The slow death of Soho

Ewan Munro, via Flickr, using Creative Commons.
Photo: Ewan Munro, via Flickr, using Creative Commons.

The news that Madame Jojo’s has had its licence revoked and the doors locked will have stirred a familiar sense of doom – not only in those who patronised that quirky club, but also in the wider fraternity of Soho lovers who feel that the place is rapidly losing its salty charm and succumbing to a wave of upward mobility. The longest queues in this part of London now tend to be outside the latest “no bookings” tapas bar, rather than for some form of entertainment that promises to flout the rules of conventional society.

My first memory of Soho was of a place called the Doll’s House in the 1960s. Every year, the grammar school I went to in Vauxhall, just south of the river, held a founder’s day service in St Martin-in-the-Fields. There was a thrill in going up to Trafalgar Square that was unconnected with that grand old church. Just round the corner was Soho, a place where, so legend had it, schoolboy dreams could come true. Soho was the place I had been specifically warned about, both by headmaster and parents: as it might have been on the old maps, “here lurk wicked things”. Accordingly, when this worthy occasion finally ground to a halt around lunchtime, the more adventurous of us schoolboys would nip down the nearest alleyway to turn our blazers inside out, thus disguising our age and employment status. Then it was straight to the Doll’s House, a strip club that allowed us in, and frequently offered a group discount… [read more]

The slow death of Soho: farewell to London’s sleazy heartland, by Pete Clark. First published in the Guardian, Nov 24 2014.

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