A row about the legality of consensual sex in 'darkrooms' is casting a shadow over the future of fetish nights in Manchester’s Gay Village.
Organisers of the hugely popular nights believe that the police and council authorities are looking to clamp down as part of a campaign to 'sanitise and gentrify' the Village.
The problem began last summer when the licensing authorities received a number of complaints about fetish nights.
The row comes on the back of a number of high-end residential developments having been built around Canal Street, the heart of the Gay Village.
An organiser of a Manchester LGBT fetish night spoke to the Manchester Evening News about the situation.
"I'm sure a lot of it is about big development," said Adrian Perrett, who runs fetish night Club Alert! "Whether it's conscious or not, they're trying to gentrify the Village.
"From the top down there is a plan to drive out the seedier side of things and make the Village a Disneyland pastiche of what it was.”
Adrian continued: "A darkroom is a curtained-off area where you're allowed to do whatever, sex if they want; sometimes we have equipment like slings.
"But the important point is these are private members' clubs. My understanding of the legal situation is a private members' club can operate and have sex.”
Another fetish-night organiser, Andrew Underwood, said: "In London and Birmingham lots of people openly promote the sexual element and that goes on no problem. It seems Manchester has got a different view when we all work from the same law. We've been going for 10 years with no issues - what's changed?"
Responding to the allegations, a Manchester City Council spokesperson told the Manchester Evening News: "The Council’s licensing team has been in contact with a venue in the Gay Village following complaints from the public.
"Venue licensing and compliance is in place to ensure public safety and to prevent crime and disorder and the City Council has a responsibility to fully investigate complaints when they are submitted - monitoring visits are a standard part of this process.
"The Gay Village has played an important role in the city’s history and contributes a huge amount to the vibrancy of the city centre.
"Following up this complaint is in no way an act to discriminate LGBTQ+ people or an attempt to erode safe spaces for the community in the Gay Village."
Greater Manchester Police Chief Inspector Zac Fraser said: "We work in partnership with Manchester City Council’s licensing team and any complaints will always be investigated accordingly.
"There has been no change in our policy or stance as part of the licensing team and the safety and security of our communities will always be of paramount importance to us.
"The Gay Village is an integral part of Manchester’s thriving multi-cultural city centre and we will continue to ensure it remains a safe and supportive place for Greater Manchester’s thriving LGBTQ+ community."
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