Up West (2009) is an informal
social history of London’s West End, and particularly Soho
and Covent Garden, between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s,
when Soho occupied a unique place as a colourful, fascinating place
of refuge in a Britain still grey and dreary with post-war austerity
and mind-numbing narrow-mindedness. The birth of the Swinging Sixties
saw the values of acceptance and egalitarianism, and the freedom
to adopt non-conformist ideas and lifestyles – attitudes that
had long flourished in the West End – go overground, and become
part of the mainstream. In Soho, the Sixties started in the Fifties
– if not before.
This is not, though, yet another book about the lives and loves
of the artists, writers and bohemians who thronged the area in the
1950s – although they play their part – but one that
focuses instead on the so-called ‘ordinary’ people who
lived and worked in this extraordinary place at this pivotal time.
Pip weaves together her own memories of living in Old Compton Street
in the 1950s with the testimony of other residents, interviewed
exclusively for this book, in order to evoke the spirit of this
thriving, interdependent community and a time that is both long
gone and yet still within the warm embrace of living memory.