Category: Arts Culture

Shuttered Soho

Lockdown Lowdown 16.5.20

Took the bike and trundled up to Soho at 8am this morning to see if it still existed. It’s been my preferred place to have fun for more than forty years. Plenty of nothing going on now.

Soho Square: Lot of homeless people being cleared out by police
Want to be back at Ronnie’s the night it re-opens.

See you there when it all wakes up.

Suiting The Beatles

Suiting The Beatles

Dougie Millings made suits for the Beatles, in fact he made every suit featured in the Fab Four’s films: ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’  Last night I met Gordon Millings, Dougie’s son, who gave a talk about those fab days and showed us the original patterns created for the Beatles’ outfits.

Gordon Millings, Guy Hills of Dashing Tweeds and bespoke cutter Dan MacAngus

Gordon, born in 1945, was three years younger that Paul and almost the same age as George. His Dad’s shop was on Old Compton Street in Soho, two doors down from the 2i’s Coffee Bar. The 2i’s was a famous music venue in its day and can claim to be the birthplace of British rock & roll. A young Cliff Richard got his start there as did the Shadows, Adam Faith, Joe Brown and Johnny Kidd.

When these singers started to rake in some teen-generated cash they wandered over to Dougie’s to get suited and booted. Cliff was the first to do this and started sporting Millings’ clobber on the box.

Word made its way to Liverpool and Brian Epstein brought Gerry and The Pacemakers down for a fitting. Brian told Dougie the next time he was in town, he was bringing a new band. The Beatles showed up with quiffs and leathers but left with a set of collarless Nehru-style jackets.

At the time Gordon was training as a cutter at Huntsman on Saville Row. He used to pop back to his Dad’s shop at lunchtime to help him out. Once the Beatles became famous, Millings had to move to bigger premises and employed around eight tailors to meet demand. Back then a bespoke Saville Row suit cost £35, today you’re looking at £5,000 or more.

Last night’s talk took place at Dashing Tweeds who have taken the original designs and created new suits according the Beatles’ patterns. There’s a cape jacket which can be seen on the Help! album cover, a collarless jacket and a Teddy Boy style jacket which was worn by Lennon at the London Palladium.

On a final note, Keith Moon was also a customer and was buried in one of Dougie’s dark blue suits. Trouble was, as Gordon told me last night, he had forgotten to pay.

Photo London: Visual treat

Photo London: Visual treat

I took a stroll to the Photo London Exhibition at Somerset House with Gyuri Szabo. He’s an old friend of mine, and an amazing photographer, who decoded many of the photographs for me and made sense of some I didn’t understand.

I usually let the words do the talking on this blog, with pictures something of an afterthought, but with Gyuri taking shots as we went around and the organisers kindly allowing me to use a few of the exhibition pictures, I thought I’d turn the tables and give you a visual treat.

Nick Brandt ‘Bus Station with Elephant and Red Bus’

Gyuri Szabo

Tom Wood ‘Mad Max’

Gyuri Szabo

Tom Wood ‘Sit Down Great Homer Street’

Gyuri Szabo

Tony Gum ‘Milk the Bok’

Jamel Shabazz, ‘The Playboy’

Gyuri Szabo

 


 

 


The Hard Yard

The Hard Yard

This is why I love London and perhaps it’s one of the reasons you do too. To be fair you may not even like going to the theatre and do you really want to watch a play written in 1953 that dramatizes the Salem Witch trials that took place in 1692 which is an allegory on the McCarthyism that was plaquing the US at the time the play was written? The answer to that tangled list of questions is actually yes, but let me explain.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is currently playing at The Yard Theatre in Stratford and while I’m loath to do reviews on this blog, I leave that to others, I’ll just say this an extraordinary production that left the audience breathless the night I went. If anything, the director, Jay Miller packs too much into the show, hardly allowing the play to settle, but let’s not carp. The play starts with the cast sitting in chairs with their names on the seat-back. They start talking in British accents and I thought well OK, most would have just arrived in America and perhaps would retain their original accent whatever that sounded like in the 17th century. But gradually as the action gets under way their accents change to American and modern dress is replaced by period costumes. This is just one of the striking aspects of this production.

So why does this make me love London? Well it’s fairly obvious. This is a stellar production with a stellar cast, and everyone complains how expensive London is, but here in Stratford an evening at The Yard will cost you, top price £21. If you’re under 25 and turn up on the night and there are tickets available, then it’s yours for a fiver. I go to The National Theatre and the West End quite a bit and inevitably it’s full of middle aged, middle class people like me. Who else can afford it? Here at the Yard it’s stuffed with young people eager for a theatrical treat. And that is exactly what they get.

The theatre seats may be hard and made from plastic stacking chairs that have been torn apart and screwed into a wooden amphitheatre. The whole place was built out of salvaged material and has the feel of make do and mend, but don’t let that put you off. Twenty-one quid for a world class show; well you’d be foolish not to.

The Yard Theatre, it’s another London wonder.