A London Character: Stanley Green

Any Londoner who has ever worked or shopped in the West End may well remember the eccentric character, Stanley Green. He ran a one-man campaign against ‘Lust’, which he was convinced was caused by eating too much protein, and sitting for too long. He would walk around the busiest shopping streets in London carrying his placard, and trying to sell his information pamphlet for a few pence.

I bought one from him once, and waited until he was out of sight before placing it in a litter bin.

For 25 years, from 1968 until 1993, Green patrolled Oxford Street and the surrounding area with a placard recommending “protein wisdom”, a low-protein diet that he said would dampen the libido and make people kinder. His 14-page self-published pamphlet, Eight Passion Proteins with Care went through 84 editions and sold 87,000 copies over 20 years.

Green’s “campaigning for the suppression of desire”, as one writer described it, was not always popular, but Londoners developed an affection for him. The Sunday Times interviewed him in 1985, and the fashion house Red or Dead used his “less passion from less protein” slogan in one of its collections. When he died aged 78, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Times all published obituaries, and the Museum of London acquired his pamphlets and placards. In 2006 his biography was included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Green was born in Harringay, north London, the youngest of four boys to May Green and her husband, Richard Green, a clerk for a bottle stopper manufacturer. After attending Wood Green County School, a mixed grammar school, Green joined the Royal Navy in 1938. According to Philip Carter in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Green was shocked while in the Navy by the obsession with sex. “I was astonished when things were said quite openly—what a husband would say to his wife when home on leave,” he told the Sunday Times “A Life in the Day” column in 1985. “I’ve always been a moral sort of person.”

After leaving the Navy in September 1945, Green worked for the Fine Art Society. In March 1946, Carter writes, he failed the entrance exam for the University of London, then worked for Selfridges and the civil service, and as a storeman for Ealing Borough Council. On two occasions he had lost jobs, he said, because he had refused to be dishonest. In 1962 he held a job with the Post Office, then worked as a self-employed gardener until 1968 when he began his anti-protein campaign. He lived with his parents until they died, his father in 1966 and his mother the following year, after which he was given a council flat in Haydock Green, Northolt, West London.

Years after his death Green was still remembered by writers and bloggers. In 2006 he was given an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, while the artist Alun Rowlands’ documentary fiction, 3 Communiqués (2007), portrayed him as “trawling the city campaigning for the suppression of desire through diet”. In 2013 Martin Gordon included a track about him on his album Include Me Out. He was also the subject of a biographical song Stanley Green on The Melancholy Thug’s 2018 album A Trip to the Sewers of Paris. Peter Watts wrote in Londonist in 2016 that Green was for a time “the most famous non-famous person in London, a figure recognised by millions even if few ever actually spoke to him.

Oxford Circus has never felt quite the same without him