Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Small World of Sammy Lee

Clubs, cafes, pubs, theatres, hotels, restaurants, adult magazines and strip joints. Soho of the 1960 and of today hasn’t really changed much. But there is also a thriving local community of hard working people, shop-keepers, pensioners, bread, wine and pastry shops.

Gone is the fear of mob violence once promulgated by the popular press, and in its stead is a slightly seedy, somewhat grubby entertainment centre. But then if you put Blackpool, Brighton or Bournemouth under the spotlight you might well make some startling comparisons. However, as far as I know Soho doesn’t have candy-floss, whelk stalls or kiss-me-quick bonnets.

The history of Soho began with the expansion of the smarter areas of London, those to the west of Regent’s Street, moving east to cheaper building plots, newer houses, and the delights of Soho Square, and, as this area became one of entertainment in all its forms, bounded at its southern side by a whole line of famous theatres, with its angle on Piccadilly Circus, with Shaftesbury Avenue, with all the Theatres, Tottenham Court Road, on the east with its bookshops and Oxford Street, to the north, with all the popular shops, Soho became an easily accessible independent zone, in the heart of London, bright lights, excitement and dancing girls. Who could want for more? Sammy Lee takes us on a Cook’s Tour of the area, running, or perhaps scuttling, along its highways, byways and back alleys, in a wonderful and nostalgic visitation of both these famous areas.

Sammy also visits the East End in his peregrinations, the former site of many of London’s pleasures, Whitechapel, famous for Jack the Ripper and the vile and vicious slums of the 1880’s, many of which were being destroyed in Secret Place, and more of which was destroyed by Hitler.

Hardware stores, ethnic grocers, small factories and manufacturers of garments are in abundance, both in the East and West Ends, street markets flourish, cafes and pubs still operate, and the ever changing pattern of London’s life and London’s poor are still there.

We found them whilst researching for The Small World of Sammy Lee, and Secret Place.