The Swinging Sixties was a youth-driven cultural revolution that took place in the United Kingdom during the mid-to-late 1960s, emphasising modernity and fun-loving hedonism, with Swinging London as its centre. It saw a flourishing in art, music and fashion, and was symbolised by the city’s “pop and fashion exports”. Among its key elements were the Beatles, as leaders of the British Invasion of musical acts; Mary Quant’s miniskirt; popular fashion models such as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton; the mod subculture; the iconic status of popular shopping areas such as London’s King’s Road, Kensington and Carnaby Street; the political activism of the anti-nuclear movement; and sexual liberation.
Music was a big part of the scene, with “the London sound” including the Who, the Kinks, the Small Faces and the Rolling Stones, bands that were the mainstay of pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline, Wonderful Radio London and Swinging Radio England. Swinging London also reached British cinema, which, according to the British Film Institute, “saw a surge in formal experimentation, freedom of expression, colour, and comedy”. During this period, “creative types of all kinds gravitated to the capital, from artists and writers to magazine publishers, photographers, advertisers, film-makers and product designers”.
During the 1960s, London underwent a “metamorphosis from a gloomy, grimy post-war capital into a bright, shining epicentre of style”. The phenomenon was caused by the large number of young people in the city (due to the baby boom of the 1950s) and the postwar economic boom. Following the abolition of the national service for men in 1960, these young people enjoyed greater freedom and fewer responsibilities than their parents’ generation, and “[fanned] changes to social and sexual politics”.
Shaping the popular consciousness of aspirational Britain in the 1960s, it was a West End-centred phenomenon that happened among young, middle class people, and was considered “simply a diversion” by some of them. The swinging scene also served as a consumerist counterpart to the countercultural British underground of the same period. Simon Rycroft writes: “Whilst it is important to acknowledge the exclusivity and the dissenting voices, it does not lessen the importance of Swinging London as a powerful moment of image making with very real material effect.” “Swinging” remains the adjective most frequently applied to the 1960s as a decade (similar to the “Roaring” Twenties). (Wikipedia)