Playland – a shattering memoir

Playland by Anthony DalyI do some work as a book editor. This month has seen the publication of a memoir I helped to prepare that was one of the most shocking and disturbing I have ever read.

Playland: Secrets of a Forgotten Scandal is by Anthony Daly. It recounts how as a young man in Ulster of the 1970s he fled the Troubles and came to London.

A book lover, he got a job in Foyles. Then his story took a dark turn.

He was swindled out of his money and found himself in Playland, a notorious games arcade on Piccadilly Circus. Here he was befriended by two men, one posh, one not.

Playland exposes the seedy side of the 1970s

They were charming and concerned about him. Accepting their offer of a meal and a loan, he joins them. However, he is drugged and raped, and then blackmailed into becoming a male prostitute.

He is beaten, abused and forced to gratify high-ranking politicians at sordid parties. It is a brutal and terrifying existence. Daly drowns out the trauma of it by taking all the drugs and drink he can get.

Despite the squalor and cruelty he depicts, the author writes tenderly and evocatively about the period and the lads he befriended on the Dilly. In particular, his friendship with the reckless Damie is painfully moving.

A brave account by Anthony Daly

However, it is also a shattering exposé of the period and how well-organised paedophile networks operate. From the old Etonian who pimped Daly and others out to privileged predators, to the near impunity of the vile abusers, the book will make most readers gasp.

For an extract, see this piece in the Mirror. Be warned: it is strong stuff.

There is a tendency among some politicians and newspapers to doubt some of these accounts because one or two people have been discredited for claiming they were abused.

Jimmy Savile, Barry Bennell and the rest

However, very few meaningful sentences were ever served by those running the depraved sex trade around Playland at the time. The privileged corrupters got away with it. That’s why it is brave and vital that people like Anthony Daly, who has given an account of his nightmare to the Metropolitan Police, finally tell their stories.

If nobody ever courageously spoke out in such circumstances, we would never have heard the truth about Jimmy Savile, Barry Bennell and many others.

As Daly says in the book, for him to forget the young people he encountered – those who survived and those who didn’t – would be a ‘kind of mental murder’. I think he’s right.

Playland: Secrets of a Forgotten Scandal, published by Mirror Books

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