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OutUK's Adrian Gillan ventures north to Blackpool the home of earthy kitsch, horny tack and cute young cock.
Brighton it is not: but none the worse for that. Blackpool's claim to be the gay capital of the North may be disputed by Manchester, but that doesn't stop hoards of gay day trippers and weekend breakers swapping stylish Canal Street for some seriously unpretentious end-of-pier camped-up fun.

This small town with a big heart - dominated by drag queens and marauding wannabe fag hag hen parties - sucks the queer spirit out of Liverpool and Preston and pulls punters in from London, Edinburgh and beyond. Blackpool's scene is largely down to one man called Basil who's built up a minor pink empire between Blackpool North station and the front, in the very shadow of the Tower.

Blackpool's towering erection is its most famous landmark.
When it first opened a few years back, few thought Vegas-on-acid trannie show Funny Girls - featuring a large cast of drag acts permanently dazzling in the old Odeon Cinema - would become the big hit it has today. Of course, it couldn't be gayer but the audience is mainly straights and hen parties, a haggish theme that runs though Blackpool like a stick of scrummy teeth-rotting rock.

Buzz Blackpool next door and upstairs - which used to be called Bar B and named not so cryptically after the ubiquitous 'Basil Newby MBE' - is a large and largely retro club, playing mainly mainstream 80s and 90s trash to a packed post-Funny Girl mixed-cum-gay crowd who couldn't care less as the DJ whips them into a frenzy on the floor below.

It's worth checking out Basil's other venture Flamingo's on Queen Street which towers over four floors in Gothic decor like a camp, gay-friendly Hogwarts, where bitchy witchy drags hold court. It's true: homophobes couldn't survive here. However, it has become a hen party trap and general hag haven. It has an ultra-modern main dance floor with high-tech sound and lighting. Not to be missed!

Many gather in The Flying Handbag - as part of their Talbot Road crawl - to sip and stare at strippers or avoid one of several vicious drag queens who can reduce customers to tears in more ways than one with a single look and leave them scurrying for the door or loos. It's cruel but marvellous - and the last stop before the mega-club next door. Food is available from a sensibly priced menu, and they also have a heated patio and a balcony outside. Not really a venue for the easily offended!

A few doors down at Klubland, there's a basement hub gets very busy and attracts masses with its winning mix of bar and music that ranges from 90's, Clubland and Old Skool to music currently in the charts.

Stella Artois one of Blackpool's best loved acts.
KAOS has an industrial feel to it and on the dance floor, the music really kicks - the sound is rich and full, and you'll really appreciate the skills of their Celebrity DJs. The drinks are well priced and it's a good place to go for the evening.

Peek-A-Booze, back on Dickson Road is a gay-friendly Cabaret and Karaoke Bar close to the heart of Blackpool's vibrant entertainment district and its sister bar The Queen Vic, just a stones throw from Funny Girls. Your host is Miss Cybil Du Vuax, famous throughout the north west for her entertaining repertoire!

Man Bar is a traditional Gay Bar with drinks offers often available and a pool table. Serves a variety of beers, spirits and snacks and can be popular. The Nightclub upstairs is the GROWLR CLUB for Men Only whcih is very much a cruising place with themed areas for which entry requires a wristband obtainable from the bar.

Stroll around the block and back on to the main gay street - Talbot Road - so you can dip into Pepe's Bar, a sprawling basement space - again, with a well-nigh hysterical DJ whooping it up, even to an empty floor, like some pier-end perma-grin coconut shire merchant drumming up business come rain or shower. Pepe's is popular and friendly and up for a refit soon, surely.

And if you don't find what you're looking for, take a fresh walk along the front. From the War Memorial above the North Pier, follow the pathway northwards along the Middle Walk that runs between the Promenade and the Lower Walk - there's about a mile of colonnades where men meet men after hours, not least in summer. As ever, common sense applies when out late.

Acqua in Springfield Road is the North West's longest running and busiest sauna complex for gay men, bi-sexual men and bi-curious men. It's situated close to the town center, gay venues and hotels and just 2 minutes walk from Blackpool North train station. Lots of cruising going on with men of all ages. Whether it's your first time, or if you have been to many saunas, you will find it fun and friendly.

Don't go off your trolley get on a Blackpool Tram. Photo: ultra164
There's no shortage of rainbow-flagged B&Bs in Blackpool. For a selection of accommodation including hotels and flats check out the BAGS website, run by a local association of gay guest houses, hotels and self-catering businesses.
Acqua Sauna (25 Springfield Road; T: 01253 294 610)
BAGS Accommodation (Website)
Buzz Blackpool (5 Dickson Road; T: 01253 294 109)
Flamingo's (44 Queen Street; T:01253 622 573)
Flying Handbag (170-172 Talbot Road; T: 01253 625 522)
Funny Girls (The Old Odeon Cinema, Dickson Road; T: 01253 291 144)
Kaos (38-42 Queen St; T: 01253 318798; Website)
Klubland (114 Talbot Road; T: 01253 297 740)
ManBar (25 Dickson Rd)
Peek A Booze (72-74 Dickson Rd; T: 07864 280014; Website)
Pepe's Bar (94 Talbot Road; T: 01253 626 691)

Revised November 2017.


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