Camden

Opinions on Camden will differ greatly depending on whom you speak to, but there is no doubt that it has been one of the most influential areas of London in terms of popular culture in recent years. Its popularity among fans of alternative music is still current nearly fifteen years after the height of the Britpop movement, which in no small part centred around the borough, with many of its leading lights making Camden a home from home. But Camden still divides opinion, with many people in London considering it a centre for posers and believing it to lack genuine soul. Whether or not that is a fair summation, there is certainly no doubt that Camden does attract business and this is likely to continue.

CamdenCamden has existed as a borough since the 1960s. During that decade the Roundhouse Theatre was one of the centers of “Swinging London”, with alternative culture finding a home there, and this is something that has never left the area since. Whatever the counter-cultural movement, it will always tend to find some niche in Camden, and since those early days it has been a rallying point for movements such as the Punk culture and, later, the goth movement. In the more recent past, though, it was the Britpop movement which gave Camden its most widespread cultural attention. Bands such as Blur, Pulp, Suede, Elastica and a few other, less successful bands found their spiritual home in the pubs and clubs of Camden. While the 1960s had Swinging London, the 90s had “Cool Britannia”, with guitars becoming a part of the UK musical landscape again just as a young Prime Minister with a rock band past moved inexorably towards Downing Street.

Camden was a part of all this, and whatever its detractors might say it has been a centre of influence on most of the major alternative cultural movements of the past half a decade in the United Kingdom. People have gravitated towards Camden with dreams of meeting their heroes, and although as many dreams have gone sour as have come true, there is certainly no doubt that Camden has been a source of many of those dreams.

With its bustling street markets and its music venues – not least the Roundhouse, but also the Dublin Castle (a launch pad for many an aspiring indie band) and the sadly defunct Falcon – including one of the homes of the London jazz scene, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, there is simply no denying Camden’s place in the firmament of London’s cultural back story.

There is no doubt that if you find music “scenes” to be a little bit tiresome and underwhelming, then Camden is never going to be your cup of tea, but its place in the cultural history of the city of London is assured. And while that might not be a recommendation to everyone, the truth of the matter is that Camden Town does not care – it retains a place in the heart of anyone who grew up an alternatively minded individual in the UK of the 1960s or 90s.