The George Bernard Shaw memorial toilet

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ONE of the first things in Camden Council’s proposed overhaul of public toilets is to find a private contractor to run the underground loos outside Camden Town tube station. They will become pay-per-use services. How they can turn those subterranean toilets into a charged service will be interesting; on the face of it it’s difficult to see how barriers could work down there, and a toilet attendant in that part of Camden might want a little extra danger money. There’s unlikely to be a tray of lollipops on the way out.

In making people pay for this particular set of loos, the council risks turning George Bernard Shaw over in his grave. The Pygmalion playwright (and St Pancras councillor) fought for those urinals when they were first installed at the bottom of Parkway, around 1900. There had been no plans to create a set for the ladies, because ladies don’t wee.

The vestryfolk of the day were eventually badgered into being less bigoted by Shaw and co – but they then insisted that the women would have to pay spend a penny for each visit… because they always used the ‘water closet’.

A little how Labour councillor Julian Fulbrook was warning last week that men ‘down on their luck’ in Holborn would struggle to pay any charge, however small, at the Lincoln’s Inn Field loo in the future, Shaw argued that this fee for women to use the toilet was “an absolutely prohibitive charge for a poor woman”.

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