The Partisan Coffee House

I was alerted to the existence of an exhibition about the Partisan Coffee House by an article in the Guardian.   It was set up in October 1958 by Raphael Samuel – or Ralph Samuel as he then seems to have been known – to serve espressos to young leftists, including John Berger, Doris Lessing, Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson and Stuart Hall and an unexpected number of young women, all dressed up in regulation duffle coats, who met to listen to talks by Michael Tippett and Stephen Spender, discuss jazz and ban-the-bomb.   They were photographed by Roger Mayne and Raphael Samuel obviouly kept an archive of fringe publications and ephemera:-


7 thoughts on “The Partisan Coffee House

  1. There was also a Partisan in Victoria Street, Edinburgh run by Elizabeth Girling and Frances Gordon and patronised by Freda White, of whom we have spoken in this place, when she was in the country. They were a formidable trio living yards from each other, and me, on Drummond Place Edinburgh. Elizabeth and her husband, Frank Girling, met while engaged in the civil war in Spain and both continued their work almost to their deaths, though much reduced by illness. Frank, on retiral from academic work was to be found in the poorest parts of Leith handing out leaflets. Their beautiful ramshackle five storey House was split to allow their daughter to occupy the basement while the rest was sold for several millions to other sorts of people.

  2. Joan says:

    I can’t imagine I’m the only person who returned from this exhibition wanting to cook my way through Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. It was good to see on the dedicated twitter feed for the exhibition (@PartisanCafe) that Claudia Roden was at the exhibition opening and is pictured with the photo of her younger self at the Partisan Cafe in 1958.

  3. I wish I could make it to London for the exhibition. I met with Claudia Roden once about a project which did not come off. She was a pleasure to talk to.
    I think the two Partisans must have been connected if only in name and intent . But the left intelligentsia of the time was quite homogeneous and the network of links between Edinburgh and London – and Cambridge – strong and supportive.

  4. Jan Marsh says:

    As one of the unexpectedly large number of young women [some] in duffle coats who unexpectedly saw myself pictured in Roger Mayne’s photos of the Partisan, i can explain that these are views of the London Schools Left Club, a junior version of NLR, which met upstairs – and indeed heard many eminent figures speak. it looks to me as if as a photographer Mayne was more interested in the young women than the old smokers in the Partisan itself – hence a whole sequence of shots….

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