Keep Soho sexy! Stephen Fry and Gemma Arterton join Save Soho campaign to preserve 'raffish' neighbourhood from redevelopment

  • The once seedy district is quickly fading as luxury developments move in
  • Madame Jojo's will be demolished, 12 Bar Club has been forced to relocate
  • In response, musician Tim Arnold has founded the 'Save Soho' campaign  
  • Celebrities like Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch have lent support 

London's once seedy Soho district is now nearly a faint memory as luxury apartments and developments have begun to take over the neighbourhood.

Gone are the days of sex shops, cabaret bars and a history of counterculture, as skyrocketing rent continues to soar.

But one organisation is aiming to save Soho's 'gritty' ambiance and celebrities including Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch have even signed up to the campaign. 

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London's once seedy Soho neighbourhood is now nearly a faint memory. Pictured: Walker's Court

London's once seedy Soho neighbourhood is now nearly a faint memory. Pictured: Walker's Court

Actress Gemma Arterton and comedian Eddie Izzard have also joined the call to keep Soho inclusive, along with talk show host Paul O'Grady and comedian Rob Brydon.

While once a hub for musicians, actors, the gay community, night owls and just about anyone else, many fear that Soho will soon be regenerated beyond recognition and so this campaign hopes to declare the entire region a 'heritage zone.'

Actor Stephen Fry, who has joined the 'Save Soho' campaign, which was founded by Tim Arnold, has even gone so far as to declare that he does not want the scruffy London district to end up looking like 'Singapore Airport'.

Former Bond Girl Gemma Arterton (left) and comedian Rob Brydon (right) have lent their support to the campaign to protect Soho's unique ambience
Former Bond Girl Gemma Arterton (left) and comedian Rob Brydon (right) have lent their support to the campaign to protect Soho's unique ambience

Former Bond Girl Gemma Arterton (left) and comedian Rob Brydon (right) have lent their support to the campaign to protect Soho's unique ambience

And with a rich cultural and social history - cholera long ago ravaged the region, Karl Marx began his movement here, Amy Winehouse got her start in local nightclub Jazz After Dark, and The Who were discovered in the area - such concern is warranted.

'Soho has always changed, but the way it changed is by adding layer to layer,' Tim told Stuff.co.nz.

'What happens at the moment is that some of these layers are ripped away to replace them with something new.'

In response, musician Tim Arnold has founded the 'Save Soho' campaign to halt rampant development

In response, musician Tim Arnold has founded the 'Save Soho' campaign to halt rampant development

Actor Stephen Fry has been very outspoken in his support of the 'Save Soho' campaign.
Benedict Cumberbatch likewise supports the movement to keep the district rich in cultural history.

Other big name celebrities have also taken up the cause, such as Stephen Fry (left) and Benedict Cumberbatch (right)

Today, more music venues and sex clubs have closed than can be counted and with it, Soho's seedy, bohemian soul is slipping away.

Legendary performance club, Madame Jojo's, has been approved for demolition and one of the best live music venues, the 12 Bar Club, where the likes of Adele and Jeff Buckley played early shows, is likewise being forced to relocate. 

There is only one adult bookshop left on the former 'alleyway of sexual half-promises,' also known as Walkers Court, and Denmark Street, the legendary music hub, is slowly being taken over by a newly-modernised Tottenham Court Road tube station.

In a video recorded to raise awareness of the campaign, Stephen Fry says: 'London simply wouldn't be London without Soho.'

With iconic establishments like Madame Jojo's nightclub closing, the district is losing its gritty culture

With iconic establishments like Madame Jojo's nightclub closing, the district is losing its gritty culture

He describes how the area is a 'unique blend of raffishness with a hint of wickedness' and adds: 'Its bohemian character, its identity as the gay and transgender centre of London, its association with live performance and late-night eccentricity and free expression - all these are a gift beyond price that Soho gives London and which gives London extra value.

The well-respected comedian signs off saying: 'This rush to gentrify to maximise profits and London would be the loser so please save Soho.' 

The 12 Bar Club, where Adele and Jeff Buckley performed early gigs, is also being forced to relocate

The 12 Bar Club, where Adele and Jeff Buckley performed early gigs, is also being forced to relocate

Skyrocketing rents, along with the development of a new tube station has driven out local businesses

Skyrocketing rents, along with the development of a new tube station has driven out local businesses

Westminster Council estimates that over 200,000 square metres of small commercial space has closed

Westminster Council estimates that over 200,000 square metres of small commercial space has closed


In Arnold's quest to save Soho, his primary adversary is Soho Estates, which has been the primary developer behind recent neighbourhood 'improvements.'

The company, however, maintains that each development still 'recognises the rich and creativy history' of the district.

Westminster Council, however, estimates that nearly 200,000 square metres of commercial space - and many small businesses - have been lost recently.

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