It was once a home to a haunt for the drugged-up punks of the 80s, as many piercing and tattoo shops as you could shake a needle at and a down-and-out air which drew musicians needing a creative atmosphere. But now London’s Camden Town has become mainstream. Don’t despair though, purple-haired types: it’s still fun, even though Camden Lock, once the preserve of hippie-yi-yays looking for love and earrings is now a scrappy field of delicatessenesque food stalls and cagouled tourists looking slightly bewildered and out of place. The food market in Camden Lock is phenomenal – if occasionally on the pricey side. It’s one of the few places I’ve managed to have Lebanese nibbles followed by Russian pirogi and then a Polish cake for afters. And there is still, as there used to be, a sense of ‘anything goes’.
The two girls below were chatting about guys they fancied and why they couldn’t find the ‘right’ man. They were dreamers in a sea of similar types – everyone who visits Camden seems to go to seek out a lost iota of misspent youth, or a lost love, or a new love; or just some hedonistic fun.
The sense now of Camden ‘trying too hard’ if you look beneath its frenetic surface doesn’t take too much away. It might have lost its sense of stoned, laidback calm and ‘hey man’ life-passes-by-and-I-don’t-notice world view, but it has gained a pacier, crazier feel which, although different, is no less ‘Camden’.
The tourists (and on a Saturday or Sunday, there are so many of them that Camden Town underground station usually becomes ‘exit only’ during the day) certainly make up some of this fast pace, but the Camden originals are still there, keeping the relaxed feel going among the madness.