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Bishopsgate Institute Podcast: The Partisan Coffee House: Cultural Politics and the Early New Left
Mike Berlin, history lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, discusses The Partisan Coffee House. The brainchild of Raphael Samuel, a young radical historian, the Partisan Coffee House was the spiritual home of the New Left. With a menu that included Borscht, Viennese coffee and 'Whitechapel cheesecake', the Partisan Coffee House was an attempt to recreate the culture of a left wing Mitteleuropa café in the centre of trendy Soho. It was known as 'London's first anti-espresso bar'. Closely linked with the radical journal, Universities and Left Review, the intellectual life of the Partisan embraced all the burning political and cultural issues of the day: from Khrushev's secret speech, the Hungarian Uprising and the Suez Invasion to the foundation of CND. In its short existence the Partisan staged debates, film screenings, art exhibitions and music nights which drew in some of the leading intellectuals and artists of the late 1950s including John Berger, Doris Lessing, Lindsey Anderson, and Karel Reisz. This talk, based on a series of interviews with surviving participants, recounts the fascinating story of this short lived but highly influential cultural institution. Mike Berlin teaches history at Birkbeck College, University of London. His specialism is the social history of London. This talk took place at Bishopsgate Institute on 11 June 2009.