Manchester is a city synonymous with some of the best art and culture in the world. Its streets have birthed influential music scenes, been at the forefront of political change and devoted time to independent creators and thinkers who have gone on to shape some of its districts where a host of bars, restaurants and retail spaces now reside.
The city has also led the way in queer club culture and safe spaces for LGBTQ+ folk since the early 90s. During this time, the council gave the community official recognition, which meant that in the years that followed the scene really began to explode.
Larger gay bars and clubs started to emerge, which subsequently turned Canal Street into one of the biggest, most thriving gay villages in Europe. Outside of Canal Street, queer people have subsequently become attracted to the city through its innovative, accessible events that celebrate the city’s LGBTQ+ population and thriving arts scene at venues and spaces such as Antwerp Mansion, The Peer Hat and Hidden.
There are so many incredible Manchester-based queer artists, musicians, writers and forward thinkers, but we’ve put together a list below of 10 that we think you should check out right now.
Laeeqa is an alternative queer R&B singer-songwriter with a contagious and soulful touch to her music. She’s vocal on mental health and expresses her queer identity through her lyrics and aesthetic that portrays her own originality of what queer is to her. She’s loved by fans of Jorja Smith and Arlo Parks and you’ll catch her regularly performing shows at the likes of YES, Hatch and Gorilla.
Gender divergent drag artist, Cheddar Gorgeous is a face that you’ll recognise from the city’s queer arts scene. They have been telling stories and creating incredible performances through the drag artistry of costume and make-up for decades and are still a prominent figure of the scene. They have also worked on Channel 4’s Drag SOS programme, a six-part structured documentary series exploring the power of drag as a force of personal exploration and community building.
Manchester-based illustrator Eve Kelly’s work is unique and cartoonistic, exploring themes of sex, loneliness, abstinence and mental health. Their anime-esque designs are bursts of colour, reflecting their own experiences, but also that of the queer community in which they are immersed. They’re currently studying at Manchester School of Art and will host an exhibition at Antwerp Mansion titled ‘ab-STAIN’ at the end of the month, that will have a focus on sex-positive art.
Arch Femmesis is an Electro-punk duo formed by Performance Artist, ZERA TØNIN and Androgynous Synthesist, MEDDLA. Inspired by the aggressiveness of British Punk and 80s Club Kids, they evoke a nostalgic nod to queer dance culture but with a fresh facelift. Recently completing a tour with The Lovely Eggs, the duo are definitely ones to keep your eye on across the queer music scene this year, as their chaotic performances and infectious melodies will leave you feeling breathless!
An incredible queer artist, illustrator and animator based in Manchester, Floss Burns has a very distinctive 70s yet intergalactic approach to design. Their work is a celebration of femininity, body autonomy and activism through neon-hued prints, t-shirts and exhibitions – one of which is currently being hosted at Common in the Northern Quarter. Their work has seen them collaborate with a number of organisations across the city including DJ collective and promoters, High Hoops who champion all races, genders, nationalities and sexes on the dance floor.
With influences that span from cinema scores to broken-beat, Lovescene have been likened to Sade, early Jamiroquai and are a proud part of the ever-rising RnB scene of Manchester. In their short career so far the band has already hit the stages of Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here Festival and Manchester International Festival with two self-releases on all major platforms, too. Fronted by producer, musician, DJ and vocalist, Poppy Roberts, the band create music from the heart and Poppy’s voice is a treat to witness live if you ever get the chance.
Alice Kanako (Egg On Toast)
Egg On Toast AKA Alice Kanako will is a DJ who is part of the Not Bad For A Girl collective of female and non-binary DJ’s from Manchester. Their set often consists of delightful, energetic percussion, euphoric tracks and rolling bass – keeping the party going all night long. They recently played a blinding set at Parklife festival, and are definitely destined for huge things throughout the rest of the year.
Manchester drag queen, Lill is a glorious bundle of art, fashion, pleather and sky-high wigs. Stealing the scene since the late 00s, the queen embodies everything excellent about the North’s hyperbolic world of colour, naughty humour and talented drag artistry through their regular performances across the queer club circuit. Lill’s truly legendary looks have earned them a special place in the heart of the local community, and we can’t wait to see what they get up to in the future!
Hözart (Scott Hill) is a Non-Binary musician, writer, poet and artist. Living in Manchester for around 7 years, they have been part of the local music scene for over 4 of those in various bands and ensembles. They are at a particularly exciting stage in their life, whereby they are now performing as a solo act and focusing more on their spoken word and poetic endeavours. Their work is a ‘coming of GAYge‘ story, an inner monologue coinciding with the humble beginnings of flirtation and fascination with makeup, the desire for androgyny and the difficulties faced with transgender turmoil at a very young age.
Punk poet and writer, Georgie is the brains behind the wonderful Chat Back – a poetry workshop for all that’s based in Stockport. Their work is an exploration of life and death, mental health and their queerness, embodied in emblematic poetry and truly stunning writing. Chat Back takes place at various tranquil venues across Stockport, so be sure to keep an eye out on its page for when the group in next meeting. The event always brings together friends old and new to discuss readings and share creative work with the local community.