The Soho Summer Street Festival aims to support Soho businesses as lockdown eases.
No part of London is operating as usual right now, but that gulf between the pre-pandemic normal and what these places look like right now is starker nowhere than in Soho, where the once-bustling streets have fallen eerily quiet. What’s worse, part of Soho’s infinite charm – the throngs of people feasting, drinking, dancing, and shopping – is emerging as a major obstacle to its reopening, as social distancing becomes the buzzword of any easing of lockdown. That’s why a new campaign, dubbed the Soho Summer Street Festival, is hoping to temporarily pedestrianise streets in a bid to bring back Londoners and resurrect the area’s hospitality industry.
The initiative would see most of the major thoroughfares east of Wardour Street pedestrianised for the summer, as part of the summer-long festival. This would include the likes of Old Compton Street, Greek Street, Frith Street, and Dean Street, all places in which visitors frequently have to walk in the road due to crowded pavements. By pedestrianising these streets, the campaign – which has been put forward by Soho Estates – hopes to vastly increase the space available to restaurants, bars, and more, allowing people to drink, eat, and party whilst maintaining distance from others.
As the campaign website notes, “with Soho being a place of activity, entertainment, eating and drinking, we have been amongst the worst hit. With so many independent businesses in Soho, we are at risk of losing the culture that makes the area so special.” The plan has already been backed by local businesses including Ronnie Scott’s and Balans Soho Society, and celebrity backers include a wide range of names, from Stephen Fry to Chrissie Hynde, Damien Hirst to Bill Nighy, and Amanda Holden to former Manchester United keeper Edwin van der Sar.
Though the campaign’s desire to bringing back customers and revenue is laudable, they’ve not lost sight of the work that needs to go into pulling this off, and remain committed to working out the logistics of things like licencing laws (to allow people to drink on the street), deliveries, emergency service access, and what will happen if the rain comes. Whilst the finer details are worked out, they’re asking for public support, so if you’d like to see a pedestrianised Soho this summer, you can add your name to the campaign here and help make Soho the heart of London once more.
Also published on Medium.