Painting depicting Mae, the Queen Of Soho, and a bald customer combing his

West End Girls : Working girls and their maids

Soho 1948. A glamorous West End Girl charms a naive young barmaid into her service. This is the maid's true account of life in the decadent underbelly of postwar London.

On this website, you can read book extracts and explore Barbara's interesting world.

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West End Girls

Soho and Leicester Square

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Pencil drawing :Eccentric shuffles

In the late 1940's, Barbara visits Soho and Leicester Square for the first time. As a painter, her description of post war Soho is vivid, almost tactile, and tinged with the wonder of a young and innocent girl whose dreams are finally turning into reality. Little did she know what kind of reality . . .

"Opening out from Coventry Street, was the fabulous Leicester Square, surrounded by all the great cinemas — The Ritz, Empire, Warner, Odeon and Leicester Square Theatres, where world premieres were regularly held. The great stars arrived in limousines while the excited, surging crowds were restrained by lines of policemen. In those days, the people who possessed television sets were almost as rare as those today who own a private aeroplane, and so, for almost everyone, the cinema was the land of dreams, and the film stars almost took on the proportions of gods and goddesses.

Outside these Leicester Square cinemas on ordinary days, there were always long queues of people waiting to go in, and it was, I should think, about the most lucrative place in London for buskers. There were so many of these, some very mediocre of course, but amongst them some who put on a really good show. One was an escapologist, who after being completely trussed in chains and padlocks, was tied into a large sack from which he eventually emerged free, triumphant and expectant. Another was a team of three men dressed in long, striped nightshirts, red tarbooshes and army boots. They unrolled a length of tarpaulin which they strewed with sand, and whilst one of them worked a gramophone, playing the European idea of Egyptian music, the other two would execute wonderful, eccentric shuffles on the scrunching sand. The buskers performed in the middle of the busy road, and the traffic had to skirt them carefully. They never seemed to get moved on by the police, and it may be that they were loved, even by them, as part of the London scene."

Copyright © 2018. Hannes Buhrmann.

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