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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. In August 2021 the Police applied to the council to close the pub because of safety concerns after a number of incidents with people carrying knives.

Sadly for very different reasons, namely Covid and illness, Leeds has also said goodbye to another gay venue - the Bridge Inn. The Bridge used to attract a mixed, convivial crowd. With a pine surround and a tangerine theme, it had a warm, cosy feel about it. Hopefully some new owners will be found soon.

So on to venues that are open. On Lower Briggate, Bar Fibre with fairy lights, mirrors and a large courtyard hosts happy hours every day. Daytime it's a busy cafe-bar, but nighttime sees Fibre transformed into a busy and lively mini club, with late licenses all through the week. They host legendary Courtyard Parties and their DJs know how to make any space come alive.
Largin' it at Bar Fibre
Viaduct Showbar on Lower Briggate is full of special events and drag stars such as Precious McMichaels, Mamma Bear and Verry Cherry. There are a couple of bars and space that you can hire for your own events.

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. 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. 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.

CLUBBING

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 Club Federation a few years ago, created by the same people as Fibre. Their popularity led to a highly successful event called the Made in Leeds Festival which takes place in June each Year. It's a full day event from 1pm to 11pm at the Thwaite Mills Water Museum in Leeds. The day is a mixture of Bass Music, Bassline, House, Old Skool and Tech House. More information is available from Fibre or Online from Skiddle.

Thwaite Mills is an industrial museum dating back to the 16th century - its river-side location, extensive forestry and picturesque grounds make for a truly unique and breathtaking backdrop for Leeds most loved dance music festival.


Feelin' the force of Federation
Think secret gardens & forbidden forests as you are taken to the outdoors with open-air stages beneath the trees and big top woodland tents - your imagination will run away in this extraordinary location. Once again stages are curated by Leeds home-grown clubbing brands that have helped shape the city's nightlife, both past & present. Each one brings their own unique style of music and entertainment offering something for all lovers of dance music.

GETTING HOT LATE NIGHT

There's a small number of saunas to vist in Leeds Steam Complex is one of the North's largest All Male Gay & Bisexual Saunas. It has all the facilities that you would expect. The variety of play rooms are well laid out particularly the dungeon room. Plenty of guys there. Plastic Ivy is Yorkshire's busiest and most established sauna complex for Gay & Bi men in Dewsbury. Offering a smart, clean, discreet place to relax and meet other men. Base Leeds claims it will be reopening soon, but they have provided no dates.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK

Bar Fibre (168 Lower Briggate; +44 113 344 9550; Website)
Blayd's Bar (2 Lower Briggate)
Made in Leeds Festival (Website)
Plastic Ivy Sauna (33 Leeds Rd, Eastborough, Dewsbury; T: 01924 455600; facebook)
Queens Court Leeds (167-168 Lower Briggate; +44 113 245 9449; Website)
Steam Complex Sauna (Ledgard Way, Armley; T: 0113 279 8885; facebook)
The New Penny (57-59 Call Lane; +44 113 243 8055; facebook)
Viaduct Showbar (11 Lower Briggate; T: 0113 344 9552; facebook)

Revised September 2021.

 

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