Thistle Publishing

Soho in the Fifties and Sixties


The central London district of Soho has for generations been a byword for the exotic and for sexual licence.


Its real heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s when pubs such as the York Minster and clubs like the Colony Room were the favoured drinking holes of some of the 20th century’s greatest artists, including Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, and writers of the calibre of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.


Around these luminaries gravitated a crowd of minor but no less extraordinary characters, such as the artists’ model Henrietta Moraes and the writer Colin MacInnes. Soho was also the centre of London Jazz, of Ronnie Scott’s and the 100 Club, where George Melly and Humphrey Lyttelton drew in the crowds.


In the tightly packed streets of the neighbourhood one could forget the drab and uncompromising face of post-War Britain, eat good, cheap French and Italian food and follow the dictates of one’s senses.


The writer and broadcaster Jonathan Fryer gravitated to Soho almost the moment he arrived as a young man in London from his native Salford. People on the margins of society or defying its conventions have always fascinated him, hence his penchant for biographical subjects such as Oscar Wilde and Dylan Thomas.

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