This is a snippet about that remarkable institution, the Bush House Club, the subterranean bar which was a focus of life in the BBC World Service back in the day when we were based in The Strand. But first, the context ...
I am working on an oral history of the British New Left and for that I recently spoke on Zoom to Salima Hashmi, one of Pakistan's best regarded artists and academics and a prominent progressive public intellectual. She spent much of the 1960s in the UK - first studying at an art college in Bath and later teaching while her husband was enrolled at the LSE. Her mother, Alys Faiz, was an English leftist; her father, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, was a widely revered Urdu poet and a progressive journalist.
During my conversation with Salima, she mentioned that during the Sixties she briefly worked at Bush House and that her father loved the Bush Club. With her permission, I'm posting here an extract from what she told me.
'[Faiz's] favourite haunt [when in London] was the BBC Club. So he’d be found at the BBC Club in the evenings, inevitably –
'Was that Bush House?
'Yes, that was Bush House. I used to do a programme there for – the Urdu programme for children, which was called Shaheen Club. I used to do that weekly – or perhaps it was fortnightly. I think weekly. And I started the Shaheen Club. They decided that I should have a shaheen, a falcon, on my hand. BBC took me off to this farm somewhere in Dorset, someone who used to rear falcons, and I had this photograph taken of a falcon sitting on my hand. Also for a while, I did a disco music programme also – pop music, also in Urdu, which the BBC thought was a good idea so I did that for a bit.
'But certainly Bush House was very much the haunt of a large number of leftists or fellow travellers who would congregate there every evening, many of them after they finished their programmes and they used to move downstairs. So - you met all kinds of people, not just Pakistanis but people from all over the world really from the various programmes who used to come there, and quite a few Indians who knew my father and used to have long discussions there.'
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