Julie Hamill: Camden Town should be recognised as a global cultural hotspot

Julie Hamill: Camden Town should be recognised as a global cultural hotspot

Camden is and always has been a thriving metropolis of brilliant misfits, a place I’ve been drawn to since moving to London in 1990. A beacon of London’s night time economy, it has a reputation for discovering future icons and making venues legendary.

It is one of the few areas of London where all ages, from students to older music fans, mix comfortably, forming a mini-bomb of opinions that the rest of the world adopts as its own. For many Londoners and tourists it’s a safe and essential glue for socialisation and a premier destination. And of course, there is The Punk on the Bridge, now as famous as The Naked Cowboy in Times Square.

The ‘Town’ spans generations, genders and music genres, bringing celebration, colour and sound to London. With the fourth largest night-time economy in the country, Camden has always owned its own unique brand of hip for the unhip. Live there, and expect noise. Recognising its appeal and the chaos that can come with it, the council set up a new central safety hub (located at Dockray Place) for those that need a taxi, a phone charger, or a safe place during a night out.

An explosion of media spotlight about to hit area could, in 2024, cement a global appeal beyond the Madness Camden is already famous for. Biographical film Back to Black, based on the life of Amy Winehouse and centred around her Camden haunts is set to hit cinemas in April, with a US release in May and global distribution throughout the year.

Disney+ is in production with a documentary series to be called Camden that centres on the area’s music scene and is directed by Academy award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia. It will focus on some of the world’s biggest music acts, including Dua Lipa, Chris Martin, Pete Doherty, Mark Ronson, Nile Rodgers, Boy George and Jazzie B, whose careers were launched in crucial sawdust music venues.

The new Music Walk of Fame plaques continue to bring celebrity to Camden’s streets and with them the very first – and wildly successful – Camden Music Festival, held in September 2023 with gigs from the likes of Shalamar and Buzzcocks. This 2024 festival is set to be even bigger.

The area is bookended by some of the most enduring and iconic venues in the world, including Koko, The Roundhouse, The Electric Ballroom, The Jazz Café, Dingwalls, downstairs at The Underworld and the back room of Parkway’s legendary music pub The Dublin Castle – which made a cameo appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in December and is frequently at the heart of Madness videos or fan events – has been birthing commercial music successes for 50 years.

There are restaurants from Chalk Farm to Mornington Crescent – try the unbeatable Muang Thai on Chalk Farm Road and the Goodfare, which has been serving the tastiest pizza and pasta in Camden for over 60 years. There has been an influx of new restaurants on Parkway in response to footfall and demand. World Food February is taking place at Hawley Wharf throughout this month, with “global dishes” and “viral sensations” to be explored.

Also to celebrate are shopping at the Stables Market, with its statue of Amy Winehouse, and fringe theatre performances at the Etcetera Theatre above The Oxford Arms. Camden is within walking distance of Regent’s Park, folk music venue Cecil Sharp House and Camden Art Centre. It’s remarkable for being a place where you can pick up a local paper and tune in to several local radio stations.

Camden has maintained its heritage while growing its cultural buzz, remaining the authentic destination it always has been. It hasn’t changed, and yet it has – organically, right in front of your face. And that’s unique. A new dawn is breaking in 2024. The media spotlight will bring more visitors, pushing the area to further bloom and thrive. Camden Town or Camden Time? Time to take its place alongside New York’s East Village, Paris’s Latin Quarter and Hollywood, LA as one of the world’s cultural hotspots. Camden’s Calling. Is it ready? Always.

Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Photo by Alberto Donati.

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