Swingin’ London

Stokey Lit FestThis morning in the midst of sorting out my horrendous paperwork backlog I stumbled across a flyer I’d saved from last year’s Stoke Newington Literary Festival.  It was for a screening of the excellent “How We Used To Live” film directed by Paul Kelly, narrated by Ian McShane and with a “swingle-y” soundtrack from St Etienne.  It’s a collection of BFI footage from the years 1950-1980.

I really enjoyed the Stokey Lit Festival last June.  We went for the entire 3 days.  I’d strongly recommend attendance if you’re in London this June, dates this year are 5 to 7 June.  There’s a real eclectic mix and the stuff I liked best ranged from a talk about our relationship with numbers to some crazy science fiction authors discussing how best to make money from publishing short e-books to a conversation with iconic cartoonists Steven Appleby & Martin Rowson to learning about Georgian London from Lucy Inglis to listening to dub poet and legend Linton Kwesi Johnson.  Really good fun and hanging out in between in Stokey’s hipster coffee bars & restaurants with the rest of the truly bohemian crew.

Back to the film.  There were a few things that really struck me from watching old footage of the 60s and 70s especially as that was the era I grew up in.  I wrote them down on the back of the flyer before leaving my seat at the screening and I so enjoyed reading them again this morning that I thought I’d share them with you.

Sid & Johnny from The Sex Pistols Experience at the 100 Club Feb 2015

Sid & Johnny from The Sex Pistols Experience at the 100 Club Feb 2015

Incidentally, as a person who usually looks forward rather than backwards I’ve just realised that in the course of the last week or so I’ve been indulging in a ridiculous amount of nostalgia wallowing as I’ve watched the excellent BBC4 documentary about Joy Division & Ian Curtis, seen a Sex Pistols tribute band at the 100 Club and last night I saw Good Vibrations.  I don’t know why that is.

Now that's what I call a Mini

Now that’s what I call a Mini

Here’s my list – please, please add your observations in the comments section below:

  • Minis were small cars, not great big things
  • Police cars were also small
  • People were thinner – but they had terrible hair, skin & teeth
  • People were either young or old – there was no-one in between
  • Men went to their work to do physical labouring in proper trousers and jackets
  • Mickey Most went out jogging in a brown shirt & trousers and his office shoes
  • Punks really were different than anything before or since
  • Our streets were thinner
  • The Tube was just as busy and everyone looked just as p’d off commuting
  • The Festival of Britain looked incredible; St Thomas’ Hospital recorded 2 baby girls named “Festival” and one baby boy called “Skylon” (I wonder where they are now and did they change their names?)
  • The Queen looked amazing
  • Tower blocks looked awful – even when they were new
  • Industry was so manual – there’s footage in the film of men operating a wrecking ball and rows and rows of men in teams physically lifting railway sleepers as part of the railway transformation programme
  • All the London landmarks are recognisable (Big Ben, Tower Bridge, The Monument) but there are tiny, almost imperceptible differences
  • Cars all looked different instead of being identical silver boxes
Glamour-tastic taste of the 70s

Glamour-tastic taste of the 70s

Reading that again this morning made me remember the fun of rushing home from school in the 1970s, desperate to catch Marc Bolan & David Bowie in full-on glam rock paraphernalia on British tv at teatime.  Glorious.

Catch that film if you’re old like me and want to experience those strong waves of nostalgia from things long past and see you all at the Stokey Lit Fest in June.


  1. spangles…..beech nut chewing gum. School dinners ..yuk. Knowing everyone in our street. Chopper bikes, dungarees & tank tops. Denim everything… Stripey over knee socks..Mum buying gadgets. Those jars that looked like onions crying & beetroot smiling..


  2. Free concerts by the greats almost every week put on by the BBC for the John Peel Show. We sixth-formers could just get there from Beckenham in time to get in the queue. Places like he Paris Theatre in Regent Street. Finding that Carnaby Street was full of the same spotty herberts as ourselves wondering what the fuss was about. London Docks and the Thames as a working river. The last few years of Covent Garden Market in its prime. The taste of a Wimpy cheeseburger with onions.


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