The Partisan Coffee House: Radical Soho and the New Left

24 Jun-25 Sep 2022


The Partisan Coffee House returns to Soho. Founded in 1958 by radical historian Raphael Samuel, cultural theorist Stuart Hall and others, The Partisan was located at the centre of Soho’s coffee bar scene. Promoting itself as an ‘anti-espresso bar’, the Partisan was an earnest departure from the tawdry commercialism of the coffee bars, amidst the burgeoning youth culture of Soho’s streets.

This exhibition documents and celebrates the fascinating, yet little-known moment in post-war British political and cultural history. It brings together a series of photographs by renowned documentary photographer Roger Mayne, with materials drawn from the work of renowned letterpress printer Desmond Jeffery, graphic artist Germano Facetti, and the archive of Raphael Samuel. Being the spiritual home of the British New Left, the Partisan was closely linked with the radical journal Universities and Left Review (later New Left Review), the Partisan embraced the burning political and cultural issues of the day, from the Aldermaston anti-nuclear marches to the politics of the novel.

In its short existence, it staged debates, film screenings, art exhibitions, skiffle and folk music nights which drew in leading writers, artists and intellectuals including Doris Lessing, Raymond Williams, John Berger, Eric Hobsbawm, Karel Reisz and Lindsey Anderson.

Book now

Selected works

Back to top