National Trust launches new tourist guide to Soho's red light district
PUBLISHED June 25, 2012
The free device, which can be downloaded on a mobile phone, enables tourists to wander the London backstreets listening to outrageous behaviour made famous over the past 60 years.
The "Soho Stories" uses GPS technology to guide visitors through the capital's red light district as they hear colourful stories of sex, violence and wild partying.
The organisation charged with protecting Britain's historic sites, houses and gardens, has created the "no-holes-barred" audio guide in a bid to shed its conservative image and attract younger members.
Officials said on Monday that the stories involving "famous and not so famous Bohemians" provide extraordinary detail on the capital's "long love affair with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll".
For the first time in the Trust's 117-year history, the "X-rated" tours come complete with warnings about bad language and "references to sex and violence".
It concentrates on events since the 1940s including the development of music, the area's "many outrageous personalities", social movements, feminism and homosexual liberation as well as vice and crime.
Listeners, who will be restricted to those aged over 17, will be able to listen to drunken tales from the Groucho Club while another details how gangster "Mad" Frankie Fraser operated his protection rackets.
Other more colourful stories include those of Francis Bacon, the homosexual artist, being whipped and a former vice-squad officer pointing out a phonebox that was a front for a crack den.
The "tour" of London's red-light district, in the heart of central London, is delivered to listeners through headphones attached to their mobile phone.
Satellite technology can pinpoint exactly where a tourist is and as such tailors a story to suit the location. They are read by Barry Cryer, the veteran Soho entertainer.
Users can also choose their own route and wander around the area, receiving "site-specific" memories, history and anecdotes about specific places.
Ivo Dawnay, the London director of the Trust who is married to Rachel Johnson, the sister of mayor of London Boris Johnson, defended the new initiative.
"British rock-and-roll, feminism and gay liberation were all born in Soho, and this new technology allows us to deliver those stories in a vivid way," he said.
"Some of the language is a little close to the bone and it may not suit all members, but we have a strong health warning on the packaging."
He said that with eight properties in the capital, including two "country homes" at Osterley, west London and Ham, south-west London, the Trust had found it difficult to engage with the under-forties in London and other big cities.
If successful, Mr Dawnay hoped that versions would be developed for different parts of London and other cities.