Swinging Sixties:



London, The Swinging City.



Use the Sampson Quote Anatomy of Britain.

‘The Observer’, 1963: "Within 2 years, the credit squeeze had ended, skyscrapers spread over cities, newspapers became fatter or died, commercial TV began making millions, shops, airlines, even coal and banks had to fight for their lives. After the Big Sleep, many people welcomed any novelty; any piece of americanisation seemed an enterprising change, and any thrusting tycoon, however irresponsible, was regarded as a phenomenon. Only now in Britain are we becoming visually aware of living in a state of perpetual and perilous change."



It is what the consumer does to modernise in terms of their style – absorb new furniture into their homes – use Hamilton collage – Just what is that…


It is also the public gestures of change of style in what you wear and how you look and what you do in terms of activities you could not have done before war – go to restaurants and coffee bars not only because of not enough money but because it was not available or too bohemian – the rise of the italian coffee bar and the Italian/chinese/restaurant – the Berni Inn etc. The Burger bar – Wimpys 1954 – 69 – 400 outlets (use the Monitor/Ken Russell sequence of eating burgers in 60)


To follow was new clothes styles – famously Mary Quants’s mini-skirt


and here


But the combination of available money – consumer spending power - and the atmosphere of enabling new ideas to be generated and take off as well as the willingness of the press to cover new ideas whether Quant or the Beatles encourages/lets a wide public not only participate in but in the same figuration, create  a revitalised Britain that was to be named Swinging Britain by the early 60s.


If we consider some indicators of economic  change: 1954 controls over HP are relaxed so people can borrow far more extensively to buy stuff.  Across the year 54-55 consumer spend rose 8%....white goods spend by 10% and by 1957 spend was  £1004 million on white goods incl TVs, stereos which were just coming in and so forth and on up to 1465 mln by 1960.


Sandbrook notes that between 1950 and 1959 av consumption per capita had risen 20% - more than that between 1918 and 1939


Av weekly wage was 1950 - £6 8s – by 1959 it had almost doubled to £11-2s-6d


Employment between 1948 and 1970 rarely went above 2%


1957-59 car ownership up 25%; TV up 32%; washing machines up 30%; (60% by 1966) fridge 58%


People bought on credit and Which started in 1957 to advise what was the best buy.


Along with the consumer boom cam the new boys – self-made millionaires who sometimes crashed and burned notable John Bloom who via aggressive marketing of mail order washing machines did the million and then his Co collapsed after lots of other WM selling companies slashed their prices.


And then there were the plain corrupt – Emil Savundra whose insurance co Fire marine and Auto sold policies to the new car owners – who by 1959/60 had a lovely new motorway – the MI to race up. He raked off millions into a swiss bank account and when exposed his co sank leaving 000s of unpaid claims.


And on the car for a moment – this new mobility at your say so did not hep the railways survive such that Dr Beeching was commissioned to reform the network (5.42 et seq on modernity) famously recommended that the network should be in effect North to South with occasional east to west link lines and many country networks removed. 500 miles oftrck torn up, and 2500 stations removed.


And tis suggests that we can advance a conception of Swinging 60s that is firmly rooted in trends in the mid50s onwards – the consumer boom – that is not only an economic fact but a change in the state of mind. The relief at the gradual removal of rationing controls and the positive willingness to spend against the moral inveighances of many. Moreover, people wanted new modern things and were seduced by the exciting adverts of the new ITV and in the press. John Lord carpets at 39s/6- Delightful emporia such as Gammages in the high street ad the new supermarkets. 367 in 1960, 3000 by 1967, Sainsburys in Croydon being held to be the first in 1950. Convenience foods: - sliced bread’ instant coffee; boil-in-a bag foods and of course in Vesta Indian/ Chinese meals as a kit or even kits for trifle.


And there was new housing – the rise of new town suburbia of Crawley New town and the suburban ring around London in the Home counties. The intellectual critics hated these characterless new houses but it is clear they were godsend to former city dwellers who had inadequate homes in London. The London overspill on the new estates provided modern housing with inside toilets and even baths and central heating..and of curse the 11947 town and Country Planning act had set up the terms for new factories and the transport and housing provisions to go with them so as to enable a move out of the city with its pollution and smogs.


Seemingly paradoxically one might argue that SS was about embourgeoisement and even domesticisation and privatisation of the family.


Nobody coordinated all these changes – yes there were policies and legislation that shaped them but not designed them.


In other words the SS as I have characterised it so far is one that is about the rapid modernisation of ordinary peoples lives – of the emergence of a mass society pulling away from any anchorage in traditional class identities. And this was making life go with a swing at the level of the dynamics of an economy that had swung from war imposed privation to riches and forms of life unimagined since 1918 let alone at the point of 1945.


Use Marr on 50s and the sequence on the Mini as icon of a new feeling.


But of course there is another sense of the SS – of a time of new ideas for a new important population – that of the pop generation of the generation who endorsed new styles and fashion that marked out their radicalness – that was not about settling down and hanging–in -  in greater comfort, but was about hanging out and looking good.


The contrast here is that my earlier style is about comfort and improvement whereas the more conventional version of the SS is about challenge to the familiar. It is about a world of invented appearances a sort of miraculation of events such as the mods and the rocker; of the Beatles; Rolling Stones; of the night clubs and the new proles or as Aitken called them, the new meteors. (use the bit from Green)


And the very image of SS turns on London and the naming of London as SL in Time in 66.


But again this is a democratisation of culture that curiously stands against the world of the satire boom – who were largely insiders kicking against other establishment insiders. Explain. But nonetheless the naming of the Establishment in an article by Henry Fairlie in 1955 to describe the network or matrix of the opinion-makers and opinion-formers – the network of official and social relation that create, exercise and maintain power. (Link to US Wright Mills 1956 Power Elite)But at least the satire lot did legitiamete mocking of the establishment though there had been straws in the wind before this. In 1957 Lord Altrinchham in National and English Review had criticised the dowdyness and stuffiness of the monarchy – as removed isolated and of being rather priggish and out of touch. Muggeridge had hinted at this in 55 when he talked of Royal Soap Opera in the New Statesman. The backlash was public and loud.


But the hero-isation of the monarchy - their function as national icons was being replaced by the mediocracy – those who were in the media, could access the media, who the media wanted as their darlings, and who created the media.


and contrast with TW3


We had the image of flashy worlds via TV of the rich and famous of the glamorous Bardot, Sean Connery as James Bond; of Michael Caine and Terence ?, of the new photographer Terry Donovan and David Bailey taking snaps of Mick Jagger and so forth and of art that celebrates London with big swashes of colour e.g. Hockney.


Designs were coloured and either maxed – the big or were minimal the Robin Day design of the stacking chair. Blotches of colour rather than the subtler curvaceous romance of the psychedelic designs of the later 60s.