The vibrant nightlife of Leeds draws in people from across the UK, whether to celebrate a special occasion, catch up with old friends, or just for something different from their usual local social scene. The thriving LGBT+ bar scene in the city adds further appeal to members of these communities, with visitors coming to experience what we have on offer in Leeds.

Although some other major cities in the UK can boast a larger variety of LGBT+ venues, including our neighbours over the Pennines, the friendliness of people in Yorkshire can be a big draw to Leeds. Combine this with the city being a focal point for LGBT+ people from across Yorkshire wanting to access the buzzing social scene, it makes for a great night out.

Focused around the Lower Briggate area in the city, locally known as the Freedom Quarter to represent its welcome diversity, the various bars are easily located around a rail network bridge decorated with the Pride Flag – providing a shining beacon of visibility in Leeds City Centre.

For those who are familiar with Leeds, you’ll be aware that the centre is considered to be quite compact, with a walk from one end to the other taking little time. The LGBT+ bars, as you’d expect from this, are also within a very close proximity to each other, so you can easily visit them all on a night out in Leeds.

Many of the bars offer an ‘early bird’ deal, and so most will start their night there, such as in Queens Court or Bar Fibre, which share a large outdoor courtyard space. Throughout the week there’ll be a mixed crowd, and at the weekend you’ll find the young trendy ‘metrosexual’ crowd here.

Across the road is the Viaduct Showbar, with nightly events throughout the week and their resident drag team offering shows on the weekend. Viaduct is popular with all ages and so can get pretty packed at a weekend, especially for the drag shows, but it’s worth the occasional elbow in the ribs or spilt drinks.

Tunnel nightclub is next door to the Viaduct and opens until 8am, with themes changing on a weekly basis – expect ‘Pat Butcher’ or ‘Ibiza beach’ nights her! It attracts the young LGBT+ ‘clubber’ who is living for the weekend on the dancefloor.

A little further down the street you’ll spot a neon sign above a snicket advertising Blayds Bar, a sparkly little place with an outdoor area featuring regular local drag DJ’s. With a loyal group of regulars and a slightly older crowd, it’s reminiscent of the TV show ‘Cheers’, only with sequins & glitter instead of beer!

Back out from Blayds Yard is The Bridge Inn, where you can strangle the latest hits on their regular karaoke nights, or just enjoy drinks and a dance with their ‘pick n mix’ range of DJ’s.

The final bar on the trail is The New Penny, which proudly displays a Blue Plaque from the Leeds Civic Trust recognising its historic importance and contribution to the LGBT+ community, being the longest consistently running LGBT+ venue in the UK outside of London, dating back to pre-decriminalisation of homosexuality over 50 years ago. Cheap drinks, cheesy disco dancing, sticky floors and proud of it, The New Penny is a firm favourite within the Leeds LGBT+ community as the place to spend the last few hours of a night out. Without any pretension, The New Penny is the place people go let their hair down until the early hours of the morning.

There are also LGBT+ nights held at venues that do not identify as such. The Wharf Chambers Cooperative is a community organised venue home to the LGBT+ alternative & student crowd, who run a monthly sell out ‘queer’ club night called ‘Love Muscle’.

Another accolade our city has pride in is the monthly ‘Leeds First Friday’ night, the largest regular Trans social night in the North, regularly attracting 200+ people, commencing in the Cosmopolitan Hotel where many guests stay for the weekend, making the most of the safe environment offered in the Freedom Quarter and beyond.

Leeds is a city that is proud of its people, and has people that are proud of the city. This is clearly shown with the visibility of the Freedom Quarter bridge, the regular visibility in the city celebrating awareness dates such as Bi Visibility Day & Trans Day of Visibility, and it’s also home to the largest free to attend Pride event in the UK, attracting over 40,000 people in the first weekend of August.

Photography by Jonathan Straight @straightpix