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A bedsit, also known as a bed-sitting room, is a form of rented accommodation common in some parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland which consists of a single room per occupant with all occupants sharing a bathroom. Bedsits are included in a legal category of dwellings referred to as houses in multiple occupation (HMO).
Bedsits arose from the subdivision of larger dwellings into low-cost accommodation at low conversion cost. In the UK a growing desire for personal independence after World War II led to a reduced demand for traditional boarding houses with communal dining. Bedsits are often occupied by young single people, students, those unable to purchase their own properties, or those whose occupancy, for one reason or another, is of a transitory nature; the cost is typically lower than for other types of property. Someone living and working in different areas may rent a bedsit at low cost to reduce daily travel.
The American equivalents to a bedsit are single room occupancy (SRO) and rooming house. By comparison, a studio apartment (known as a studio flat in the United Kingdom) is a one-room apartment with a small adjoining kitchen and its own toilet or bathroom with toilet.
A bedsit can also be compared to a Soviet communal apartment, in which a common kitchen, bathroom, toilet, and telephone are shared by several families, each of which lives in a single room opening up onto a common hallway.
References in popular culture
Bedsits are often associated with poor people, and are mentioned in this way in "Late Lament" by The Moody Blues: "bedsitter people look back and lament/another day's useless energy spent". Justin Hayward, the "Nights In White Satin" song's composer and singer for The Moodies, wrote this in his own bed-sit at the age of 19. Scottish folk-rock singer Al Stewart's premiere album is titled Bedsitter Images. In "I Fought in a War" by Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian, mention is made of the "bedsit infamy of the decade gone before." The subject is also referenced for a similar purpose in "Legend in My Living Room" by Annie Lennox ["...Bright lights and trains and bedsit stains"] as well as the Soft Cell song "Bedsitter", about club life. David Bowie in "Song for Bob Dylan" from Hunky Dory (1971) sings: "You gave your heart to every bedsit room".
Harold Pinter's play The Room (1957) is a classic "kitchen sink" drama evoking the squalor and social depression of the bedsitting room culture of the time. British comedian Tony Hancock was the sole person in "The Bedsitter" (Hancock 1961) by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson for the BBC, a classic depiction of the boredom of bedsit existence. The Bed-Sitting Room (1963) is a satirical play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus about the aftermath of World War III, later made into a film released in 1969. In it, one of the characters, Lord Fortnum, mutates into the aforementioned humble dwelling after expressing fear of this surrealist eventuality. The popular 1970s British sitcom Rising Damp was set in a bedsit accommodation, with the landlord Rupert Rigsby played by Leonard Rossiter.
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Katharine Whitehorn's book Cooking in a Bedsitter (originally Kitchen in the Corner: a complete guide to bedsitter cookery), first published in 1961 and a classic of its kind, remained in print for thirty-five years. It was published by Penguin Books in the Penguin Handbooks series.