Welcome to my favourite part of London. I love it.
London is grey and rainy a fair amount of the time but it’s full of hidden corners, secret places and street art. It wouldn’t feel as eccentric and grungy (in a good way) if it was sunny every day. The neon lights would look more hollywood than cyberpunk. Its characters would feel more like caricatures.
I took photographer Engdahl on a tour around some of my favourite spots in Camden Town. This is where I spent hours trying vegan ice cream milkshakes watching canal boats pass (years before I bought a canal boat of my own), where I hung out in painting-covered goth bar “The Devonshire Arms” before watching bands (years before I was old enough to drink), and where I religiously picked up free magazine “Alternative London” (years before I became an alternative model and ended up on the pages.)
In the sixteen years since I first visited, my favourite shops have disappeared, music venues have closed and large areas have been ‘accidentally’ burned down. Even my favourite hippy diner-with-a-view is under new management. There are good things of course- some shopping staples are still hanging on, it’s still a great place to peoplewatch and the food’s great but I wanted to capture some of what I first saw and felt, even though I’m more of a road warrior than a goth these days. Camden was and will be my second home until the day I no longer recognise it.
Photos with me in, and horse photo by Engdahl. All other photos by me.
I’m drafting a blog about the power of observancy so in that spirit, here are some things to open your eyes and notice. 😉
1) The main shopping street
You can’t exactly miss it- almost all the shops have enormous sculptures and murals attached to them. Don’t ever go in the one that has mesh over part of it and a big punk display on a rail outside. The owner WILL try to hold you hostage until you buy something.
As you can see, the chain stores are creeping in, though Amorino *does* do good ice cream. (But Chin Chin does better….) 😉
2) Pastel millionaire houses.
If you go down the side streets, they look like a ridiculously ‘London’ version of Edward Scissorhands. And yes I really mean a million. At least. House prices in London are insane, but check out some of the places for sale online- the decor inside is amazing.
3) Side streets
Leave the main high street and go looking for murals and hidden art- some side streets are as fascinating and mean and murky as the one at the top (which isn’t actually a side street but a main thoroughfare during trading hours and weekends!)
4) Amy Winehouse
The singer Amy Winehouse lived (and died) here. She was famous for interacting with and taking care of her fans even when she wasn’t very good at taking care of herself, and Camden Town hasn’t forgotten. There’s a statue of her in the Stables Market which fans leave necklaces and bracelets on, but keep an eye out as lots of windows have Amy pictures and artwork. On sunny days, there’s usually a chalk artist drawing her somewhere. (Of course, there are hundreds of stalls and vendors selling ‘Amy’ T-shirts and trinkets but the art is harder to find and more satisfying when you do find it.)
The Stables Market is full of horse sculptures- some are right in front of you but look up as well as forward!
6) Art everywhere
Again, look up as well as forward! 😉 Almost everything is covered in art and there are huge murals just off the main shopping street, and they change a lot- certain areas can look completely different months later.
7) Bad graffiti bingo
Remember my urbex graffiti bingo game? Though people have the liberty to be more creative here, you can still spot a few of the things on the list, especially in rock club toilets or outside building sites. 😛
I’m back in London soon for a tour around some other abandoned places and for another blog I’m working on. While I’d love just a bit more Spring in the air, there’s a time and a place for constant sunshine and London is not it. Disagree? Well, here you go then. 😛
p.s. A few more pictures of me with some murals.