UK queer hubs: LGBT events, festivals and more

UK queer hubs LGBT events Manchester Homobloc 2019 CREDIT Homobloc

If you’re visiting the UK to check out the queer scene, you’ll no doubt make a beeline for London. The capital is naturally packed with iconic LGBT events and historic places to visit. However, anyone who lives here knows that London is just the tip of a rainbow-coloured iceberg. The UK is packed with wildly creative queer hubs, each with a distinct identity and vibrant calendar of parties, performances and Pride festivals. Here you’ll find nine amazing cities that shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking for a real taste of UK queer scene.

All of these cities have very established gay scenes that you can read about in any number of other gay travel guides. This list is about the events, festivals and spaces that are inclusive of everyone who exists under the queer umbrella. So, if you like your LGBT events to feature drag kings, QTIPOC hosts and non-binary DJs, then here’s everything you’ll want to know about.

📷 above image from Homobloc 2019 in Manchester. CREDIT: Jody Hartley

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Belfast

UK queer hubs LGBT events Belfast Cabaret Supper Club Ross Anderson-Doherty CREDIT @skeletonboyuk

Despite having only legalised same-sex marriage in January 2020, Northern Ireland’s capital has a small but very vibrant queer scene. Yes, Drag Race UK contestant Blu Hydrangea is from here but it’s also home to the very fabulous Ross Anderson-Doherty (aka Cake Daddy). Catch them performing at Cabaret Supper Club and the annual queer art and performance festival, Outburst, alongside a whole host of other local talents. 

📷 Ross Anderson-Doherty at Cabaret Supper Club. CREDIT: @skeletonboyuk

Venues: sparkly drag spot  Maverick Bar; arts venue and bar Black Box; dine and drag Cabaret Supper Club; queer/feminist arts space The 343.

Parties and clubs: PonyhawkeQueertopia.

Festivals: queer arts festival Outburst (2020 date TBC); free arts festival Culture Night (18 September 2020).

Projects of interest: QueerSpace Belfast.

Pride: Belfast Pride is moving online this year from 24 July-2 August 2020. The next Trans Pride NI will take place in 2021 (date TBA).

🏨 Hotels in Belfast

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Birmingham

UK queer hubs LGBT events Birmingham Shout Festival 2019 CREDIT Midlands Zone

The UK’s second-largest city has its very own Gay Village that is bursting with sceney bars. But scratch its surface and you’ll discover Birmingham has an amazing array of queer arts festivals. Keep an eye out for local performers like Dan Daw and the (hopefully soon to be launched) House of Bab.

📷 Kevin Le Grand, Ginny Lemon, Juno Birch and Tammy Reynolds at SHOUT Festival. CREDIT: Midlands Zone

Venues: queer pub The Fox; campy club The Nightingale.

Parties and clubs: DragPunk, Kings N Things.

Festivals: queer art and culture festival Shout (5-15 November 2020); international theatre and performance festival Fierce (2021 date TBA); queer film festival CineQ (postponed 2020 date TBA).

Projects of interest: UnmutedMap of Queer Brum.

Pride: Birmingham Pride 2020 has been cancelled and will next take place on 29-30 May 2021.

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Brighton

UK queer hubs LGBT events Brighton Brownton Abbey CREDIT Brownton Abbey

Arguably the queerest place in the UK, Brighton‘s LGBT+ history dates back to Napoleonic Wars when garrisoned soldiers turned the seaside city into a gay hotspot. These days, Brighton is one of our most trans-friendly cities, holding Europe’s first Trans Pride march in 2013, thanks to the work of local activists including fashion historian E-J Scott and author Juno Dawson

📷: Brownton Abbey

Venues: queer pub and theatre The Marlborough; gay bar/club Revenge; old school boozer Bedford Tavern.

Parties and club nights: KingdomPolyglamorousThe Powder RoomTraumfrau.

Festivals: LGBTQ+ literature festival The Coast is Queer (October 2021); Film Pride (moving online for 2020).

