What they say about living in London in the 60’s. . .

John Cleese, actor, comedian, member of Monty Python

From: So, Anyway. . .  by John Cleese, Crown Publishing Group, 2014

Living in London in 1962-63

. . . I was discovering the excitement of living in London. Like most of my generation, I had developed a very strong, highly emotional patriotism about my country, so the idea of being in the capital thrilled me. I was proud of what we had done in the war, I was aware of our long history and our centuries of empire. I was also confident of what I felt to be the basic decency and fair-mindedness of our culture, and wherever I went in London I would see a building or perhaps just a name inscribed somewhere that would remind me that I was a part of this deeply impressive civilization. It may sound naive, but it brought a kind of significance to my life. Of course, I was embedded in a very particular middle-class culture; it was fundamentally well educated, well mannered and orderly. And as I slowly learned more about all its various faults —its sexism, its racism, its bottomless class-consciousness—I also felt an optimism that things would inevitably and inexorably improve.


John Bell, former chef at the Savoy, London

I was born and grew up in Oldham and left to come to London in 1966. Having enjoyed my early and mid teens up North, which mid teens up North, which wasn’t all bad as the Beatles and The Hollies were northern groups, London was amazing to me. The swinging had just started and I knew I was in the right place at the right time. I had come to London to work in the Savoy as a chef and I loved every moment. I lived in Bloomsbury and walked down through Covent Garden every morning, it was like being on the set of My Fair Lady or Oliver. I bought my clothes in Carnaby Street and the Kings Road. Every day was an event, famous names at the Savoy, the latest Beatles album, concerts and mini skirts. I left catering in 1968 shortly after I met my first wife and led rather a hippy existence thereafter, but those first few years in London in the Sixties were the stuff of dreams.

 Barry Miles, writer

From: In the Sixties, Barry Miles, Pimlico, 2003

I think of the 60s now as a supermarket of ideas. We were looking for new, valid ways to live. Some people took a lot of drugs, others abstained from everything, including coffee. There were chaste Christian communes, and others where there were no doors on the bedrooms and monogamy was banned. Everything was up in the air. We were just trying to make sense of it and not be conditioned by the ‘British Way of Life’.

A former bank clerk in London

In 1966, I was working at Midland’s branch in Brixton —so old fashioned that it conjures up images of the office of Ebenezer Scrooge. It still had large sloping desks in the back office at which you had to stand to hand post the deposit ledgers, a task that was done on a ‘real time’ basis. Caribbean immigrants settling in South London opened “new deposit” (non-checking) accounts and they were wont to deposit and withdraw cash into and out of these two of three times a day! One of these customer’s first name was Winston St Leger. His parents were proud of Churchill’s achievements during WW2 and also enjoyed horse racing. The St Leger inaugurated in 1776 is still one of the premier flat races in the English flat racing calendar! Sadly during my two year sojourn in Brixton, I was not aware of the emergence of a talented young singer, David Bowie, who was born here and performed regularly at the Brixton Ritz. My musical interests at that time revolved principally around modern jazz. I remember catching the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the Fairfield Halls, I have to admit that I was largely oblivious to the ‘swinging Sixties’ in London. I’m not sure I can recall ever walking down Carnaby Street then either!

Gill Palin, former Marks & Spencer department store employee in the 60’s

We wore very very short mini skirts. Prior to minis we had worn very full net petticoats under full skirts and dresses. We starched the petticoats so they stood out. Another fashion was hot pants, these were like shorts worn under a skirt with a slit at the front. My favourite outfit was most definitely a very short dress and a white pvc raincoat with knee length white pvc boots. I was very fortunate because by working for M&S in the head office I had lots of my clothes given to me. They were samples from the buying department and the buyers liked to see us wearing their merchandise. One important thing was we were pulled up if we had a ladder in our tights and immediately sent to the office to get a new pair (no charge). Those were the days. We had to have our cardigans either on or off, not round our shoulders and our dress length was scrutiniesed by the staff manageress. It gave us a good grounding, we worked hard but the perks were fantastic.

David Bailey, photographer

I hate being so nostalgic about the Sixties.


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