Apprentice’s Sanjay: Gay Village only quieter as LGBT people can go anywhere now

Manchester’s famous Gay Village is not in decline and is only quieter because progress in equality means LGBT people feel welcome everywhere, according to former BBC Apprentice star Sanjay Sood-Smith.

As a former employee of the recently-closed Eden bar in the area, Sanjay says that although there may be less people on Canal Street these days, the focus should be on the positive changes in the LGBT lifestyle rather than a decline in its popularity.

Speaking to MM, Sanjay said: When I was in University in Manchester, Canal Street was always really busy. I am constantly back in the city and you can definitely tell that it has quietened down, particularly during the week.

“My view is that this is good and bad. Canal Street and gay areas were born out of necessity years ago. They came about as a place where gay people could go and be comfortable with being themselves, without having to worry about any kind of abuse.

“What is positive is that now we are in an environment where maybe there is not such a requirement for people to have somewhere specific they can go to be comfortable.

“And as a result I think people branch out more and go to a more diverse range of places. There is a definitely still a place for Canal Street though, and it will always be a great place to go out.”

Sanjay also told MM about his fond memories of working at Eden, which is due to reopen under new management in the near future after its former owner went into liquidation.

“As soon as I moved to Manchester, I decided to get a job, so I handed out my CV along Canal Street and got an offer from Eden,” he said.

“It was a cool place to work because you got such a diverse customer base. It wasn’t aimed at anyone specific; you had gay people, lesbians and a lot of the Trans community coming in for dinner, as well as a lot of straight people as well. So it was a nice mix, as opposed to setting to be just a gay restaurant.

“I really enjoyed working there. I remember in the summer running up and down the stairs on the barge with plates of food. It was good. The food was great too and the menu continuously evolved. They had some good chefs.”

Other LGBT groups are also keen to dismiss the idea that the Gay Village is losing its way.

Sian Payne, Director of Organisational Development at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (LGF) said: “Whilst venues are closing, they are also opening – and this has always been the case. Where Eden’s concerned, they have new owners and will be re-opening in February.

“It is likely that more LGBT people do feel more confident to visit and socialise in all parts of the city, and that includes the Village.

“It is still the view of The LGF that there is an important place for the Village to play in many LGBT people’s personal journeys and lives.

“We continue to experience the same, if not increasing, level of demand for the services we deliver in the Village, including the Village Angels and our condom and lube distribution scheme.”

She also explained that the launch of Channel Four’s new series Cucumber and Banana – a drama about gay men and women – would encourage more visitors. 

“With the recent launch of Cucumber and Banana, the Village can expect to see even more people coming through,” she said.

“It has been really fascinating to hear of people’s journeys, particularly those who saw Queer as Folk 15 years ago and then moved to Manchester – and we may well see this again.”

Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks.

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