Bereft of a dedicated gay bar, Cheltenham’s LGBT community has come up with a solution.
GayFriday is a monthly bar crawl with its latest event planned for the end of this month.
The event wasn’t stringently organised but emerged naturally, explained one of the organisers Alex Sass.
The catalyst was the closure of Cheltenham’s only gay club, Embassy in 2014.
Alex, a 37-year-old marketing agency director from Lansdown, said: “For people in Cheltenham, it meant that the nearest place they could be sure of a drink or coffee with a new gay friend would be Gloucester.
“For a while, their bar closed too, leaving all of Gloucestershire without any sort of social meeting place.
“So friends gathered and decided that even if we didn’t always need a gay venue, we would value knowing there would be some gay friends on a night out, just to chat about relationships or even difficulties we might face that aren’t always obvious to our straight pals.”
The nights are free to join and different venues are chosen by the members each time.
“What’s really nice is that some members have started to bring their friends too, gay or straight and it just feels like a really fun, safe night out,” said Alex who works at Eagle Tower in Cheltenham.
“The bars have all been very welcoming and lots of the members have gone on to add each other on Facebook making Cheltenham feel less of a lonely place.”
Alex said GayFriday has been a big success so far.
“I’m not sure other people in the venues we visit would even notice us and that’s great, we’re all part of the same town and we should be mixing in the same venues,” he said.
“It’s just nice to know there’s a friendly face on arrival, someone who knows what it’s like to be you.”
Alex would to see a new gay bar or club in Cheltenham however.
He said: “Personally I would love to see another gay pub in town.
“I think gay culture has often been ahead of the curve in terms of nightlife and music and it’s a shame to lose this diversity.
“I can’t speak for the community as a whole because in many ways the community doesn’t exist.
“We have one thing in common but so much else that makes us individual.
“Gay bars can be awesome, for anyone if they are also awesome bars.”
The next GayFriday bar crawl is on July 31 and will take place in Montpellier.
To get involved visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/gayfridaycheltenham.
Alex added: “You know what’s fab – I’ve lived in Cheltenham for ten years and visited each bar that’s opened in that time.
“Yet in the last few months, through GayFriday, I met at least ten people who I’d never known before. That’s a great thing.”