Battle of Soho
Throughout the late 20th century, Soho was the kingdom of Bohemia, a seedy, vibrant part of the city that oozed danger and was notorious for its underworld of sex, drugs and rock‘n’roll. Director Aro Korol explores how gentrification has slowed the beating heart of London’s cultural hub, turning it instead into a legacy of uncontrollable capitalist avarice. July marked the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, and Soho was renowned for its thriving gay scene. In a surprisingly moving documentary, Korol interviews the faces of Soho’s LGBT+ backdrop from drag queens to Stephen Fry, accumulating personal stories in order to capture the essence of the area’s crumbling personality.
However, some of Korol’s interviewees claim the spirit of Soho still remains, and although it may not always be seen, it certainly can be felt. We cut to a scene of a photographer in the street, shooting a male model wearing a black Lycra cat-suit, which has been conveniently adapted to fully expose the model’s rear. A group of construction workers work on without a second glance and pedestrians walk past unfazed, offering the viewer a glimpse into London’s nostalgic acceptance of Soho’s risqué pageantry of the 80s.
Many say the change to Soho was a gradual, organic development from the 60s until the 90s – only dramatically changing in 2004 when a gentrification boom turned the bosom of sexual experimentation and wild antics into a roller coaster of tax avoidance and sky-high rent. 2014 also marks a moving turn to Soho’s LGBT+ scene with the closure of Madame Jo Jo, an underground cabaret club that welcomed everyone and anyone promising only acceptance and thrill. Past performers are evidently moved talking about the corporate takeover of their space of sexual and artistic expression, struggling even now, three years after its closure, to refer to it in the past tense.
Once ridden with neon signs and a rainbow array of speakeasies, garish colours and creative flair now manifest predominately in the Tunnel of Graffiti – an artistic outcry started by Banksy in 2008. Meanwhile, the hot pink of Burlesque institutions and acrylic nails now line the signs of frozen yogurt establishments that usurp the city; and the heat of Soho’s sex and art scene is gradually replaced with iced-coffee pop-ups and frozen sweet-treat shops as the frost of capitalism ices over Soho’s once beating heart.
Battle of Soho is released in selected cinemas on 28th October 2017
Watch the trailer for Battle of Soho here: