Never Going Underground

Queer party and protest in Manchester

By Museum of Youth Culture

Marchers (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Stop the Clause

In 1988 huge numbers of people gathered in Albert Square, Manchester, to protest the introduction of Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act. Drafted by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, the act caused outrage in the LGBTQ community because of its blatant homophobia. 

Marchers (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"A local authority shall not: (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality;(b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. Nothing above shall be taken to prohibit the doing of anything for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease."

Section 28, 1988 Local Government Act

"At the time that Section 28 was being discussed in parliament, I was one of Manchester City Council’s gay men’s officers, working on issues such as employment, service delivery and developing community groups. I had also helped to set up the North West Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Equality, the group responsible for orchestrating the Manchester demonstration.

We had a secret office in the town hall attic where more than 100 people would meet every week. We were in a local government office, organising a demonstration against the government to try to stop legislation being presented. What we were doing was completely illegal."

Paul Fairweather, One of the Organisers of the Section 28 Protest in Manchester

Protestors - Anti Clause 28 demonstration (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"We went round talking to people and the momentum for the rally grew very quickly, because it was a time when people were feeling out and proud of the city - and then this had hit."

Chris Root, former Manchester lesbian rights officer

Tom Robinson performs (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

A Star Studded Protest

On the day the protest was roughly 20,000 people strong. Celebrities such as Tom Robinson and Ian McKellen appeared on stage to lend their voices to the rally.

Protestors - Anti Clause 28 demonstration (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"There was a sense that the whole community was under threat. There were also lots of questions about Section 28’s possible impact on gay bars and clubs, as well as concerns about the attitude of the police force."

Paul Fairwather, One of the Organisers of the Section 28 Protest in Manchester

Marchers (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

The Aids Crisis

The homophobia of Section 28 was closely related to the UK AIDS crisis, which was also peaking around the the time of the protest. The powerfully emotional responses to the crisis are difficult to categorise or simplify, but many people found themselves involved in direct political action because of the circumstances.

Marchers (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"The crisis fractured an already uneasy compromise and opened a cultural, social, and political space for dealing with and expressing homosexuality more openly."

Matt Cook, Writer of Queer Domesticities: Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century London

Clubbers congratulate the winner of Miss Zumbar competition at the Hacienda early 1990's (1990s) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Out and Proud in Manchester

Manchester had a lively queer nightlife scene around the time of the protest. Venues like the Haçienda, High Society, and New Hero's were places for people to experiment, party, and protest the oppression that came from Thatcher's government and the wider media. 

a clubber poses for camera at flesh night in the hacienda, Peter Walsh, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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"There were a lot of protests in the north, especially in Manchester and young people were politically active and going to demos. There was a sense of you had to fight against the oppression of Thatcher and her Government or you would go under."

Peter Walsh, The Hacienda and Madchester Photographer

The Hacienda main dancefloor (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"It was an incredible time – life changing for everyone involved and people thought anything was possible. Some started fashion labels, others became DJs or promoters, and there was a real spirit of togetherness and cooperation."

Peter Walsh, The Hacienda and Madchester Photographer

A raver dances to the sounds of the Happy Mondays at the Other Side of Midnight end of series party by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

The Haçienda and the Thunderdome were key players in the growing acid house scene. Imported from Chicago, its rise culminated in 'the Second Summer of Love,' from 1988-89.

DJ Frankie Knuckles takes a break before his set at the Hacienda (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Frankie Knuckles, the Chicago-born "godfather of house" himself played the Haçienda a number of times.

"Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy who, it bears mentioning, were both Black and gay, not only played roles that echoed the semiotic functions of preachers, accentuating the call and response traditions and eroticised spiritual embodiment of the Black church from which so many of their flocks felt ostracised, but also acted as midwives to the South Side's juice bar culture, influencing and nurturing producers whose work shaped the evolution of house music culture in the first half of the 1980s." Micah E. Salkind

"In Chicago, as the seventies became eighties, if you were black and gay, your church may well have been Frankie Knuckles’ Warehouse." Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton

clubbers hang out backstage before a fashion show at flesh the gay night at the hacienda by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"That monthly gay night at The Haçienda was the greatest night I ever played. It was raucous, hedonistic, totally Northern and felt like a city turning its back on prejudice, towards acceptance, in the most thrilling way.

Just a few years before, Manchester’s chief of police James Anderton said the gay community was ‘swimming in a cesspit of its own making’ after he raided the gay club, Rockies. It was a direct reference to AIDS. Flesh was the biggest fight-back to that."

Dave Kendricks, former resident DJ

DJ Paulette at Flesh at The Hacienda, Manchester, 1990., Peter Walsh, 1990, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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It's important to remember that while these spaces were full of possibility, there were still divisions and power structures at play.

DJ Paulette was the Haçienda's first female resident DJ, appearing monthly at Flesh for four and a half years, who says "I saw Honey Dijon mentioning on her Twitter stream not so long ago, ‘Where are all the black girls?’ And there are so many of us, but we don’t get the gigs ... There is a filter at work somehow.”

Clubbers dance under red lights on the main stage of the Hacienda (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"As Natalie Oswin (2008) argues, queer spaces are not necessarily progressive spaces that transgress the normative. These spaces should be considered as not fixed but, rather, as contested space, a battleground for competing meanings of (gay) identity."

Nina Held, University of Sussex Research Fellow

Leigh Bowery giving birth on stage at Flesh (1990s) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

A New Kind of Performance Artist

Performance artist Leigh Bowery also worked to push boundaries and explore (gay) identity in spaces like the Haçienda.

Leigh Bowery gives birth on stage at Flesh, Peter Walsh, 1990s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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Bowery's influence can be seen in collections by fashion designer Alexander McQueen, and the sculptural work of Commes des Garcons. This move to mainstream culture was cemented when he became a model for Francis Bacon. A controversial figure now, whose desire to shock meanders into racial insensitivity, his influence on the club kid scene and its influence on him, his fashion and his performance art is clear.

Club Kids (2006) by Suzy Del CampoMuseum of Youth Culture

"I believe that fashion (where all the girls have blue eyes, blonde blow-waved hair and a size 10 figure, and all the men have clear skin, a moustache, short blow-waved hair, a masculine physique and appearance) STINKS."

Leigh Bowery, diary entry, 1981

Police patrol the Hacienda club in Manchester due to the rise in the drug and gang related incidents (1990s) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

An Ever Evolving Scene

As the scene grew, a sense of moral panic emerged in the British tabloid press, and the police began to clamp down on illegal raves. However, the protests and parties didn't stop, but continued to evolve.

UK Garage night. Lords of the Underground (2006) by Tristan O'NeillMuseum of Youth Culture

"I don’t think the acid-house culture ever really finished. Without it you would never have got garage and without garage you would never have got grime, so basically the biggest music in the world now owes a debt to acid house."

Terry Farley, Producer

Clubbers dance on the podiums at the HOT night in the Hacienda (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"These photographs capture a defining moment in the UK – of a youth culture that changed the world."

Peter Walsh, The Hacienda and Madchester Photographer

Credits: Story

Eleanor Affleck is an MA Queer History student at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has worked on research projects with the V&A, the National Trust for Scotland, and Edinburgh Zine Library. Her interests include zine and DIY culture, 20th century reception of early modern sexualities, and queer desire in Shakespeare's plays. In her spare time she can be found haunting Nunhead Cemetery and tweeting abut Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

The Museum of Youth Culture is a new destination dedicated to celebrating 100 years of youth culture history through photographs, ephemera and stories. Launching in 2019, the Online Museum of Youth Culture has been developed by YOUTH CLUB, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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