The Soho Walk

Starting at Soho Square — Photo: Jackie Hopfinger

We did our first prototype walk with six people on a hot Sunday afternoon in July. For a few months now we’ve been collecting stories, taking photographs and figuring out ways of sharing these stories with others.

The stories of music in Soho connect people, places and politics. Since the 17th century Soho has offered marginalised people islands of liberty and liberation to exist and be heard. And often there were tunes in what was heard. The aim of the walk was to draw connections between history, geography, urban development, politics and culture — music was to be a window through which to view and appreciate London’s history.

Where Rimbauld and Verlaine drank absinthe — Photo: Jackie Hopfinger

The walk arises from the project that we have been doing for a few months now — exploring stories that account for why this one square mile of central London has such a unique and significant role in the history of popular music. We record these through writing and photography, but the walk allows richer and more interactive ways of sharing the stories.

We made a map that details 46 locations across Soho. Along with the map is a Spotify/Apple Music playlist of songs for each of the locations, so that participants could hear the music as we shared the stories in each specific location. The music ranges from a minuet by Ignatius Sancho from the 1760s, through Yiddisher Jazz from the 1920s, to Britfunk, Grime and Lovers Rock. There are familiar songs with surprising backstories and some far less well known music that play a significant part in Soho’s musical history. Both the walk and the playlist aim to be sources of discovery.

We also encourage people to respond to these stories by sharing photographs they take on the walk — so collectively we create a gallery of photos inspired by the music of Soho, using the hashtag #sohowows. What ghosts do you see in the architecture? How do you respond to the stories and the music we share with you? How can you capture the spirit of a song through a photograph?

Denmark Street — Photograph: Jackie Hopfinger

We learned a lot from doing our first walk. We said at the start it would take no longer than 2 hours — and we only over-ran by ten minutes. But we covered less than half the locations! So in future we will offer the full walk in two 2-hour parts — plus a shorter Greatest Hits walk. We didn’t ask people to pay for taking part, but we invited participants to donate what they thought it was worth to Sarah Drummond’s film project.

Later this year we will offer the walk again. Message us if you’d like to be kept informed on dates.

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