Exhibitions: Queer the Pier at the Brighton Museum (until February 2022). You can also collect the LGBTQ Trail for the Brighton Museum at the entrance.

ToursPiers and Queers.

Places of interest: AIDS Memorial Sculpture in New Steine Gardens.

Projects of interest: QTIPOC NarrativesBrownton Abbey.

Pride: Brighton Pride has been cancelled for 2020 and scheduled for 7-8 August 2021. Trans Pride Brighton & Hove has also been cancelled for 2020 with 2021 date TBA.

🏨 Hotels in Brighton

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Bristol

UK queer hubs LGBT events Bristol Pride CREDIT Srah Klein

Long favoured by anarchists and environmentalists, Bristol has a very radical vibe and a big queer scene. It’s also one of the most popular cities for polyamorous people outside of London. My top tip? Don’t miss the outdoor parties thrown by People Like Us during the summer. Amazing crowd, music and energy.

📷 Bristol Pride 2019. CREDIT: Sarah Klein

Venues: live music venue Exchange; club Queenshilling; gay-owned pub and party venue Phoenix.

Parties and clubs: Bitch PleaseBrizzle BoyzDon’t Tell Your MotherSlaughterhausPeople Like UsHorseplayIndigo/HushGrrrl CrushScritch Cabaret.

Festivals: Queer Vision film festival (2020 date TBA); queer arts festival All Out All Dayer (2021 date TBA).

Exhibitions: the M Shed has an LGBT+ history audio guide.

Projects of interest: KikiThornyQueer Kink Bristol.

Pride: Bristol Pride 2020 has been postponed till September with the date TBA. Trans Pride South West takes place in Bristol, with its 2020 date TBA.

🏨 Hotels in Bristol

🛌 Hostels in Bristol

Glasgow

UK queer hubs LGBT events Glasgow Category is Books CREDIT Category Is Books

Often overlooked by tourists who flock to neighbouring Edinburgh, Glasgow actually has the biggest queer scene and largest Pride celebration in Scotland. There’s an impressive amount to do here – including a queer walking tour, bookshop and sex shop – but the Lesbian Archive should not be missed, as it’s one of the most significant collections of LGBT+ history in the UK.

📷: Category Is Books

Venues: drag king/queen shows Katie’s Bar; queerish cabaret bar The Riding Room.

Parties and clubs: Queer TheoryThe Show DownstairsHey QTPush It

Festivals: queer film festival SQIFF (14-18 October 2020); live art and radical performance festival Buzzcut (next date TBC); queer theatre readings festival QWERK (2020 date TBC)

Tours: Queer Glasgow walking tour

Places of interest: Queer bookshop Category Is Books, lovely queer sex toy shop Luke & Jack.

Projects of interest: Scotch BonnetOutspoken Arts, the Lesbian Archive at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

Pride: Pride Glasgow 2020 is still to confirm if it is going ahead in August. Trans Pride Scotland changes its location every year (2021 dates TBC).

🏨 Hotels in Glasgow

🛌 Hostels in Glasgow

Leeds

UK queer hubs LGBT events Leeds CLAY CREDIT Centre for Live Art Yorkshire

It could be said that this northern city encapsulates the history and the future of queerness in the UK. Not only is Leeds home to The New Penny (our oldest, continuously running gay pub) but it’s also home to Mermaids, a charity that supports trans and gender-diverse children. I also love how many DIY womxn-centric parties and creative groups there are here.

📷: Centre for Live Art Yorkshire

Venues: legendary drag bar Viaduct; campy club space Tunnel; performance art theatre CLAY; arty events venue Wharf Chambers.

Parties and clubs: Dyke ChambersHouse of Suarez Vogue BallGirl Gang LeedsGrind GirlsLove Muscle.

Festivals: Leeds Queer Film Festival (2020 date TBA); Queer Arts North Showcase (2021 date TBA).

Places of interest: The New Penny.

Projects of interest: Queer Leeds, QueerologyNon-Binary LeedsWest Yorkshire Queer StoriesQTIPOC LeedsMermaids.

