I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that each year I take my students on explorations of queer space, exploring the intersection of space, law and identity. The first one we always go on is down the road to Newcastle and the small ‘Pink triangle’ or village that is based aroudn the Centre for Life. It’s not exactly Canal Street (which has its own problems) but it doesn’t say “destination” either. I usually ask my students for the words that they immediately think of when in the space; “dark”, “depressing”, “run-down”, “neglected” seem to come up every year. I’ve long wished that the council, community and queer businesses would come together to really sort the space out and create somewhere that the LGBTQ community can be proud of. That seems further sunk by the story reported today in the Chronicle that Traflagur Leisure wants to convert an abandoned warehouse into a straight lap Dancing Club – thus severely damaging this queer space.

There has been much academic literature on the impact of these sort of venues and the de-queering of space. We also have lots of personal experiences from Manchester about the damage an influx of straights can have. Anyone who knows anything in the queer community should be declaring firm ‘no’ to these unwise proposals.

Yet, that isn’t happening. The owner of the Eagle and the Yard is described as ‘understanding’ why the owner of Trafalgar Leisure wouldant to open such a venue. So, no resistance there then. Interestingly, Trafalgar Leisure already has a foothold in the queer space (as noted in the Chronicle piece) as they own Twist, the Baron and Baroness – venues that are mixed but can become predominately gay at night, and the gay club Powerhouse.

Thankfully, the ward councillor, Nick Forbes is fighting the application stating: “My concern is that it would have a big negative impact on the gay village and I’m concerned that it would destroy the concept of a safe area by introducing all sorts of undesirables.” Forbes is a Labour councillor and leader of the Labour group.

I’ve got no objections to the presence of lap dancing clubs but this isn’t the right location – and the focus needs to move to creating a successful and safe village.

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