Camden50 Round Up
After eight months of activity we’re drawing to a close the Camden50 celebrations and archiving this website. Although we won’t be updating the site anymore you’ll be able to access all the blogs and video, plus view brand new Camden timeline of key events! Before we go, here’s a personal look back at our highlights:
Back in January 2015 we held the first Camden50 meeting with all the commissioned artists – Ladies of the Press*; Dmitri Galitzine; Elly Clarke; Walls on Walls. On the top floor of Camden’s King’s Cross offices everyone discussed the local themes they were interested in exploring and explained their proposed project ideas. We then looked for links and shared interests for possible collaborations. Elly, camera always to hand, photographed the meeting (and the jammy dodgers!)
As the artists got on with researching and developing their initial creative impulses, behind the scenes we were working to create a platform for all the borough celebrations to live and evolve – the Camden50 webpage and Camden Encounters online project. This would be a space where blogs could document Camden in 2015 and artist Elly Clarke could input her photography and oral history portraits of people who live and work/ed in Camden.
The site was launched on 1st April – the exact day Camden was formed back in 1965. On the same day we hosted a launch event at The House of Illustration where Ladies of the Press* created their first democratically produced zine. From this point on they were travelling around the borough talking to residents, women’s and sexual health groups, visitors at various Camden50 events as well as being in residency at Camden Arts Centre (who also turned 50 in 2015) and The Wellcome Collection to create live press from a feminist perspective.
In April and May we were thinking primarily about democracy (in May 2015 it was also a general election) in Camden. It began with the British Library who worked with Camden’s Youth Council to encourage young people to create a digital Magna Carta, setting out civil rights for an internet age. You can view the final clauses of this My Digital Rights Magna Carta here.
The Camden Tour Guides led two tours of the borough in May 2015 showing sites of local democratic importance – this tour can be downloaded here and tells of the incredible democratic past of Camden. The tour guides then continued to produce thematic tours throughout the 8 month programme looking at and highlighting our key projects, including tours of film locations, women of Camden, radical theatre and architecture.
June saw the launch of Dmitri Galitzine’s art exhibition at Swiss Cottage Gallery. The show wowed visitors as he recreated sets from radical theatre productions of the 1970s and 80s. Throughout the six week-long exhibition the stage was animated by performances by Cindy Oswin, RADA MA Text and Performance students, Daniel Kelly and Bernard Kops.
At the same time, RADA MA Theatre Lab students performed the third of The Eumenides Greek plays about the founding of democracy on two housing estates in Camden. These intense performances were incredible and it was a real pleasure to watch, especially in the amphitheater arrangements of the selected estates.
Throughout July, Laurie and Tullis, from Walls on Walls, worked on three other estates in Camden (Castle Road, Medway Court and Camelot House) to create a new artwork and sound piece in each. These new artworks were designed and made by residents and highlight the (oral) histories and architecture of their homes.
As we hit the mid-point of the celebrations in August it seemed appropriate to throw a big birthday on London’s favourite urban beach at the Roundhouse. Camden residents and Camden 50 participants and partners were invited to enjoy live music, live oral histories, a Camden50 bake-off with Primrose Bakery, and to take part in the final shot of our Camden 50 video - which you can see HERE! It was a great way to celebrate Camden’s 50th year in the summer sun.
August also saw the continuation of our Camden-themed film programme at The Hospital Club of movies that had been shot on location, and inspired by Camden. Speakers included Production Designer Tony Borrough who won a BAFTA for his stylish portrayal of Richard III; producer Kevin Loader’s memories of working with Peter O’Toole on the moving film Venus; location manager Jonah Coombes describing the process of filming on the King’s Cross building site for Breaking and Entering; producer Marc Samuelson on filming Me and Orson Welles in New York and Bloomsbury; and Juliet Stevenson introducing her BAFTA winning performance in Truly, Madly, Deeply. Other talks we hosted included one at the British Museum by Camden’s archivist, Tudor Allen, who looked back at the first 50 years of Camden, and Camden Art Centre launched their own 50th Anniversary Lecture Series at the Town Hall where they invited Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota and artist Jeremy Deller to discuss the importance of the public art institution.
In September Elly Clarke continued to upload her Camden Encounters series. Having collected 25 ‘Sticky Memories’ (evoked by a specific location in Camden) from residents and people who work/ed in Camden. Elly recorded and photographed the interviews as well as produced short videos (directed by the participants) of that sticky location. All the Encounters are now available to view online here.
In our autumn months of October and November, we were thrilled to be able to celebrate residents’ experiences of Camden. Over 400 people entered the Camden50 photography competition run in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. We were delighted by such an enthusiastic response and the standard of photography was really high. All entries were shown at the National Portrait Gallery’s Late Shift on 1st October and 50 were displayed in the Town Hall in November with one winner being selected for the cover of the Camden Magazine’s November issue. We also hosted, in November, our special Camden 50 volunteers awards, with almost 150 nominations the selection process was incredibly difficult but we were really pleased to be able to highlight some of our amazing volunteers in Camden.
The celebrations were rounded off with an open day on 30th November which saw the Town Hall doors thrown open to the public for a display of all the art projects. That evening leaders and Councillors of Camden Council past and present came together for a look back at the history of the civic role of the council and discussed the future.
Looking back at the eight month programme of Camden50, a common experience was the enthusiasm and passion held for the borough, a truly innovative place. There is a distinct ‘Camden Way’ of doing things – of championing diversity and creative expression.
We would like to thank everyone who has taken part and supported the project over the last eight months. It’s been a fantastic project to work on and we’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of lovely people along the way.