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Gay Village: A history Cocktails and boogie nights or gourmet lunch al fresco – today Birmingham’s Gay Village suits the most discerning connoisseur and caters to all tastes. But it wasn’t always this way as generations have fought for your side order of olives and glittering cabaret nights out. Here, Erica Crompton looks at some notable achievements of the gay community and how the Village came to be such a vibrant part of Birmingham City Centre.   Back in the late sixties, just after the council had knocked down many of Hurst Street’s back to back houses, most of the world was against gays and the scene forced underground. It was The Nightingale Club, now on Kent Street, which marked a small but significant step forward for Birmingham’s gay community at that time. Until then, the scene had never had any place that they could call their own. During its time on Witton Lane, between 1975 and 1981, the Nightingale introduced club nights and there was a cinema night, with the first film shown being Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Also there were occasional cabaret nights, usually held at Easter and Christmas, 014 which featured drag, magicians or hypnotists. The upstairs area would seat 50, and, on a busy night, could hold a further 70 standing. At this time, however it was all very underground – in fact The Sexual Offences act was only passed in 1967. Beforehand, round the corner on 72 Bristol Street, The Wellington Hotel was allegedly the site of the first ever Gay marriages in the City, many years before the Civil Partnership was enshrined in law much later in 2005. Affectionately known by locals as The Welly folklore has it that the venue  played host to many a private wedding party,  covertly blessed by a local priest who supposedly crept into the pub via the Bristol Street subway. Lesbians may also recall Birmingham as a place where history was made pertaining to gay rights. The last ever national Women’s Liberation Conference was held in Birmingham in April 1978 at Ladywood School. ‘An end to discrimination against lesbians’ was passed after the motion to have a separate freestanding seventh demand

Gay Village Guide Birmingham

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