The Last Days Of Sinful Soho – A 1981 News Report


A TV news relic from the final days of an unrestrained Soho sex industry.

By 1981, Soho was firmly established as London’s centre of sex and sin – the strip clubs, the sex cinemas and the sex shops, now somewhat released from the grip of police-run protection rackets, were proliferating and selling hardcore porn – as well as shafting more naive tourists with rip off products. With the Williams Committee report of 1979 recommending a major overhaul and liberalisation of the porn laws, the pornographers and smut peddlers were pretty cocksure and arrogant about the future – ludicrously so, as it turned out.

The Thatcher government was not about to liberalise anything. In fact, within a few years, a slew of new laws governing sex shop and cinema club licensing, indecent display laws and video censorship effectively decimated the industry, closing down numerous venues and sending several of the major porn moguls to prison, often on dubious evidence and trumped up charges. This came as a relief to many of the residents of Soho, who had for years complained that the sex industry was out of control and taking over the entire area – while sex had been an integral part of the  Soho scene for a long time, even the most tolerant locals were starting to find it all a bit much.

Of course, the destruction of the Soho sex scene would eventually lead to a widespread gentrification of Soho, with many small businesses forced out to create the soulless version that we have today. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

This 1981 Thames TV report, Soho: People Live Here Too captures the height of the sex industry explosion and the concerns of the locals. It’s a fascinating look at the final days of a place that now, ironically, is much missed and rather better than the private clubs, overpriced bars and hipster havens that dominate Soho now.