Growing up on the outskirts of London, I always had a fascination with the city. The bright lights, the tall buildings, the people. I’ve been going to gigs here since I was barely 11. By 16 I was old enough to be allowed into the city by myself. I would head up on weekends, hang around Oxford Steet, Leicester Square and, of course, Camden.
Back then Camden was the place to be if you were in any way part of the alternative scene of South East England. All the bands would play the pubs or venues along the main high street, The Purple Turtle, The Electric Ballroom, The Underworld. We’d plan out outfits in advance, smearing on eyeliner and white face powder.
Every goth inspired girl would have a flower from Black Rose. We could spend hours longing after the too-expensive corsets, compromising by buying fishnets and nail varnish instead. Then we’d head to the food alley for cheap noodles and sit out by the quays, trying to pass for locals, but so obviously just tourists. It didn’t matter. Just being there made us feel like the coolest people in the world.
The town had started to change even before the fire. Chain stores like Punky Fish (which I believe was once a single stall like the rest) popped up. The punks who were always out on the bridge started to disappear as the tourists increased. As online shopping grew, there was less of a need for the alternative stores. For the price of a London travelcard, we could get a t-shirt from Attitude Clothing.
Then the fire happened.
Black Rose, once such an iconic store would decrease until it was just another window to pass by. The increase in rent for the stalls would drive out many of the independents. Instead we were left with shops that sold the same clothes under different names.
I walked round the market yesterday, taking it all in. There’s very little left of the things I loved about the place. Save for a couple of vintage finds, there’s nothing there that I couldn’t buy online for less. Most shops fit into a category of either cheap dresses, rock / London / art t-shirts or prints, with a handful of furniture stores thrown in. Then there’s your standard second-hand books, drug paraphernalia and general tourist stores.
Its nice that the fronts of the high street shops have survived (see the Doc Martens for example), but there’s very little left behind it of the real sense of Camden..