As part of 'London: Another Country ?' on Radio 4, five short features in which the voices of the poor of Victorian London throw into sharp relief the underprivileged of today's London. The present-day is heard through interviews, the Victorian stories are voiced by actors from the verbatim transcripts made in the 1850s by the pioneer of London oral history, Henry Mayhew, author of "London Labour and the London Poor".
It is impossible to read Mayhew without being struck by how little has changed. The rough sleepers of Mayhew's West End are there today too, there are always girls forced to walk the streets under-age, the market stall-holders still flaunt their stock, hen parties look for "grotesque" dancing to enjoy as the Victorians did the "penny gaff" and mudlarks go on working the shore of the Thames.
In Part 1 we hear those living rough then and now, about the hardship and risks of living on the streets of London.
Each programme highlights a particular sector of London life, now and then:
Programme 1: Rough sleepers.
Programme 2: Street sellers and costers.
Programme 3: Sex workers.
Programme 4: Street cleaners and scavengers.
Programme 5: Entertainers and revellers.
The Mayhew extracts are abridged by Penny Gold whose Afternoon Play "A Chaos of Wealth and Want", examines an incident in the life of Mayhew as he was compiling the interviews for his history, is being broadcast on Radio 4 this week.
Cast for the week
Henry Mayhew .....Sam Dale
With Jude Akuwudike, Tony Bell, Christine Kavanagh, Alison Pettit, David Seddon, Michael Shelford, Lloyd Thomas
Abridged by Penny Gold
Producers: Jeremy Mortimer and Rebecca Stratford.