This article was originally published in Now Then Magazine, an independent Sheffield publication. A link to the issue can be found here: https://issuu.com/nowthensheffield/docs/nt133singlepages/12
In 2017 work began on a cluster of abandoned buildings at Moorfoot as part of a regeneration project, transforming the space into a new gay quarter.
This development, which is still under construction, is the first designated LGBTQ+ space in Sheffield. It’s a risk. Compared to Manchester’s Gay Village, the LGBTQ+ clubs, bars and pubs of Sheffield’s past have been spread all over the city. Only Dempseys has achieved longevity, a nightclub notorious for its 6am weekend closing time and its claim to having a global membership of 17,000 people. Its notoriety harks back to an era of LGBTQ+ nightlife which has since been forgotten.
Sheffield-based LGBTQ+ historian Sandra Baker Donnelly says the anonymity of these night-time spaces functioned as a refuge for people encountering discrimination. Using interviews, Sandra managed to trace the presence of gay nightlife as far back as the post-war period and before the Sexual Offences Act in 1967, which decriminalised homosexual acts between men aged over 21.
“Someone told me that there was an early place called the King Edward pub which was just a pub in town somewhere and I can’t find any record of it […] The upstairs was this unofficial gay space for men […] I don’t think it was welcoming to lesbians.”
Although most venues post-decriminalisation were ‘mixed’, there existed a tendency for LGBTQ+ nightlife to disproportionately cater for gay men. A greater need for inclusivity in queer spaces is an issue which is still prevalent.
From the eighties up