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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.

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