When people think of Camden, what immediately comes to mind are mobs of Spanish hippies with rat-tail haircuts followed by throngs of German high school children on school trips. In between these two demographics we have a sprinkling of old-school Camden crackheads with terribly ugly tattoos congregating along the canal and the never ending flow of wannabe rockstar singer sing-writers who dream of being the next Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse as they strut around with their skinny jeans, moleskin notebooks and guitars on their backs.
Camden Town gets so busy every single weekend that they close escalator entry and sometimes the entry all together from 10am until 5pm in order to be able to cope with the volumes of tourists pouring out of the station. The market stalls sell a mind-numbing selection of fake branded clothing, Doc Martens and Vans, Nagchampa insence and printed throws of Lord Ganesha and Gothic black lace corsets.
I used to have the same preconceptions of Camden and all of the above is absolutely true – is there ever smoke without fire? You can and will find all of this and so much more and worse and its terribly annoying and exhausting. BUT it has taken me 1.5 years of living right in the middle of it all to discover a whole other side of Camden and truly appreciate the local Camden community that is very much alive.
Two perfect examples are The Spiritual Caipirinha Bar and the Inspiral Lounge. Both of these places are now Camden institutions in their own right and manage to stay true to themselves without selling out to the tourists mobs ( no Bang Bang Chicken here). The Spiritual Caipi Bar offers live music practically every night of the week while the fully vegan Cafe at Inspiral hosts a fabulous weekly open mic night. Enthusiastic and eager musicians mingle with the immensely encouraging and supportive regulars with their friends and family as everyone creates and shares a communal vibe of appreciation and live and let live.
A gorgeous example of the local Camden community is also the Camden Garden Centre – a training and rehabilitation centre for ex-convicts to learn new skills, learn a job and reintegrate into the community whilst at the same time being an excellent garden centre providing everything your gardening desires may require.
And this afternoon the wonderfully charming Castle’s Pie & Mash shop on Royal College Street had a cake bake sale in support of Breast Cancer awareness.
My favourite part was without a doubt the big English cockney geezers standing along the street at regular distances apart and wearing bright pink shirts talking to anyone on the street urging them to go in and buy cake to support the Breast Cancer charity. Children were also involved as 10 year old boys lined the road with plastic cups asking for spare change to support their charity fundraise.
Little 3 year old girls were running around in pink frocks, teenage girls eating pink cupcakes, the staff in the shop knew everyone by name and the men were very involved. The vibe was so beautiful, so endearing, there was a beautiful community feeling – the kind of atmosphere you might expect in a small town or village but definitely not in London, especially such a hectic and tourist-flooded part of London. This cake sale just comforts me and makes me happy. Call me a hippie, but you can’t help but feel good witnessing people coming together like this.