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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: June 2017

7 - Re-imagining Manchester as a Queer and Haptic Brown Atlantic Space



Its reputation once based on its image as a thriving industrial center, Manchester, England has become just as well known for giving rise to punk and ‘new wave’ music in the 1980s and for being the post-millennial, commercial epicenter of gay life in the north-west of England. In 2003, Manchester was deemed the most ‘bohemian’ and ‘creative’ city, according to the ‘Boho (or Bohemian) Britain Index’ of forty UK cities. The Boho Index uses three indices – ethnic diversity, proportion of gay residents, and number of patent applications per head – as key indicators of the city's economic health, and Manchester scores high in all these areas. For instance, the city is home to a number of higher educational institutions, including Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Manchester, the largest university in the United Kingdom. Moreover, Manchester's Gay Village, named for its many gay bars, shops and restaurants, enabled it to become the first British city to host Europride in 2003. Finally, Manchester has a diverse ethnic population, evidenced most conspicuously in the commercialized spaces of Chinatown and the Curry Mile, an area of the city named for its large number of South Asian restaurants and shops.

In its strategic plan for the city center for the 2004–2007 period, Manchester City Council proudly boasts that Manchester topped the list of the Boho Index in 2003 (Manchester City Council and Manchester City Centre Management Company Ltd, 2003, 6). Urban geographer Steve Quilley (91) further notes that since at least the early 1990s those involved in ‘all aspects of urban regeneration’ adhered to a ‘Manchester script’ that characterized the city as ‘post-modern, post-industrial and cosmopolitan’. As I have argued elsewhere (Patel, 2009), the aforementioned Curry Mile is relatively absent visually and textually in the city's marketing in comparison to the Gay Village. The two spaces are produced as mutually exclusive not only by the city's marketing but the marketing of the restaurants and bars of the two spaces, as well. The Gay Village is given a ‘gay’ (white, middleclass and male) identity, while the Curry Mile is given an ‘ethnic’ (South Asian and heterosexual) one.