- Pictures of a more wholesome Soho have been released by the British Film Institute for national campaign
- It shows the less seedy side of the London area known for its long association with the sex industry
- Featured clips include ballerinas dancing in Golden Square, pensioners at market and cheerful theatre-goers
It has earned a reputation over the years as being the seedy part of London due to its sex shops and strip clubs.
But these stills from the British Film Institute show a much softer side to Soho during the 1950s when wholesome family values were at the forefront of British culture.
The images are from documentary Sunshine in Soho from 1956 and have been released as part of the BFI's Britain on Film campaign giving a glimpse into the history of popular areas around the UK.
The film shows daily life in Soho from workers heading to the pub after finishing for the day to pensioners and housewives perusing traditional market stalls.
Ballet students, believed to be from the London-based Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, are also seen putting on a fine display in Golden Square.
The annual Soho waiters race also takes centre stage, with restaurant workers from the area challenged to run around Soho Square while carrying a tray of champagne one-handed.
But considering Soho's association with controversial entertainment, it is no surprise to see some glimpse of more risque entertainment, including a lengthy queue of men waiting outside The Windmill strip club.
And the annual Soho Fair and pageant featured women in various states of undress being paraded through the area on floats as crowds waved and cheered them on.
Soho has earned a reputation as the 'seedier' side of London over the years due to the sex industries found there, but footage a 1956 documentary, Sunshine in Soho, has revealed more wholesome images. The glimpse back into the past is part of a BFI campaign to show off the history of some of Britain's most iconic locations. Pictured here is the annual Soho Fair, which saw huge crowds gather to watch parade floats decorated in bright colours and flowers drive through the area
The Palace Theatre in Cambridge Circus, pictured left in 1956, has always been an imposing building that stands out in Soho. Back in the 50s it played host to Shakespeare shows including Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear, but in modern times, right, it has become even more famous as the home of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, with millions of JK Rowling fans fighting to get tickets over the past few months
This picture shows a casual day in Soho Square in 1956 (left), with women pictured taking a stroll in the sunshine while a gentleman in a cardigan and tie tends to the lawn. The area has since become a fixture of the entertainment industry, with major names including 20th Century Fox, Paul McCartney, Sony Music and even the Football Association having offices around the square (right)
Considering Soho's lengthy history with the sex industry, it is no surprise to eventually see some evidence of this in the 1956 documentary with an all-male queue seen waiting outside strip club The Windmill, which became famous for its naked tableaux. The Windmill also played host to many comedians of the time including Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers and Tommy Cooper. The building became a cinema in the 1960s but soon reverted to burlesque shows and is now once again an 'adult entertainment' club known as The Windmill International
Even in 1956 the Soho Fair parade was not quite as wholesome as it could have been, with eager crowds gathering to watch women in bikinis and skimpy outfits slowly passing them on floats. These models appear are from the Soho Visual Arts Club, which was set up by Jean Straker in 1951 and featured many nude shoots. Straker would go on to be involved in a number of legal battles in the 1960s after more than 1,000 of his photos wee confiscated by police under powers granted to them by the 1959 Obscene Publications Act
One of the more striking scenes in the 1956 footage is a display by ballerinas in Soho's Golden Square, pictured, with the girls believed to be students at the London-based Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, whose students have included Louise Redknapp, Pixie Lott and Russell Brand. In the background is the Golden Square Throat, Ear and Nose Hospital which has since become the headquarters of an advertising agency
These women are pictured chatting outside the Cambridge Theatre in 1956, presumably about to see the Reluctant Debutante play which was showing at the time. The theatre remains a fixture of the West End and is currently home to Matilda the Musical, the popular stage version of Roald Dahl's children's book
One of the most exciting days in Soho during the 1950s was the annual Waiter Race, pictured, which still takes place every summer. Staff from restaurants around Soho Square are challenged to race around it while carrying champagne on a tray in full uniform. The spectacle attracted hundreds of people in 1956 and still remains as popular today
The Waiter Race starts from outside the French House pub in Dean Street, with the servers competing for the Waiters Cup trophy. Nowadays waiters compete for free meals while raising funds for The Waiters Benevolent Fund charity, which was recently set up by the Soho Society to help struggling waiters. But fame and glory still make up much of the incentive for the winner today
Today's Waiter Races are a far more casual affair but in 1956 participants were expected to wear their pristine uniforms, adding to the sense of occasion. The event has been a family occasion throughout its history, although it did endure a decade-long hiatus until it was restarted by the Soho Society in 2014
Pictured here is Robert Taylor, winner of the 1956 Waiter Race, who could not keep the smile off his face after the victory. He was immediately embraced by family and friends after the win, with several spectators keen to congratulate him
To keep the huge crowds of spectators interested, it was customary to run bets on staff from which restaurant or pub would be victorious, with bookmakers, pictured, setting up stalls and offering odds on everyone involved. Gambling on the event did not seem to be much of a taboo in 1956 judging by the range of ages of people who had a flutter
Chefs hard at work at the Ristorante Isola Bella in Frith Street, Soho, pictured, are also featured in the documentary. The eatery was said to be a popular destination for local writers and poets for decades. But it has since closed and is now a Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Les Enfants Terribles in Dean Street, Soho, pictured in 1956, had a basement disco club that became very popular in London during the 1960s. Doubling up as a coffee shop and became known as a good spot for a romantic date. It later became a 1940s-themed club called the Black Gardenia but has since closed
One of the longest surviving buildings in the area is Algerian Coffee Stores Ltd, pictured in 1956, which was first opened in 1887. The business is still running today and offers a choice of more than 80 coffees and 120 teas. It is much changed since the 1950s, with its traditional frontage replaced by a stylish and modern one featuring fairy lights
Punters are pictured enjoying a pint at the York Minster pub in 1956 and basking in the sunshine. The pub in Dean Street is now called The French House which caters to a wide ranging variety of clientele but offers itself up to 'artists, bohemians, artists and writers'. The modern pub also focuses on conversation by banning television and mobile phone use
Berwick Street Market, pictured in 1956, is one of the oldest in London. The traditional fruit and vegetable offerings pictured here, which were popular with the 1950s crowd, have expanded over the years to now include a range of world foods
This image from 1956 shows Gallery One and The Flamingo in D’Arblay Street, Soho. The latter was a famous club that ran between 1952 and 1967 and is said to have played a role in the growth of rhythm and blues and jazz in the UK. It earned a controversial reputation with gangsters and prostitutes said to have been frequent visitors in the 1960s, along with famous musicians including the Beatles
Bar staff are pictured here working at The Mandrake Club in Meard Street in 1956. Another favourite on the jazz scene, it featured live music most nights and was advertised as one of London's 'only bohemian clubs' but has long since closed its doors
One of the scenes that has mostly disappeared from modern Britain that does feature in the 1956 documentary is the lighting of gas lamps, pictured. There are just 1,500 gas lamps left in London and they are currently maintained by British Gas workers
'Sunshine in Soho' (1965) taken from Britain on Film, a digital archive of UK places that mean the world to you. 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to now will be digitised and can be watched for free on BFI Player. Britain on Film is funded by the National Lottery funding and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
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