This event will be held online.
In this third London Journal annual lecture, Prof Rohan McWilliam will be speaking about his recent book: London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914 (Oxford University Press, 2020).
This talk explores the cultural work of the West End at the moment when it became the fully-formed pleasure district that we recognise today. During this period the clustering of theatres, cinemas, vast department stores, sex workers and grand hotels became a magnet for both Londoners and travellers from around the world. The West End was defined by the Gaiety Girl, the Café Monico on Piccadilly, the appeal of Gerald Du Maurier as matinee idol and the opening of Selfridges on Oxford Street. I will explore the forms of stimulation that the area offered in an age of empire and electricity. What did it mean that the area, in a fairly short period of time, became home to multiple purpose-built cinemas? What was the relationship between new forms of entertainment and spectacular forms of retail that became the stock in trade of the West End?