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Has Camden Lost its Soul?

Posted May 3rd, 2016 by simon brigg    No Comments

Whether it was for the punks, cyber-hippies, goths or mods, Camden has been the home for London’s sub-cultures – often showcasing the extremes of our city’s people. Now, in the face of redevelopment and a modern, richer demographic, has Camden’s studded dog-collar finally been replaced?

To say Camden has changed is a nothing-comment. The Druids once worshipped on Primrose Hill when it was a forest full of wolves, so it doesn’t take much to recognise that things have moved on.

When people suggest Camden has lost its soul, we expect that they are suggesting its edge has been softened. Today’s cool creative class is accused of being boring, preferring a softly lit flat white coffee emporium to a gritty public house. This is a sign of the times everywhere, not just in Camden.

Alex Proud’s damning Telegraph post in 2014 summarises, “They are the kind of people who might buy a Damien Hirst, but would never discover the next Damien Hirst.”

Like with Proud’s article, unsurmountable housing prices are at the heart of any “change” argument. For most of us, Camden is no longer a place to live, but a place to rent or visit. When people live somewhere, they breathe it, love it and provide its personality. When people visit somewhere, they feed off it before they move on to the next place.

Even so, we don’t think Camden is becoming as disposable as many people suggest.

It’s the wonderful weirdos that make Camden. We have been restaurant owners in the heart of Camden for many years, and people-watching is as interesting now as it ever was. We had Alice Cooper pop in for some ribs last year. Not long before that we saw the remnants of Prince’s secret Camden show at the Electric Ballroom, perhaps the biggest surprise gig the city has seen in recent times (Oh – or maybe Kanye’s Koko show…)

There is still something very unique about the fabric of Camden, even if the demographic is slowly shifting. It’s that unchanging make-up of historic venues, famous rock stars, street food and ethnic culture. Supporting the local people and organisations that help to maintain this fabric is vital to safeguarding the area from encroaching North London blandness. Claiming Camden as a lost soul is against the very reason why it became so loud and lively in the first place.

So what do you think? Is Camden now just greater Bloomsbury? Or does the old magic still bubble up from this dirty canals? Let us know in the comments!

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