Canal Street, Manchester
Before gay Manchester, there was Madchester. This cultural movement emerged in the late 1980s, as local musicians began blending alt rock with acid house and dance. As Manchester evolved to become a beacon of creativity for north-west England, its gay community grew. LGBT people often received a harsher reception in the industrialised north of England than in the south, which made parts of Manchester buzzing safe havens.
In 1991, the city became home to the UK’s first glass-fronted gay bar: Manto (formed from the words ‘Manchester’ and ‘today’) represented a milestone for the nation. It was located on Canal Street and the area was soon transformed into a buzzing gay village, immortalised in the groundbreaking TV series Queer As Folk, broadcast in 1998. The series brought Canal Street a new level of fame and today, and it still stands as a true gay landmark for Britain.
The Museum of Transology, Brighton
No guide to LGBT Britain is complete without a mention for Brighton, the UK’s unofficial gay capital. It’s a good location for The Museum of Transology, Brighton Museum’s display (to Oct) includes objects and photographs that have been donated by the city’s trans community. Discover a range of emotional, personal stories that depict life as a trans person in contemporary England. One of Brighton Museum’s other current exhibitions, Queer Looks (to Dec), explores local LGBT fashion and style from the past 60 years.
Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes
Bletchley Park was brought to prominence recently in Alan Turing’s 2014 movie "The Imitation Game", starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Set in Bletchley Park, it tells the story of events here during World War II, when a small team worked to reveal the coded messages being sent between the Nazis. These codes included Enigma, which was thought to be unbreakable.
Turing was homosexual and, due to the laws of the day, he was forced to undergo hormonal treatment to reduce his sexual urges. He committed suicide in 1954.
Due to his huge contribution in the Allied victory, Turing has become an icon for LGBT struggles. Bletchley Park, (80km northwest of London), is a key location to honour that fight, with exhibitions and wartime artefacts, There’s also a centre dedicated to radio communications technology and the restored Codebreaking Huts themselves, where Enigma was cracked.
Althorp House, Northampton
This stately home has been the seat of Britain’s noble Spencer family for five centuries. In 1992, Charles became the ninth Earl Spencer and his older sister became Diana, Princess of Wales. During her life, Diana made a huge, positive difference to the perception of people suffering from AIDS around the world. A little island in the middle of a lake in Althorp’s grounds is Diana’s final resting place, making Althorp a significant landmark in the UK’s LGBT story.
The Althorp House Opening Season (1 Jul to 31 Aug) allows access to the house’s State Rooms, grand and ornate, especially the gold-and-royal-blue State Dining Room. Outside, 550 acres of grounds include ancient oak trees, a herd of rare black fallow deer and Diana’s lake, The Round Oval.
The Lesbian Archive, Glasgow
The Scottish city has its own Women’s Library, also awarded the status of being a ‘Recognised Collection of National Significance’ by the Scottish government. The library began in 1991, when Glasgow become European City of Culture in 1990. It boasts mountains of books, as well as a museum and an archive.
The library’s Lesbian Archive contains items from the past 100 years including back catalogues of publications such as Arena 3, Outrage and The Pink Paper, alongside rare books and records relating to the UK’s first organisation for black lesbians: the Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group.
National Museums Liverpool’s LGBT trail
Liverpool has a sightseeing trail that incorporates the Museum of Liverpool, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Walker Art Gallery and Sudley House—all members of the National Museums Liverpool collective. These are all behind the Pride & Prejudice research project, launched in 2015, to highlight everything in the collection with an LGBT link.
The rainbow-coloured Pride & Prejudice logo, dotted around each site in the Museums Liverpool collective, indicates that the adjacent object has an LGBTconnection. Highlights include a 2010 photograph of April Ashley in the Museum of Liverpool. April was born in 1935 and became one of the world’s first people to have gender reassignment surgery, before modelling for Vogue and awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2012.
In addition to these national landmarks, there are many more destinations around Britain that welcome, celebrate and seek out LGBT visitors, too.