Thursday, 20 October 2011

Polari, Canal Street and Those Pesky L Plates

Via - once Via Fossa - is to become 'Polari'.  One of Manchester's best-known Canal Street venues decries the change as a 'nip and tuck', with a series of tweak that sound like an attempt to shift 'up market'.  They've announced that there will be no dance music or pop, and instead they will have a live pianist and vocalist with a classical/jazz theme depending on the night.

I was particularly struck by their door policy description (keep in mind they have to comply with the Equality Act in the same way that a 'straight bar' can't exclude 'gay' customers).  They state:
'We like others are investing in our Gay Village and we will still be a straight friendly GAY venue and we will be continuing with our policy of No Fancy Dress and No Bunny Ears we do not cater for Hen Parties or Stag Nights because after all we are a gay space in the gay village not Blackpool seafront.'
Poor Blackpool (although it's an absolutely true observation).  It seems Via is the latest venue to re-iterate that they are a 'gay venue'.  When they say 'straight friendly', it's essentially to say they will comply with the law.  They can be straight unfriendly I suppose but not down and out opposed.  They can however, control dress-policy and the re-iteration of their existing policy of excluding hen and stag parties highlights that these parties remain an issue of the village - an issue that was notably highlighted in the important research of Bev Skeggs, Les Moran and others.  A must read for students interested in queer space.

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Elly said...

I used to go to Via. And I'm ... STRAIGHT!

I would love to read the Skeggs research do you have a link? I like her focus on class.

Which makes me think that the exclusion of hen parties and stag dos may be in part a 'class' or 'vulgarity' issue not a 'straight v gay' issue.

Because from what I know about stag dos they are often pretty homo anyway.

Chris Ashford said...

Sadly all the report data was deleted from Manchester's website when she moved to Goldsmiths a few years ago but the data was published as a book:

Elly said...

Haha - classic academia politics.

Honestly, academia needs to get with the times and make its information more available!

I don't want to read it enough to buy a book.

Elly said...

can you give me a one-line summary?

was it saying hen and stag dos are too hetero for Canal St or was it saying they are too working class?

also - It's A Queer World by Mark Simpson has a brilliant chapter on the queerness of stag dos, including the (male) queering of the spectacle of the female 'stripper'

Chris Ashford said...

It was essentially that Canal Street equated to attractive space to straight women, which brought groups of straight women (hen parties), which then brought straight men looking for straight women, which ultimately pushed 'gay' men and women out on Fri/Sat nights, and found that gay men felt very unsafe in what was supposedly 'their' space. Very very crude summary!

Elly said...

I see. Thanks. Not the in depth class analysis I was expecting from Dr Skeggs. Oh well!

I think having an exclusively 'gay' space in a major city centre in 2011 is untenable and undesirable.

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