Curators Questions - Camden Tour Guides
Camden 50 curator Charlie Levine asks the founding members of the Camden Tour Guides Association to reflect on their favourite local gems and what makes Camden so special. But first, let's introduce them:
David Brown – Vice Chairman
Jenni Bowley – Course Director
Jenny Rossiter – Founder Member
Charlie: You know Camden like the back of your hands, what are your favourite places and why?
Dave: There are so many great places in Camden. I'd start a day with the delights of watching London in the early morning from the summit of Primrose Hill - one of the classic views of London. Then walk across and visit 2 Willow Road, one of the best of Camden's many small museums and properties. I'd then spend time travelling through Camden Town looking at the street life in the markets and the exciting street art in the side streets. Then walk past St Pancras Old Church, to lunch at the street food stalls in Granary Square in Kings Cross watching the fountains, and perhaps visiting one of the local Museums or Galleries. Then continue following the route of the Hidden River Fleet down to the Hatton Garden, and visit my favourite medieval Camden Church - St Etheldreda in Ely Place, leaving time for a coffee in Leather Lane. And that leaves my evening for exploring the heights of Hampstead and having supper with friends in one of the lovely eating places - ending with a walk down Haverstock Hill to home near Chalk Farm.
Jenny B: Camden is a fabulously diverse borough with something to offer everyone whatever their cultural or entertainment preferences! It’s almost impossible to choose, but places that I return to again and again are the Foundling Museum and Kenwood House, both to see once again the paintings and artefacts on permanent display and the special exhibitions; the wide open spaces of Hampstead Heath because I look walking; the squares of Bloomsbury and the Regents canal, because they have a different character in every season.
Jenny R: My favourites are Camley Street Nature Park and the British Library - the informal and the formal.
Charlie: Was it a challenge working within the parameters of Camden 50 or does Camden have an interesting recent history as well as its more famous historical associations and residents?
Dave: You can find history anywhere - and the last 50 years of Camden are just as interesting as earlier history. Camden has always been a trail breaking borough with major achievements in the areas like housing, social care, and more recently education. And the last 50 years have seen massive changes in Camden - a lot of new housing, and massive developments like Kings Cross Central. Researching recent history is a little harder, as many of the books have yet to be written - but we are lucky in having a first rate Local History Centre in Holborn Library.
Jenni B: The challenge is what to leave out! Camden is a vibrant, exciting borough which has an admirable record for commissioning quality housing and supporting exciting developments – eg Granary Square.
Charlie: Why is it important that people who live in Camden and visitors to the Borough understand some of its unspoken memories?
Dave B: I think residents of Camden can be really proud of living in one of the best boroughs in the London. People who have pride in the area are one of the key ingredients of making effective communities - and an understanding of what happened and why can help make communities more effective in the way they work to improve Camden in the longer term. For visitors, taking a walk with a trained guide can provide excellent entertainment, and enable them to see and experience aspects of Camden that are out of the ordinary.
Jenni B: The story of Camden is part of the rich history of London itself – how it developed from various villages in the Middle Ages to be overtaken by urban sprawl, how new housing was built for various sectors of society, how the railways changed the face of England, how the various immigrant communities contributed to the borough. The street name project at Kings Cross is a valuable way of remembering the contribution of so many people.
Charlie: Finally, what do you think Camden will look like in the next 50 years?
Dave B: I'm extremely hopeful that the arrival of the Crick Institute will continue to see the growth of smaller high tech companies in the area around the Euston Road, and activities like the Knowledge Quarter initiative will make Camden a leading place for culture and arts, and attract residents and visitors from around the world. In the longer term I'd love to see the Euston Road itself move underground freeing movement between the North and South of the Borough. This kind of development though is going to increase the pressure on housing - we urgently need to find a way to meet the challenge for affordable housing in Camden.
Jenni B: It will continue to be the cultural heart of London, attracting artists, performers and writers. Its large student community will keep the focus on emerging trends and the multi-racial and multi-cultural mix will ensure an active café culture. Hopefully the challenges of providing truly affordable housing within a central London borough will have been overcome so that there is a genuine mixed community.