To celebrate LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari is publishing a daily series of LGBT Heroes, selected by the magazine’s team of writers and special contributors.
Queer As Folk – TV Series
by David Robson
I grew up in a market town many miles away from the capital in the North East of England. People can be very quick to knock where they come from and use many negative phrases to attack this background. I don’t think I was happy during some of my time growing up but for different reasons. I was frustrated and in need of something other than my part time job at Morrison’s. Darlington didn’t have much to offer in terms of the cultural alternative but it did have a very thriving Wetherspoons.
I watched Queer as Folk so much during my college days that me and the friends from my course were able to recite the entire script on cue. Shame we didn’t have the same passion for the course modules that were taught. During our breaks we had a TV chill out room that was the envy to the other college courses. Though we were meant to be doing research, it was here we watched both seasons of Russell T. Davies’s controversial drama and talked about how amazing the city of Manchester looked. How Canal Street looked like the centre of the world. And how it made gay life seem desirable, sexy and feel like there was a place of our very own. It felt like it could be home.
Since I had watched QUAF (our really cool fan code for the show) I had wanted a trip to Manchester. How I got there and when was proving to be difficult. I had barely been out of the North East and getting permission from my Gran to go anywhere was a task in itself. And as for cash well, Morrison’s Cafe can only provide so much. But after lots of saving and a fabricated story to Gran that I had to go to Manchester as part of the college course we were off.
The first time I went to Canal Street it was like a pilgrimage. I had longed to go since it was first aired on television. I was so nervous and excited all at the same time. All I can remember thinking is how small the street seemed to be. I was not disappointed though, far from it. That night we took to Manchester’s gay village for the first time and my eyes were opened forever.
One particular memory I have is going over to the DJ booth in what was back then Essentials nightclub. I asked if he could do a ‘shout out’ for the Darlo people visiting Canal Street for the very first time. He obliged , “We have some people in from Darlington this evening, welcome to civilisation kids,” then proceeded to play The Spice Girls, which was possibly the first time I had ever heard them played in a nightclub. It seemed perfect. Everything was so new, full of possibilities and dreams. How simple times were back then.
Queer as Folk was more than a piece of television to me and it remains so. I was a confused boy looking for some direction and meaning. It provided me with the knowledge that there was something else out there for someone who wanted to break the family mould. It helped me on the way to discover that there was a whole world beyond my bedroom and it was within my grasp. I am not sure how I would have had the courage to go out there without it. Maybe I wouldn’t have.
To this day I can still watch it now and be the annoying viewer that quotes the lines at any willing friend that listens. There are many idols that I have looked up to in my life. Inspirations from music, art, family but I do not class Queer as Folk as just an inspiration. I look on it as an old friend and it’s always there for me if I ever need it.