London's West End: deconstructing the history of English drug use

11 June 2017


Venue: Meet at 'Gin Alley' opposite St Giles Church, 60 St Giles High, London WC2H 8LG

Organiser: Nemo

Born 1949. I’ve worked e.g. as a teacher, translator, interpreter, film-maker, on the shop floor, on a pipeline, a driver etc.I am active in Twitter (@TimGluckman) with 1750+ ‘followers’. I lived in Germany for 20+ yrs. hence the activism there. I have been active against repressive drug laws since 1980s. I have made films (in German and English) on drugs, given papers at conferences, organised events, set up registered associations in Germany promoting Harm Reduction. I gave the first ever paper (in German BTW) on Human Rights in the sphere of drug use at the founding conference of AKZEPT (Berlin 3.1991); In 2015 and 2016 I led three history walks in Deptford and New Cross, two as part of the Deptford Festival and one as a fringe event at the 2016 Radical Book Fair

How does the theme in the title link to one small area? Right up to the 1960s the English drug scene was almost entirely West End based; myths/misinformation pushed by MSM will be challenged. 1916: Britain’s first anti-drug (cocaine) law resulted from fears based on lurid tales of sex-workers robbing doped soldiers. 1920: laws codified on the back of explicitly racist (anti-Chinese), homophobic and anti-Feminist tropes in MSM – mostly about the West End scene. We’ll go to haunts of scene players to reimagine those events. The British drug scene – tiny as it was – was still based there up to the 1960s when there were still only a tiny number of registered – and actual – drug dependent users (compared with e.g. America). Thanks to Rolleston’s enlightened 1926 report. We’ll be walking with quotes from eminent writers, musicians and artists e.g. de Quincey/Crowley/ Greene/Self/Townshend /Bacon who were part of Bohemian scenes. Of special interest: the role of nightlife in this narrative Analyses of substance use/abuse should be linked to its environment: how have politicians, police and courts responded? What of the services – if any - to help those with dependency issues? And what of Soho itself scene of a current pushback against gentrification?