From the hoity toity Gentlemen’s clubs in Pall Mall to the more colourful hidden establishments of Soho, this 1960s British short documentary delves into the ‘secret life of London’. Slightly outdated in its delivery (note the oh so hilarious sexist quip at 2m 55s), Look at Life was a series produced for screenings in cinemas before the main feature. So, mind the quips and let’s hop on this little time machine to secret London in 1965.
In case you missed it, the Soho club we visit on Dean Street at the 6:08 mark is The Colony Room, which operated from 1948 until it closed its doors in 2008. A small room on the first floor, the clandestine night spot gathered a reputation as a wild and eccentric bohemian arts club, a meeting place and private party for artists, poets, actors, dancers, designers and musicians, similar to the famous Kit-Cat Club or the upstairs of Les Deux Magots in Paris. One of the founding members was painter Francis Bacon, Kate Moss did a stint as a barmaid there and regulars included the likes of Peter O’Toole, Dylan Thomas, as well as Damien Hirst, Tracy Enim and even Princess Margaret in her younger years. And is that Sidney Poitier at 6:35?
Image via Sohemian
Founded by Muriel Belcher, who somehow managed over the years to draw in so much of London’s talent up those dark and dusty stairs to her cramped drinking hole, the Colony blazed a trail for London bohemian culture, seeing its loyal clientele through post-war austerity, the swinging sixties, all the way to the new millennium. After Muriel’s death in 1979, her longtime barmen took over until the lease ended in 2008. A year later the landlord was denied permission to convert the club into apartments.
Image via Artnet
Likely still painted in that dark shade of green, a colour now known as “Colony Room Green”, the club is still there on the 1st floor of 41 Dean Street, sitting empty and lifeless. Faithful clientele still hope for a renaissance one day.