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Letters from London: Gay Capital of the UK

London is without question the gay capital of the UK, in terms of the size of its LGBT population. But what about outside London?

The Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus at this year’s Pride

This will be contentious.

Brighton is generally considered to be the gay capital of the United Kingdom. So says Wikipedia. The seaside city of Brighton and Hove on the south coast of England has the largest LGBT population, outside London, in the UK. That’s according to a city census in 2014.

Brighton is like the US’s Provincetown, or Germany’s Berlin.

It’s had a long history of welcoming LGBT people. Back in the nineteenth century, during the Napoleonic wars, there were many soldiers stationed in the area. By this time, there was also a good train connection with London. Understandably, gay men were attracted to Brighton.

By the 1930s, there were a growing number of LGBT pubs and bars in Brighton. During the Second World War, there was once again a large population of soldiers. Men, and now also women, were away from their home environment and able to explore their sexuality. After the war, Brighton’s reputation was firmly established as a safe haven for LGBT people.

Brighton Pride is a fabulous occasion each year, and major international singers are eager to perform there. This year it was Kylie on the main stage.

So why contentious?

Because Manchester, in the north west of England, is competing for the title of gay capital of the UK.

Manchester’s Canal Street

According to the City Council’s own survey, it ‘s the city of Manchester, and not Brighton & Hove, which has the largest LGBT community, outside London, in the UK.

The most famous LGBT area of Manchester is Canal Street. Clubs and bars sprang up here during the 1980s, and its reputation for being an LGBT oasis was celebrated in the 1990s TV series Queer as Folk. It was also home to the celebrated mathematician and wartime code-breaker Alan Turing during his latter years. It’s home to a completely LGBT-led church, the Metropolitan Church, which not only welcomes LGBT people, but includes them at every level of its ministry.

And it also has a fabulous Pride each year.

So who will win the crown, “gay capital of the UK”?

Who knows? Who cares?

The fact that there are so many fabulous Pride marches to go to in the UK is celebration enough of the progress that’s been made in LGBT rights in the last fifty years.

You can read more about Brighton’s gay community in David C. Dawson’s award-winning book The Necessary Deaths, which is set in Brighton.

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