Walk down Canal Street today and you’ll find a bustling strip of waterside bars, rainbow bunting fluttering overhead and people living their lives out and proud. Wind the clock back 60 years or so and it was a very different story. “It was a really run down part of town where various outsiders congregated,” is how LGBT and women’s rights activist Luchia Fitzgerald remembers the Gay Village. “There were the gays, the prostitutes and the petty criminals, and there were only a few places to go back in those days. Everyone got on, there was no judgement. “It was a place you could go and be yourself. It was seedy, but it was our seedy place. It felt safe.” It became a haven for Luchia when she arrived in Manchester in 1961 as a teenager running away from an abusive and oppressive childhood in Ireland, where she was raised by her grandmother.