Pride: Leeds Pride 2020 has been cancelled and will take place next year on 1 August 2021. Trans Pride Leeds has been postponed for 2020 with new date TBA.

🏨 Hotels in Leeds

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Liverpool

UK queer hubs LGBT events Liverpool Tammy Reynolds AKA Midgette Bardot CREDIT Rebecca Connoly

Legendary queer club Garlands (RIP) may have only recently shuttered its doors, but there is still so much worth visiting Liverpool for. Homotopia, the UK’s longest-running LGBTQIA arts and culture festival, is a highlight of every autumn, while Liverpool Queer Collective keeps you up to date on events throughout the year. Personally, I’m obsessed with the power and style of local drag performer Tammy Reynolds (aka Midgitte Bardot).

📷 Tammy Reynolds. CREDIT: Rebecca Connolly

Venues: ornate basement bar Lisbon; art/club space 24 Kitchen Street; glam club/party venue District.

Parties and clubs: Beers for QueersEat Me + PreachHouse of Suarez Vogue BallLost & FoundSonic Yootha.

Festivals: international LGBT+ arts festival Homotopia (2020 date TBA). 

Exhibitions: Museum of Liverpool’s LGBT+ collections.

Projects of interest: Liverpool Queer Collective.

Pride: both Pride in Liverpool and Liverpool TransPride have been postponed with new 2020 date TBA.

🏨 Hotels in Liverpool

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Manchester

UK queer hubs LGBT events Manchester Homobloc 2019 Dave Tester cropped CREDIT Homobloc

It’s been over 20 years since the original series of Queer As Folk was shown on UK TV and not a whole lot has changed on Canal Street, Manchester‘s gay village and the setting for the show. However, a whole alternative queer scene has grown up around it, holding some of the country’s most iconic vogue balls and parties. Homobloc is one not to be missed.

📷 Dave Tester at Homobloc 2019. CREDIT: Jody Hartley

Venues: loft-style bar and event space Tribeca; iconic lesbian bar Vanilla; vogue ball venue Gorilla; mecca of alternative culture Islington Mill.

Parties and clubs: Black Pride Vogue BallThe Boi ZoneBolloxCha Cha BoudoirGrind GirlsHomoelectricHouse of Suarez Vogue BallMother’s RuinHouse of Ghetto.

Festivals: arts festival Trans Vegas (19-20 June 2020); epic electronic music festival Homobloc (2020 date TBA); LGBT+ writing and performance festival OutStageUs (2020 date TBA); BAME dance, theatre and live performance festival Black Gold Arts (2020 date TBA).

Places of interest: the Transgender Remembrance MemorialThe Beacon of Hope (HIV/AIDs memorial) and the Alan Turing Memorial are all in Sackville Gardens.

Projects of interest: Girl Gang ManchesterOuting the PastRainbow NoirSuperbiaTrans Creative.

Pride: Manchester Pride 2020 is currently still planned to go ahead on 28-30 August. Sparkle Weekend, which is Manchester’s version of Trans Pride, has been cancelled for 2020 with 2021 date TBA.

🏨 Hotels in Manchester

🛌 Hostels in Manchester

Margate

UK queer hubs LGBT events Margate Pride 2018 CREDIT Minka Guides

Last (but definitely not least) is a true renaissance city. Left to crumble for decades, this once iconic seaside town has seen a resurgence in the past few years, with a small but vibrant queer community springing up. The perfect day trip from London, Margate holds my favourite Pride festival in the UK because it has such creative DIY energy. 

📷 Margate Pride 2018. CREDIT: Minka Guides

Venues: queer arty events space Margate Arts Club; open-air summer bar The Sun Deck; gay bar Sundowners.

Parties and clubs: Cockles and Muscles, Queer Neon Nights

Festivals: arts and culture festival celebrating International Women’s Day POW! (March 2021); Margate Pride includes a week-long arts fest with year-round programming.

Projects of interest: Margate Queer Writers.

Pride: Margate Pride 2020 has cancelled its parade with new plans TBC.

🏨 Hotels in Margate

🛌 Hostels in Margate

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