Empty early 1980s London

by Dave Hill

I moved to London in the autumn of 1979, with dung on my boots and a head full of dreams. Yesterday, @Knowledgepoint tweeted a home movie of the city billed as having been made by a visitor from Austria during that year. In fact, it looks to have been shot a little later. Someone on the comment thread has spotted an “x-reg” suffix vehicle number plate, and those didn’t start appearing until August 1981. And Educating Rita wasn’t performed anywhere in London (or anywhere else) before June 1980. But it’s still a great watch from the period.

The tweeter who brought the film to my attention and runs a site called Knowledge of London, accompanied it with a hallmark cabbie complaint that things were better on the city’s streets before congestion charging, road narrowing and the recent private hire boom. I’m not sure everyone would buy all of that and the fact that London’s population was approaching the bottom of its post-war slump to 6.6 million might have something to do with why the roads look so empty. Today, the city contains around 8.8 million people. Lovely bit of film though.

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