A legendary date: on 31 March 1958, our very first flight took off, from Vienna to London. In the late 1950s, the British capital was in the process of changing from a grey post-war metropolis into Europe’s cultural capital.
London in 1958 was a very different place to today, still about red double-decker buses, tired house fronts and women in Victorian petticoats. Queen Elizabeth II had opened London’s redeveloped Gatwick Airport, amidst great pomp and circumstance, just two years beforehand, from where passengers could travel comfortably by train directly into the city – hard to believe at the time! In the Europe of the 1950s, still in the throes of reconstruction even if the bombs were no longer falling, this was a novelty. British Pathé News accompanies us on a journey through London, to all the tourist attractions that inspired visitors back then just as they do to this day, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and more… But don’t take our word for it – check it out for yourself!
The route to becoming a multicultural metropolis
Back in 1958, most Londoners were still relatively poor. The Suez Crisis was over, as was rationing. The very first migrants from Commonwealth states had started to come to the ‘Mother City’, while the seeds of the Troubles were being planted in Northern Ireland. It was still perfectly normal to see handwritten signs proclaiming ‘No Blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ in the windows of flats for rent – hard to believe in a metropolis now so proud of its multicultural identity.
Celebrate life through music!
London was dominated by a growing mood of renewal and optimism in the ‘50s. Happy just to have survived the war, Londoners were now determined to celebrate life. At the weekend, young people started flooding into new dance clubs like the Mecca and the Marquee. The up-and-coming jazz scene transformed the huge city from mere metropolis into Swinging London. And with the Empire dead and the war over, London suddenly discovered that if there was one new role it could play, it was defining youth culture, fashion and above all pop music. Within a few years, stars like The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones made London the City of Cool, and Chelsea and Soho’s smoke-filled clubs became the epicentre of the music world.
Nowadays, even if it’s no longer the ’60s, London’s still Swinging, thanks very much. On Easter Saturday in 2018, the retro flight to London will be taking off punctually to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the original. We’ll be reporting on the occasion live on Instagram, and later in detail on the blog.
Like the idea of visiting London? If so, then our reading tip is just the thing for you: 10 things not to miss when in London.
And if you want to plan your next trip to London straight away, then just click here: