Swinging London is a catchall term applied to a variety of dynamic cultural trends in the United Kingdom (centred in London) in the second half of the 1960s.

It was a youth-oriented phenomenon that emphasized the new and modern. It was a period of optimism and hedonism, and can be described as a cultural revolution. One of the catalysts was the recovery of the British economy after the post-World War II period of austerity and rationing which lasted through much of the 1950s. Journalist Christopher Booker, one of the founders of the satirical magazine, Private Eye, recalled the "bewitching" character of the swinging sixties: "there seemed to be no one standing outside the bubble, and observing just how odd and shallow and egocentric and even rather horrible it was"[1].

"Swinging London" was defined by Time magazine in its issue of April 15, 1966 and celebrated in the name of the pirate radio station Swinging Radio England that began transmissions shortly after the publication appeared. However, the term "swinging" (in the sense of hip or fashionable) had been used since the early 1960s, including by Norman Vaughan in his "swinging/dodgy" patter on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. In 1965, Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue magazine, declared that "London is the most swinging city in the world at the moment." [2] Later that year, the American singer Roger Miller had a hit record with England Swings, which presented a stereotypical picture of England, with lyrics such as "Bobbies on bicycles, two by two."


Already heralded by Colin MacInnes' 1959 novel Absolute Beginners, the period of Swinging London was underway by the mid 1960s, and included music by Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other artists from what was known in North America as the British Invasion. This music was heard in the United Kingdom over pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, Wonderful Radio London and Swinging Radio England.


During the time of Swinging London, fashion and photography were featured in Queen magazine, which drew attention to the ideas of Mary Quant. The fashion model Twiggy was another icon of Swinging London, and may have been the world's first supermodel. Twiggy has sometimes been called the "the Queen of mod," a label she shared with others, such as Cathy McGowan (who hosted the television rock show, Ready Steady Go! from 1964 to 1966).[citation needed] Mod-related fashions such as the miniskirt stimulated the rise of fashionable shopping areas such as Carnaby Street and the Kings Road, Chelsea. The fashion of the day was a symbol of youth culture.



James Bond: poster for Casino Royale, 1967

The 1966 film Blowup, by Michelangelo Antonioni, both celebrates and mocks the Swinging London period. Other films about Swinging London included The Knack...and How to Get It (1965), Alfie (1966), Georgy Girl (1966), Up the Junction (1967) and Smashing Time (1967). The character James Bond was seen in many movies, including the comedy version of Casino Royale (1967). The Swinging London period has been parodied in the 1990s Austin Powers films.


One television series that reflected the spirit of Swinging London was The Avengers. The BBC Television show Take Three Girls (1969) is noted for Liza Goddard's first starring role, an evocative folk-rock theme song ("Light Flight" by Pentangle), and for many scenes in which the heroines were shown dressing or undressing. In an episode of BBC's Adam Adamant Lives!, Adamant (Gerald Harper), an Edwardian adventurer who had been suspended in time since 1902, was told firmly, "This is London, nineteen sixty-six — the swinging city."[3] An episode of the detective series Man in a Suitcase opened with the announcement: "This is London... Swinging London".


The British flag, the Union Jack, became a potent symbol, assisted by events such as England's home victory in the 1966 World Cup. The Mini-Cooper car (launched in 1959) was used by a fleet of mini-cab taxis highlighted by advertising that covered their paintwork.



  1. Christopher Booker (1980) The Seventies
  2. Quoted by John Crosby, Weekend Telegraph, 16 April 1965
  3. Episode, Beauty is an Ugly Word (1966)

See also