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Ep 145: Back with a bang in Piccadilly Circus!


Eros and the London Pavillion in Piccadilly Circus Umezo KAMATA, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Hello! Sorry for the little hiatus there, over the last few months. But finally we're back!

It's been a bit hectic with one thing and another, but there's various bits of good news to share as we restart the pod, fortnightly for the moment, easing ourselves back into it. And where better to start than right in the heart of the West End, arguably the heart of London, with Piccadilly Circus.


A while ago I (Fiona) had a really interesting chat with Midge Gillies all about Piccadilly Circus. Or, as her book is titled:

Every place has a story to tell, and Piccadilily's is made up of many many stories: Mundane everyday interactions mixed with life and death encounters, all watched by crowds drawn to the best known meeting place in London.


We talked of Eros (or is it? ) - The statue, the model, the sculptor, the aftermath.

He feels like he's been a constant, since he arrived, but it turns out he's had his fair share or trips away. Little holidays on the Embankment for example, while works were being done.




Similar view as above, but in the 1890s

Despite that, in images like this, from 130 years ago, the scene looks remarkably familiar. Transport, clothes and adverts have changed. The people are still passing by. And one of the features of Piccadilly is that it is border territory, Where the actors and music hall performers meet both the shoppers and the shop workers, and gents off to their clubs.






1962 © Copyright Ben Brooksbank CC BY-SA 2.0

1988 © Copyright Peter Shimmon CC BY-SA 2.0

In these images from 1962 and 1988 the advertising draws the eye. Piccadilly Circus embodies the bright lights of London. So what happened when the lights went out? In the book Midge takes us down into the basement of the Cafe de Paris, and a little way up Shaftesbury Avenue to Rainbow Corner. One destroyed in the Blitz, the other sustaining American servicemen far from home.




And where better to seek sustenance than in a Lyons cafe?


See what the menu offered around 1900. And look at those adverts. I'm sure you will all be as excited as I am, at the news of new biscuits from Peak Freans! If you aren't a long time listener, head back to episode 87 to discover all.


"Trimox" tongues however, I can manage without.


Anyone for a "tennis cake"?






Calling back to a more recent episode we also stumbled across Amy Johnson, buying her flying suit in Lilywhites. One of the grand old shops of London. Suffragettes smashed windows at Swan and Edgar, and you can still enjoy the architecture of Simpsons, even in it's current guise as a Waterstones bookshop. Arguably the best possible place to buy a copy of Midge's excellent book. We had lovely chat and only just scratched the surface. So listen in, and then settle down to read it for yourselves.

Thank you so much to Midge for joining me for a chat. She is @midgegillies on Instagram and Twitter and Piccadilly is in all good bookshops now.


You know what to do, get in touch with us:


Instagram; @ladieswholondonpodcast

Email; ladieswholondon@gmail.com

Alex’s guiding website - www.alexlacey.com

Fiona’s guiding profile -Fiona Lukas - Guide London



And listen wherever you get your podcasts.


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