The Ballad of the Rad Cafes: London’s Coffeehouse Culture from 1959

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Before coffee houses were homogenized into interchangeable Starbucks, and sucked dry of atmosphere and character, the espresso bar was a meeting place for Beats, musicians, writers, radicals and artists. Each coffeehouse had its own distinct style and clientele, and provided a much needed venue for the meeting of minds and the sharing of ambitions over 2-hour long cappuccinos.

It was the arrival in London of the first espresso machine in 1952 that started this incredibly diverse sub-culture, which became a focus for writers like Colin (Absolute Beginners) MacInness and pop stars like Tommy Steele, Billy Fury, Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde, who frequented the famous 2-i’s cafe. This beautiful, short film serves up a frothy serving of London’s cafe scene in 1959, long before Starbucks ruined it all.
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
London in the sixties: 2 groovy short films on fashion and cafe culture

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Look At Life were a series of short documentary films produced in the 1960s by the Rank Organization. They were shown in British movie theaters before the main attraction. Shot in vibrant color, Look At Life often focused on ‘Swinging London’.

In these two clips we get a peek into the King’s Road fashion scene and hip London coffeehouses. Groovy.

 

Written by Marc Campbell | Discussion