 1952 on a visit to London and is buried at Putney Vale Cemetery.

Manchester’s First Dedicated Gay Bookshop

A brand-new addition to Tib Street in the heart of the Northern Quarter, opening Queer Lit UK has been a chaotic six-week journey for owner Matthew Cornford, but one that actually started back in 2020 with the launch of a massive online bookstore.

Hoping to make LGBT+ titles more accessible to readers across the UK, Queer Lit initially carried around 700 fiction and non-fiction books from some of the world’s biggest queer authors.

Self-confessed book lover, Matthew set up Queer Lit after his struggles getting his hands on queer literature, and, after a rather unsuccessful visit to Waterstones on Deansgate, who told him that they’d done away with their LGBT section, setting up his own bookshop was the obvious next step.

Opening last Friday (27 August), Matthew’s new Northern Quarter store stocks over 1,700 LGBT+ titles, and looks absolutely stunning. He’s set out to provide a dedicated safe place where queer readers can find books that cater for them, and he’s certainly delivered.

One of only four dedicated queer bookshops in the UK, Queer Lit UK stocks a dazzling array of titles from some of the most famous authors, but also hard-to-find and rare books straight from publishers who primarily deal with queer literature.

The books are split up into easy categories, from gay to lesbian, trans, non-binary, parenting, youth (10-14 years), graphic novels and even children’s books – there’s an almost overwhelming selection on offer, but fear not because Matthew and his lovely members of staff are on hand to answer questions, offer recommendations or just to have a chat.

Future plans include a separate ‘safe space’ downstairs, where customers can sit, read or just relax, somewhere comfortable away from the stresses of everyday life in the city – which should hopefully be open before the end of the year.

Matthew and team are open every day, so pop in, have a coffee, a bit of wine and a chat and check out this fantastic new addition to the city. Keep your eye out for their colourful window display – you can’t miss it!