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Hogarth’s Gin Lane and the spirit of publicity

'International Gin and Tonic Day' to take place in bars across St Giles Parish - where horror-stricken artist was inspired to portray social ills in 1751

19 October, 2018

William Hogarth’s Gin Lane

FINGS really ain’t wot they used to be, are they?

A fortnight ago Diary was glorying in the dis­covery that the amazing William Hogarth series, A Rake’s Progress, was on permanent display on the walls of the excellent Sir John Soane’s museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

His other work of comparable fame is, of course, Gin Lane.

Created in 1751 in support of the Gin Act – a law that sought to counter the social ill of necking gallons of the spirit – Hogarth’s image of a street of gin drinkers was based on life in the parish of St Giles.

So it was with a little bit of mirth that Diary opened a press release from a PR firm asking for a plug for “International Gin and Tonic Day” – surely one of those oddities of modern marketing – and noted where this celebration is taking place.

Yes it is in bars across St Giles Parish, nonetheless focusing on the Seven Dials area, the original home to London gin.

Built by Thomas Neale (he of Neal Street) in the 1690s, the seven arms coming off the Dials each housed a pub: and below ground their cellars were all inter-connected, giving landlords, gangsters, and the area’s notorious working women handy escape routes should people be searching for them under circumstances they didn’t want to be found.

Nowadays the supping of gin is far more upmarket than when Hogarth was drawn, horror stricken, to commit it to paper.

Those taking part include Brasserie Max in Monmouth Street, the Balans Soho Society, restaurant Tredwells and in Neal’s Yard.

Diary, of course, told the PR firm we’d happily cover such an occasion if a case of gin found its way to our office, a request yet to be fulfilled.

But we live in hope…

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