Explore #1 – The sights, sounds and magnetic vibrancy of Camden, London
We are launching a new series dedicated to destinations that we find truly inspiring, incredibly alluring and culturally rich. These journals will allow us to explore everything from creativity to movements and people to projects. We aim to dig a little deeper than traditional city-guides and by looking behind the high street or ear-wigging in local venues we hope to find nuggets of subculture that will influence your travels. In our first ‘Explore’, we decided to drop in on London’s melting pot of curiosities, Camden.
As we exit the Station the first thing that’s apparent is that Camden is split. To our left theres a traditional high street that’s full of mainstream brands including banks, takeaways and sports stores. People mill about doing their daily thing like nothing else is happening but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As we turn in the opposite direction a completely different world appears. A tourist heavy street leads towards the world famous Camden Lock, this bustling strip of multi-coloured, diverse activity is far removed from what’s now behind us. Shop fronts battle for custom including a number that are elaborately decorated such as New Rock, Quarter and Dark Angel whilst others are vividly painted adding to Camden’s appeal as London’s melting pot of creative diversity.
Venues including the Electric Ballroom and the Comedy Loft sit subtly in the background waiting to come alive at night, however, it’s the incredible array of people that make Camden what it is. From eager tourists to determined professionals, Camden is unlike any other area of London we’ve ever experienced. It’s as much a mecca for opportunistic selfie-seekers as it is for vinyl hunters who only care for dubstep from 1990-1991. However, as we enter the depths of Camden Lock we begin to see a different beast. The first and most recognisable symbol of the lock is its railway bridge. The structures steel emphasises the stylised, yellow typography which screams Camden Lock, this is the grandest of welcome signs and the most eclectic entrance to any market we’ve ever seen.
As we head over Regent’s Canal the market opens on our left, however, we continue on and enter the Market Hall. This beautiful space is a thriving network of creative warrens holding independent businesses such as Time Tunnel Vintage, Piano Rescue and Camden Retro Signs. In today’s digital world where the sense of community is based on follower numbers, Camden Market revels in the physical meaning of the word. Curious travellers and genuine shoppers mingle amongst those that rely on the support of both one another and the strength of the markets notoriety. Not only are permanent shops and market stalls thriving in Camden Lock but a series of pop-up events that attract thousands are regularly organised including poster workshops, spoken word performances on the cobbles and all female celebrations which took place earlier this year (2018).
If you haven’t noticed, Camden is a thriving space that brings together people from all backgrounds. Disciples of all industries have been drawn to it’s expressive nature but for music lovers, Camden has become a pilgrimage that must be undertaken. Celebrated brands such as the Round House and MTV Studios sit alongside smaller, live music venues like the Good Mixer and the Monarch Bar. Those who seek fame walk next to globally recognisable names and tributes to those that have past remind us of Camden’s musical past including the Amy Winehouse statue. Camden is also home to a number of vinyl stores that provide a range of niche genres and it was the unassuming shop-front of Camden Lock Vinyl that attracted us the most. Loaded with new music, rare editions, forgotten classics, greatest hits, little known b-sides and extraordinary sleeve art, Camden Lock Vinyl is an Aladdin’s cave of pressed plastic. A must see for all music lovers, especially those that admire the art of music via vinyl.
Camden is a truly special place and somewhere that needs to be visited time and time again. Its history is fascinating and the foundation it has provided for many is truly remarkable. It’s evident to see its influence on so many destinations and we can only hope that it continues to remain loyally alternative. However, London’s focus is changing and we hope that isn’t to the detriment of Camden and those that make it exactly what it is today.
Written by Chris Sanders. Photographed by Tom Godwin.