King's College London
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Coming to London

Rags

Image of a group of unconventionally dressed students, two wearing straw boater hats, one young man dressed as a female nurse bathing his feet and smiling broadly, next to him a student assisting near a sign saying, Phisohex phor pheet phree!Medical students' rag charity walk London to Brighton, 1970sRivalry between two of London's leading higher education institutions - King's and University College - spilled out onto the streets in the form of the student rag. The rag permitted students to reaffirm their group loyalties in a lively and colourful way while raising money for charity.

The great rags of the 1920s featured attempts by students of both colleges to capture their respective mascots, Reggie the Lion and Phineas the Highlander, and involved fights using flour, water, eggs and rotten vegetables in the Strand, Bloomsbury, Covent Garden Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Traffic was often brought to a standstill and dozens of police deployed to restore public order.

Such street battles captured the attention of the press and were one way in which King's entered into the public imagination of Londoners, with streets being closed, buses requisitioned, statues garlanded or tarred and feathered, and bystanders caught up in the mayhem.

No doubt many Londoners were less than amused with such antics and the College authorities brought the most disruptive behaviour to a close in the 1930s.

The rag has thrived since the Second World War, although its charitable and fundraising aspects have been emphasised. For example, Rag Week at King's in 1977 chose to support 'The Deaf Children's Support Fund' and in 1979 the 'National Listening Library'.

For more about student rags see our further exhibition Mayhem in the Metropolis.

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