British Culture Archive Presents: Together As One - A Celebration of Manchester's LGBTQ+ Community
The Refuge, Manchester | 28th July - 30th September 2022
Manchester is a pioneering city; from the Industrial Revolution, the birthplace of the Suffragette movement to splitting the atom. The City has pushed boundaries and continues to lead the way for progression and equality.
“Manchester’s LGBTQ+ Community is an essential part of the city’s social and cultural makeup, we take a look at a couple of important chapters in the city’s history, which have helped pave the way for the thriving LGBTQ+ community that exists today.” – Paul Wright (Founder British Culture Archive)
Peter J Walsh
Clause 28 or Section 28 was a legislative designation for a series of laws across Britain that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities; including a ban on schools teaching the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
Coming into force in May, 1988, Clause 28 was an attempt to suppress the gay community at a time when it was already struggling to deal with the Aids epidemic and the backlash towards the gay communitiy fuelled by the media. On 20th February 1988, a huge anti-Clause 28 protest was held in Manchester, with over 20,000 people taking to the streets to protest their anger towards the Thatcher led government. The march which culminated in Albert Square was one of the largest LGBT demonstrations ever held in the UK.
Peter J Walsh, who is more well known for documenting the city’s nightlife during the ‘Madchester’ years is one of the few who documented this important protest that would help change the face of LGBTQ+ rights in the UK.
Loud, Happy and Vibrant
Peter: “The Anti-Clause 28 demo was one of the largest demonstrations I had covered in Manchester during that period. The starting point was on Oxford Road, by the Poly and the participants seemed to go on as far of the eye could see. Manchester City Council reckoned there were 20,000 people on the demo. It was loud, happy and vibrant. The country had been under Thatcher’s rule since 1979 and people were determined to fight back against this law. The left wing council of Manchester welcomed the marchers and stood with them in solidarity against the divisive Tory Government. The LGBQT communities civil liberties were under attack by Thatcher and we were prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and say enough is enough.”
Launching in October 1991, Flesh was the flamboyant mid-week night at The Haçienda that was the brainchild of the clubs entertainment and promotions manager Paul Cons along with promoter Lucy Scher.
Flesh arrived during a turbulent time during the clubs and city’s history. The comedown from the halcyon years of 88-90 was in full flow and regular Haç nights were losing their appeal due to a number of heavy gang related incidents and laddish clientele putting off the punters.
In house Flesh photographer Jon Shard recalls: “My friends and people around me, would be talking about it all month. People came from all over, you had people from Europe coming over for it – it was always packed and full of energy. It was one of the most important nights there – probably the biggest gay night in Europe. It was always special. I was there for every single one, it was the best night to shoot because of the carnival atmosphere. It was really colourful, everyone would spend two or three days working out what they were going to wear for it.”
Flesh was also pioneering in the sense that it was the home of the clubs first female residents DJs, Paulette Constable and Kath McDermott – a time when female DJs rarely got a look in behind the decks.
Kath, who was still a student whilst Djing at the club remembers a young Jon running around with his camera – “Jon was keen as mustard and came to talk to us about why we should let him take some pics at Flesh. He was even younger than me and absolutely slayed it. An absolute darling!”.
The Haçienda and nights such as Flesh fit into a tradition of creativity and cultural innovation in Manchester, which can be seen throughout the city today.
The exhibition launches at The Refuge with a free party on Thursday July 28 at 7pm.
The ‘Together As One’ Exhibition has been curated by British Culture Archive founder Paul Wright