As Yorkshire’s commercial capital and one of the fastest growing cities in the UK,
Leeds has undergone more of a facelift than Jocelyn Wildenstein. Fortunately the
results are more pleasing to the eye. Although still rough around its edges, the
centre of Leeds now exudes the cosmopolitan confidence of a city that’s recently
experienced something of a cultural renaissance. Amid the grimy grandeur of its
Victorian buildings now sit numerous café bars and swish stores such as the only
Harvey Nichols outside London.
GLAM AND GRIT
The city’s combination of glam and grit is no more evident than within its gay scene.
The gay enclave is clustered around Lower Briggate. Wander across Leeds Bridge (where
the first sequence of moving pictures was filmed) and you’ll find the Old Red Lion.
This traditional pies ‘n’ peas pub has been around for years...as have most of its
punters, which is why the place is known locally as the “Old Dead Lion”. The music’s
not so much handbag, as colostomy bag. However, at £1.50 a pint, the beer’s a
bargain. Try a jar of the local brew: Ayingerbräu; it’s cheap and very effective.
Make the Old Red Lion the first place you visit and your night out is guaranteed
to only get better.
Head back over the bridge and you’ll find the Bridge Inn. Livelier than
the Lion (it would have to be a morgue not to be), the Bridge attracts a mixed,
convivial crowd. With a pine surround and a tangerine theme, the Bridge has a warm,
cosy feel about it. On the downside, the DJ has a penchant for pap and is likely
to annoy the fuck out of you with his imbecilic blather. Even so, the Bridge gets
packed at weekends and (apparently) is a good place to pull. Open till 2am on Saturdays.
On Lower Briggate, Bar Fibre
is the newest gay bar on the Leeds block. What it currently lacks in size, with 2 more floors due to open in
February 2003, it more than makes up for in atmosphere. A cafe-bar during the day, night
time sees Fibre transformed into a busy and lively mini club, with late licenses
all through the week, including Sundays.
Largin' it at Bar Fibre
UK'S OLDEST GAY PUB
Just around the way in Call Street is the New Penny. Once called the Hope and
Anchor, this is claimed to be the oldest gay pub in the UK. Depending on who you ask,
the place has been gay for anything from 30 to 50 years. Judging by the age of some
of its customers, they should know. The Penny fills up fast on a Saturday night and
attracts a regular crowd of all-sorts and all ages. As its only open normal pub hours
expect to be chucked out just as things get going.
Off Lower Briggate, tucked away up Blayd’s Yard, is Blayd's Bar. Although a
small, unusual sized space, Blayd’s holds heaps of atmosphere. Led by the manager,
Paula, it’s not uncommon for the bar staff to put on a show while pulling your pint
and launch themselves into a synchronised dance routine. With a high spirited and
unpretentious mix of people, OutUK found Blayd’s to be Leeds’ friendliest and
liveliest gay hangout. Suck it and see. Open pub hours.
After hours, most queens tend to head over to Queens Court in Lower Briggate.
Once the popular downstairs café bar closes at 11pm, the club upstairs begins to
kick off. Open nightly from 9pm till 2am, Leeds’ only full-time gay club is small,
smart and sleek. Although the main floor widens down the back, it can be quite a
squeeze to get on down and there’s often not enough room to throw a dirty look at
the person who’s just elbowed you in the ribs and kneed you in the balls. Expect
the crowd to be wide-eyed and/or legless. On Saturday nights, once the club closes,
the downstairs space is re-opened so that people can chat and chill over a coffee.
Leeds clubbing was given a real makeover with the start of
Federation brought to you
by the same people as Fibre. The success was instant and now a mixed crowd of 1400
clubbers pack Granary Wharf on the first Saturday of every month and advance tickets
are recommended. Each month sees a different outrageous theme, with the venue transformed
with amazing decorations and lighting, live stage shows, PAs and guest DJs from
places such as Ministry, Crash and DTPM. The party ends at 4.00am, but with Leeds only
3.00am alcohol license, you’ll probably be in the mood for more. Handily Federation has
its own official after party, just around the corner. Fibre-Optic in conjunction with
hard house legend Base rocks The Cockpit in Swinegate from 3.30am - 8.30am.
Feelin' the force of Federation
For another glamorous Saturday night out, head to The Warehouse in Somers Street for Speed Queen.
This is where the beautiful people go. And if your face doesn’t fit, your arse doesn’t
get in. Now into its fourth year, Speed Queen attracts an impressive mix of people
for whom a person’s sexuality seems unimportant; it’s how you shake your booty
that counts. Expect an up for it, out of it glad ragged crowd. (Whatever they put in
the bottled water, works). Open 10pm till 4am.
Updated July 2015