IslingtonTribune

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Oxford Street ghosts are revisited

13 December, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary

Malcolm McLaren

THE little-known Ghosts of Oxford Street has Christmas cult status.

Co-written and directed by punk provocateur Malcolm McLaren, the low-budget musical was made in 1991 as a menacing attempt to reclaim the festive season and explore the sinister pre-retail history of a place where “scoundrels and rogues” once dwelt.

“Christmas was meant to be great, but it’s horrible,” says narrator McLaren as a pretentious panto villain. He flamboyantly weaves his way down an Oxford Street where the police cars are Ford Sierras, HMV has Enya posters in the window, and takings are unaffected by online sales.

“On Oxford Street, modern life had been reduced to the spectacle of the commodity,” he adds. McLaren recalls how, during his situationist student days, he set out to “smash the great deception” of Christmas by going into Selfridge’s dressed as Santa and giving its toys away to children.

The film’s historical figures with Oxford Street connections include “English opium eater” Thomas De Quincey, whose psychedelic stumbling is portrayed by EastEnder John “Nasty Nick” Altman, and Kirsty McColl, as Georgian proto-celebrity Kitty Fisher.

Tom Jones plays Gordon Selfridge, and a spectral Sinead O’Connor, as De Quincey’s Little Anne, steals the show with a poignant Silent Night. Meanwhile, the Happy Mondays are hanged at the Tyburn Tree. It’s not necessarily festive viewing for all the family.

Available on the Channel 4 website, Diary recommends reclaiming Christmas from Richard Curtis and watching The Ghosts of Oxford Street over the coming days.

In recent years, the C4 web controllers have switched access to the film on and off.

Now it looks like they’ve just forg­otten it’s there.

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