My novel Blood Relatives is a coming-of-age novel of Rick, a gay teenager, set against the background of the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Part of that terrible history took place in Huddersfield itself; namely the murder of Helen Rytka in January 1978.
But there is another element to the story that has a strong Huddersfield connection: a gay club called The Gemini. The Gemini club is largely forgotten these days. If you search for it on t’internet there is surprisingly little about it. But in its 1970s hey-day it was arguably the biggest, brashest and best gay club in the whole of the north of England.
So what made The Gemini so successful? In part, it was geographical. In the mid-late 70s the Manchester gay scene hadn’t quite revved up, Sheffield didn’t have any regular gay club and Leeds only had the pitiful Charlies and the occasional Gay Lib Disco. Bradford fared little better. Huddersfield was slap in the middle of the lot, (as well as various other towns in the region), with fairly good transport links and fast motorway connections.
Then there was the club itself. When I started going to The Gemini in 1977-78, the disco era was at its height. We’d drive down from Leeds, sometimes half a dozen or more of us piled in the back of a transit van, or take the train.
At that point in my life The Gemini was the plushest club I had ever seen. L-shaped, it occupied a whole first floor, with two bars, a dance floor with mirrored walls, strobe lights and a mirror ball, and a proper restaurant. We bopped to the sounds of Donna Summer, Chic, Sister Sledge, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Bee Gees, Sylvester, Blondie… at weekends it was often packed. And there was never any real trouble.
In 1981 The Gemini Club’s licence renewal was challenged by the police, who described it as a cesspit of filth. If only! There were a few tame goings on in the outside back yard downstairs, but it was hardly a Roman orgy. Especially not in winter! It was more a case of ‘not on our doorstep.’ The police had a vendetta to get the place shut down and raids became ever more frequent. We were lined up and our names and addresses taken. In the end the police were defeated and the licence was renewed, helped in part by Gay Pride moving from London to Huddersfield that year in a show of solidarity. After this, the Gemini limped on for a while before closing for good. By the early 1980s the gay club scenes in Manchester and Leeds were emerging and sadly The Gemini’s halcyon days (or nights) were over.
Blood Relatives is out now from 4th Estate.
Stevan Alcock will be performing at Polari Up North at the Huddersfield Literature Festival on Saturday 5 March 7.45pm, Syngenta Cellar, Lawrence Batley Theatre. Tickets available from the LBT website: www.thelbt.org or by calling 01484 430 528.