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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

3 - Licensing at the Front Line

from Part II - The Heyday of Christian Vigilance 1945–1965


The licensing operation of London County Council was the largest in Britain. Its Public Control Department was a vast licensing bureaucracy that worked with both efficiency and frequent legal recourse to enforce the letter of the law on sexual culture. The evidence shows how closely allied it was to the Public Morality Council, each organisation sharing information on both the current interpretation of the law and on incidents spotted on stage, screen or billboard. London faced cultural changes, especially in relation to 1950s’ revue bars, skiffle music and jukeboxes. But the chapter then goes on to compare London to Blackpool, where a distinctive sexual culture peaked between the 1930s and 1960s in which there was widespread exposure amongst holidaymakers to both sexual and semi-criminal ‘booth’ culture on the foreshore. The chapter argues that the influence of Soho pales beside Blackpool and its 7 million annual visitors, including large numbers from London. Moreover, it shows how licensing control was highly effective in London, but woefully lax in Blackpool, making the latter the location where widespread semi-nudity was first rehearsed in British culture.

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