Just a half hour's journey west along the coast from Portsmouth, two ships once set
sail from the fair city of Southampton. One was called The Mayflower and helped colonise
America with Puritanical whites - no change there; the other, a few hundred years later,
was the Titanic which unfortunately sank en route to the same place, so giving us
the world's largest metaphor and three hours of Di Caprio eyeing up Winslett.|
Well the Hampshire Ram's gone straight and Voltz has simply shut, so the obviously place
to find first harbour is Freedom Café on the High Street, the only gay coffee shop-cum-bar
in town, run by a co-op of radical vegetarian lesbians doubtless, though with a fulsome
and extremely inexpensive menu. Then drift down Bernard Street, along the curve
that is Oxford Street, passing The Grapes pub where many of the crew of the Titanic
downed their last pints, to the London Hotel pub (not a hotel) on the corner. It's
billed as "Southampton's friendliest gay venue" and we'd certainly vouch for that - the
staff bend over backwards to welcome all wayfarers and lost souls, to set you on your
way with a smile - nightly evening cabaret and karaoke.
All the style happens uptown in a cluster. Bar Fusion on St Mary Street by the railway
line has a swish interior and - gripe some locals - "tries to be a London bar" with
all it's fancy curves and beige woods. Yet further north, there's the purple-coated
gay multiplex that is The Edge, Loft & Box. The Edge is a large bar-cum-club with
polls to dance around - all you'd expect plus more. The Loft upstairs offers a
range of snacks and light pub grub. The Box next door is open at weekends, pumping
out hard dance music.
Over the way, unmistakably daubed in gun-metal grey against which the silvery
club logo shines, is one of the longest established gay nightclubs in the country.
Magnum still packs 'em in with pure pop and cheese in the main room and chart and
dance in the other spaces. A shuttle bus is laid on from the London Hotel when that
fine venue shuts due south. But arrive early to ensure you get in or it's back over
the road to The Edge for you.
The Pink Broadway sauna near Debenhams can work off any excess steam remaining. Or
there's plenty of outdoor cruising action on Southampton Common - especially in the
woods near the County Cricket Ground on the south side, with easy parking and even
easier lads who seemingly get younger as the night goes on. Complaints from the
public over careless disposal of condoms have reputedly prompted limited police
action, so the north side of the common may be more expedient - up at the top of
Hill Lane where the toilet is now boarded up but there is a huge amount of activity
in the woods over quite a large area.