SEX workers joined Soho’s artisan community in a day of protest against police brothel raids as they took to the streets to film a music video for a protest singer with deep roots in the community.
Following the recent spate of raids on the area’s brothels, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) were invited along to make their voices heard on Sunday as the group danced their way down to Piccadilly with banners, trumpets, and a ventriloquist’s dummy named Fillis Meadowsweet.
It was all part of a video shoot for a new song by Tim Arnold – also known as “The Soho Hobo” – called The Piccadilly Trot, which he hopes will be “London’s answer to Gangnam style”.
Mr Arnold, 38 said: “I created a platform for everyone who wants to express something in Soho. Social tolerance and sexual freedom have always been part of Soho’s history and part of its global appeal. My grandfather worked for Paul Raymond as a comedian in the 1950s and my mother was a Windmill Girl, so Soho is in my blood.”
The musician invited a diverse mix of characters from the community to take part, including West End star Steve Furst who played Mr Wormwood in Matilda the musical, burlesque dancer Giddy Heights and Ray Gelato, a saxophone player who performs at Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar.
The singer, who lives in Frith Street, added that he had a lot of respect for the authorities, including Westminster Council and the police, and that it was all about communication between the different parties.
Two prostitutes recently took the Metropolitan Police Service to court, to appeal a decision to close a walk-up flat in Lisle Street that they used to work in.
But Isleworth Crown Court dismissed the appeal after hearing evidence that suggested the premises were run by an unknown individual, who was committing an offence by “controlling prostitution for gain”.
The two women insisted that they were working at the flat of their own free will as they felt it was a safe place. There has been a strong backlash from the sex workers’ community following the decision.
ECP spokeswoman Laura Watson said: “We were really glad to be invited to take part in the shoot as it was a great chance to protest the eviction of the sex workers in Soho and the redevelopment of the area. It was fantastic. Since the raids we have had a lot of support from the residents and other local people who work in Soho that are not in the sex industry. We are really glad to be a part of it and we hope it will get out to the musicians, artists and other Soho people.
The women waved placards with slogans including: “Safety for sex workers”, “Keep Soho sexy” and “No bad women just bad laws” and gave out campaign leaflets to passers-by.
Ms Watson branded the flat closures a “disaster”. She said: “Some women are talking about working on the street where it is 10 times more dangerous to work, or working alone which is also less safe.
“Soho is known as the safer area to work because of the support from the community and because it is more transparent than other parts of the country. That’s why we are defending it.
The Piccadilly Trot is a cover of a century-old classic by Marie Lloyd, which was popular in the music halls of the past.