Out In The Past Trail Part One 2009: Union Junction

Out in the Past Trail part one

Start at the New Union at the junction of Canal Street and Princess Street.
1) The New Union, as a gay and lesbian meeting place, probably goes back as far as the nineteenth century. It certainly existed before WWII. One suggestion for the name is that the ‘new’ in its title celebrated the union of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland &ndash it’s been celebrating many other unions ever since. Through most of its ‘alternative’ life, the clientle has been mixed, a combination of gay men, lesbians, prostitutes, transvestites, straights and everything in between. For gay and straight American servicemen during WWII and whilst they had a base at Birchwood, it proved a place of solace. It was never the most glamorous of pubs but had its homely, laid-back (occasionally not so laid-back) appeal. One denizen from the Fifties recalls a lesbian three-piece (organ, drum and guitar) who performed there &ndash in fact the New Union remains a last bastion of the Northern music hall, as evidenced by its appearances in TV drama Queer as Folk. A bastion of protest too the landlord, one Prendegast, was briefly imprisoned in 1965 for ‘outraging public decency’ by running a pub which gay men visited. Amongst its well-known drag performers have been Bunny Lewis. For the Rochdale Canal, see point 18 below. A little further down Canal Street is Manto. This opened in 1990 as a new and very different bar. It was a world away from the New Union and pushed the Village to the forefront of Manchester’s (even the UK’s) going out and coming out culture. It’s hard to understand now how a bar with balconies in which one could sip coffee and read the Sunday papers could be so revolutionary. Manto was very successful and bred an offshoot in London, a sibling round the corner, and ran the popular gay and lesbian club, Paradise Factory.
At Sackville Street turn right and then left into Sackville Gardens.

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