Saturday, August 12, 2017

Soho Goes Gay

Things were very different back in 1955.  For one thing, Soho could go 'gay' without right wing nut jobs bombing pubs.  Being part of a 1950s newsreel, the segment above has to focus on Soho as a 'cosmopolitan' area of central London, (as did most feature films set there), with no mention of the strip clubs, clip joints and brothels that dominated its night life.  I haven't been to Soho in many, many years, but back in the nineties, when I worked on Whitehall, it was a regular haunt of mine during lunch hours and after work.  Not for the sex trade, although there was still plenty of that openly on display back then, but for the pubs and bars and the general atmosphere.  Back then it was refreshingly full of life - all forms of life.  There's no doubt that the very visible sex trade gave it an edge not present in other parts of the capital.  You really felt that you were rubbing shoulders with all aspects of human life, from high to low.  It made you feel alive and in touch with the reality of life.

I keep meaning to get back there for visit, although I'm told that it has been 'cleaned up' considerably, taking away a lot of its atmosphere.  Which is a real pity.  I have fond memories of pubs like The Coach and Horses in Greek Street and, deeper into Soho, The Admiral Duncan and the Pillars of Hercules.  Maybe during the next bit of my leave, the week after next, I'll manage to work in a trip to London (although the current engineering works at Waterloo and the subsequent cutting of off peak train services might make that difficult).   To get back to the newsreel, it's fascinating how, back in the day, we celebrated multiculturalism.  Nowadays, of course, we'd have the Brexiteers and their ilk denouncing these filthy foreigners for tempting good English people into sampling those sinful exotic foreign food and entertainments.  Ironically, taken out of context, the film's narration - with all its jokey references to the lack of English people in Soho - wouldn't be a million  miles from the sort of thing we heard in all those 'Leave' propaganda films during the EU referendum.

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