Manchester’s iconic Gay Village is just across the street from Whitworth Locke, on Canal Street. The village hosts numerous annual events and community activities, including Manchester Pride - one of the biggest Pride events in the UK, attracting a huge number of visitors to the city each year. We caught up with CEO Mark Fletcher to hear a bit more about the Gay Village, and how it has changed over the years.
How synonymous is the area with Manchester Pride? And how much has it changed over the last decade?
Manchester Pride is really synonymous with the area, because its heritage started way back when, just up Canal Street. The area is now known as the home of the festival - and it certainly is the heart of the festival.
The area has changed a lot over the last ten years actually, quite dramatically. But if you just look at society and how that has changed, then you would expect the area to have changed a little too. For ten years after Queer as Folk, the show had a profound impact on the area. You’d see people coming from all across the country, and the world to see the space around Canal Street. Some of the venues have come and gone, some are still existing, and some are now pretty famous in their own right. Most of the venues in the area really know how to get their model right, they see people coming back time after time, year after year.
What personally excites you about the developments in the area?
I’m always excited by new developments. I can’t see any point standing in the way of developments and change, it’s completely natural to want to progress forward. What excites me most is the investment in the area, because I think it’s lacking in development in the way that other areas of the city centre have received such big levels of investment. Our Gay Village has been left behind in some respects, and we will definitely benefit from the introduction of all the new tenants and residents within the area. That includes new accommodation options, as well as new retail and leisure offerings which will help to continue to increase and heighten the profile of the area.
What do you love about Manchester?
I love the people. Manchester is home, and it’s unique in the sense that its people are such proud people, it is a city full of pioneers, creators, people who are not afraid to stand up for that they believe in. And it’s fantastic that the city champions and fights for equality the way it does, in all strands.
I grew up in South Manchester, so I’m a proud Mancunian. Having seen many cities around the UK, and around the world, it is still the place I want to call home. I often say, and it’s a term I use all the time, that whenever leaving London, with it being the capital, the most exciting part of a trip is being on the Pendolino, and the warmth it provides when I’m heading home. There’s something about this city, and there’s something about the people, that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
What would you recommend visitors to Manchester do in the area? How can they immerse themselves in the culture?
Immerse yourself in culture by wandering around the streets; there is culture and art everywhere you look. You’ll notice the warmth of Mancunians, as people will smile at you as you go about your daily business. It’s very much all about heart and soul in this city.
There is so much to do in Manchester but I’d tell visitors and locals alike to remember to head out of the city centre. While a lot of what you can see and do will be promoted elsewhere, people forget we are so close to North Wales, the Lake District, the Peak District and so many areas of natural beauty on the outskirts of Greater Manchester. You can just jump on a train, and are only a quick ride away from so many natural beauty spots.