Going out when you’ve ‘come out’: Lancaster disappoints

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Photograph: Damon Jah

For a lot of people, university is that special, magical time when they can evolve into their true selves, be open about their identity and live their truth away from the restrictions of family or previous acquaintances. For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, going to university is a chance to be ‘out’ and get in touch with other members of the community, to be a part of the ‘lifestyle.’ Lancaster University has a large and active LGBTQ+ society, which tries to balance both political activism and organizing social events for its members.

However, not many people want their life to exist entirely in the university setting. What about going out? What about clubbing and having fun, living the dream? Lancaster is close to Manchester, so there MUST be an active gay scene that isn’t made up entirely of the uni student demographic, right? Unfortunately not. While the university community is becoming accepting, and the town in of itself is largely friendly and welcoming, if you are a young gay person, there really aren’t many options in terms of ‘gay nightlife.’ In fact, there seem to be none.

Googling ‘gay clubs Lancaster’ leads to several very positive Yelp pages for clubs and bars in Lancaster… Pennsylvania (USA). The ones located in Lancaster, Lancashire, despite having Yelp ratings of four to five stars, and generally positive reviews, also feature block letters sadly stating ‘Permanently Closed.’

But Lancaster is so close to Manchester that people might say, ‘Just go to Manchester!’ Of course that seems like a viable option for people who have the resources and tenacity. However, a two hour train ride and the uncomfortable details of figuring out a place for the night (unless you are planning on staying at the clubs until closing time and catching the 5am train home) can kill a large portion of the party vibe for people who just want to have some fun in a safe atmosphere knowing they are surrounded by a majority of people who are like them or share similar experiences. An accessible alternative for this is the university’s LGBTQ+ society-organized Canal Street trip (which they usually run more than once a year), which features entry into several known gay clubs and promises general fun. It’s an easier way for interested students to reach out to the Manchester scene.

And yet in the Lancaster vicinity, there remains a noticeable lack of exclusively LGBTQ+ friendly spaces that operate as such full-time, as opposed to only when the university society is making use of them. Could it be that cities with a larger and more active gay nightlife scene like Manchester and Blackpool (which has several well-rated clubs that are apparently well-known and frequented) are redirecting traffic and clientèle? Or are there other reasons as to why bars that have been popular and well liked by the Lancaster crowd have closed down? For now the only way to experience ‘real’ gay nightlife and become immersed in the community is to remain in other cities close by. And if that isn’t an option, then the LGBTQ+ society on campus hosts regular socials and meetings, which, while not-quite chalking up to the TV-set standards of wild partying, are a fantastic way to meet other people, socialize and be surrounded by people like you.