There was nowhere as cosmopolitan in 1950s Britain as Soho, the night-life and coffee-shop capital of London. This half-hour film ‘Sunshine in Soho’ explores the markets and speciality shops of Soho, a long excerpt on the carnival, before turning to the coffee shops towards the end. It’s as good a portrait as we will ever get of Soho in this period and is a good illustration of how drab post-war Britain was ‘colouring up’ in 1956 (although the colours are colourised, not original). Where are the teddy boys? There aren’t many if any that can be seen. This is in part because not all young men at this time were teds, and in part because dressing up in one’s teddy gear was generally for going out at night. We see a few ‘barrow boys’ (street traders) with their two-wheeled wooden trolleys (‘barrows’) and we know that many younger barrow boys and porters in Covent Garden were teddy boys at the time (although they’d have to work in their working clothes). The film gives a very good idea of the society in which teddy boys first appeared.
*Richard500 (2023YTcomm) comments: “Soho was NOT the place to be if you were on your own at night and young in the late 50s or 60s. There were all sorts of dodgy characters as there are now, possibly not as perverse or really dangerous, but dangerous enough! I used to take a shortcut from Shaftsbury Avenue to Charing Cross Road and never worried a bit, I was 14. One night around 9:30 someone started following me and no sooner had I noticed than a copper stepped out of a doorway and scared the bejabbers out of me!! “OK lad, turn round go back the way you came and don’t come back at this time of night until you’re grown up!”
The following programme on the Bohemian set in 1950s Soho was aired on BBC4 on 25.10.2005.
POSTED November 2023.