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Friday, 5 April 2013

The History Behind the Entertainment District

Image: freedigitalphotos
Soho is an exciting part of London's West End. It is a strived for area to live and is crammed with countless historical monuments mixed in with some of the most modern architecture. Soho is nearby the ever changing Trafalgur Square and is only a short walk from the river Thames, offering a perfect base for any visitor. Soho consistently provides top quality live entertainment, fantastic shopping and a host of restaurants. It has gained a reputation for being a party hot-spot and it will not disappoint.

Behind this vibrant district lies a wealth of history. Soho has been home to many household names, the famous landscape painter John Constable resided on Frith Street, the poet Percy Shelley lived on Poland Street and the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt was at home on Great Marlborough Street.

Soho has always been a place of inspiration for the music industry. Throughout the 1920's and 1930's the jazz era was in full swing. Cafe de Paris and Romano's were established hosting live jazz entertainment and they each became one of the most important music venues of that time. In 1959 Frith Street welcomed the opening of the legendary Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. At the second annual Soho fair in 1956, the mix of blues and folk music known as skiffle was created. Shortly followed by John Lennon founding the skiffle band known as the Quarrymen, who went on to make a world-wide impact on the music industry, albeit under their new name of the Beatles.

Arguably one of the most influential music establishments, the Marquee Club on Wardour Street opened its doors to performances by legendary artists, including David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. It was also an important meeting point for musical deals to be forged.

Musicians flocked to Denmark Street, otherwise known as Tin Pan Alley recording at the numerous studios. However it was not all work, with delicious restaurants and interesting bars scattered around Soho. Cafe La Giaconda and the Ship Pub are still open for business today. The well-known artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud would often be found enjoying a drink at the Colony club. The Groucho Club opened later and regulars included Damien Hirst, Alex James and Keith Allen.

It will come as no surprise that Soho still has somewhat of a seedy reputation. In 1959 when street prostitution was banned, 'walk ups' became the norm and the trade reached an all time high. With the developing prostitution trade, by 1981 there was in excess of 150 sex establishments in the Soho area. Gay bars also began to develop and even today Old Compton Street is known for being the gay district.

Soho is also famous for the bombing of the Admiral Duncan, killing three people and leaving 80 injured. This was the third bombing of this kind within a month.

Despite all its attractions, Soho has yet to become as touristic as its other neighbouring districts. The streets are still full of independent family businesses and the market stalls of Berwick Street are as popular as ever.

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