Manchester has the United Kingdom's largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community outside London and is renowned for its Gay Village around Canal Street.

The history of Manchester's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is an important part of the social and cultural history of the city and the North West. Manchester has the United Kingdom's largest LGBT community outside London and is renowned for its Gay Village around Canal Street. It is the home of festivals such as Pride and queerupnorth and of community organisations like the Lesbian and Gay Foundation and the Albert Kennedy Trust, but it wasn’t always like this. The LGBT community has had to campaign for its rights. Just fifty years ago many homosexual acts were illegal and the community was hidden and discriminated against.

Allan Horsfall (1927-2012) was a gay rights campaigner from Lancashire. When the Wolfenden Report was published in 1957 recommending a relaxation of the law against homosexual acts, Allan started a campaign to raise the issue of homosexual equality in the Labour Party and the media. At that time sex between men was illegal.

In 1964 Allan became one of the founders of the North West Committee for Homosexual Law Reform, which became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 legalised sex between men aged 21 and above. It was the first legal step in an ongoing struggle against discrimination towards the LGBT community.

 

Never Going Underground logo, 1988
Image from Allan Horsfall's election leaflet, Nelson council, 1958

In the 1980s, controversial amendment to the Local Government Act 1986 (known as Section 28) banned local authorities from promoting homosexuality.  After the law was enacted in May 1988, Manchester City Council carried out a major programme of briefings to make sure that staff knew that Section 28 didn't stop them providing Council services to lesbian and gay residents.  The Council also produced pamphlets for staff in the Education and Social Services Departments with the theme of what staff could still do despite Section 28.

The North West Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Equality (NWCLGE) adopted the 'Never Going Underground' symbol for its campaign against Section 28 and organised many events. The largest of these was the national march, rally and festival in Manchester on 20 Feb 1988.  This attracted 20,000 people to the rally, filling Albert Square outside the Town Hall. In the evening the Free Trade Hall on Peter Street was called for a festival of entertainment for the demonstrators.  Visit Archives+ to learn more about the Clause 28 campaign and its legacy.