“From markets to music, London’s Camden Town offers eclectic experiences.” VISITLONDON.COM
As part of my UK summer trip, I was on a mission to visit parts of London that I had either never visited before or I hadn’t been to for a while and educate the teenager along the way. One of these visits was to Camden Town which also doubled up as an Abu Dhabi friend fix for the teenager as one of her mates was staying in the area with family. Camden is a cool, bohemian place that has a unique edgy vibe filled with diverse people. It was even busy on weekday with throngs of local people jostling down the High Street along with an abundance of summer tourists.
First stop out of the tube station was the usual multiple of high street retailers for the teenager to get her Urban Outfitters and American Apparel fix and then we wandered down the street to the Inverness Street Market. This market is jam-packed with London souvenirs and cheap copy clothing stalls that only warranted a quick glance. Lined along the side streets are a selection of continental style cafes and bars but there’s little evidence these days of the fruit and vegetable stalls that the area was once known synonymous with.
We moved onto Camden Market (formerly Buck Street market) which is a busy market with hundreds of stalls squashed together in a labyrinth of narrow aisles, where I kept my handbag firmly clutched to my side as every stall warned of pickpockets operating in the area and I was quite keen to keep hold of my possessions. The hundreds of wall-to-wall stalls also sell cheap clothing, bags and accessories but some of the stallholders display their own designs which are worth further perusal.
We walked further down the brightly painted high street towards Camden Lock, past many more shops selling identical London themed souvenirs (some might say tat), tattoo parlours and the renowned alternative clothing and shoe shops selling everything from Goth and Punk to 50’s and Hippy inspired styles, literally it’s all for sale in this area of London.
Camden Lock sits along the bank of the Regents Canal and has a different vibe to the earlier street markets. This area is the creative heart of the area and a mecca for arty types and foodies, who dine from the Global Kitchen street food stalls in the West yard (see the wide range of food stalls on offer here) which offer cuisine from around the world (reminded me of a mini Borough Market). I treated myself to a delicious French crepe with lemon while the teenager opted for her favourite Burrito, with a side of guacamole from the Mexican stall.
The Camden Lock area is awash with arts and crafts from all over the world. If you are looking for something a bit different and culturally diverse for the home then the shops and stalls here sell a vast range of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, woodwork and art objects from every corner of the globe.
The Market Hall houses looks of colourful stalls with handmade traditional and modern jewellery, cute little vintage boutiques, homewards and books, perfect for a browse and you can even get your palm read, but take it from me don’t get there at lunchtime as its mobbed with tourists and business people in busy lunch hour mode. Visit ‘ShopTheLock’ here to get the lowdown on what’s on offer.
Camden has a great nightlife scene with loads of pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants as well as the famous Jongleurs comedy club, but as I was with an underage teenager it didn’t lend itself to sticking around and sampling this side of things. It also has its own brewery, Camden Town Brewery and although I didn’t try a beer but I did manage a quick cheeky cider in Dingwalls above the Lock, a famous music haunt.
Trips are available on traditional narrow boats and water taxis along the Regent’s Canal from Camden Lock to Little Venice and London Zoo, but the teenager wasn’t too interested, so we gave it a wide berth!
After many hours spent in Camden (a coffee shop, latte and a kindle were a godsend as the teenagers shopped) we bade farewell and made our way up west to Leicester Square and walked straight into the crowds of fans waiting outside the Inbetweeners 2 premiere. We mingled for a bit and by standing on tiptoes and cringing our necks we spotted the four main stars of the show and had our photo taken by Capital Radio for their Twitter Friend campaign, much to the teenagers acute embarrassment.
When I lived in the UK I was a keen theatre goer and got up to London as much as possible to see shows, either with the teenager or friends so I always try to see a show or two while I’m back and usually one is a surprise for the teenager who is a drama queen, sorry I mean student!. This years secret show visit was to The Commitments, which I was actually organised enough this year to get as part of West End Theatre’s Kids Week (last chance as teenager is now 16) so two-for-one top priced stalls tickets in row three, what an absolute result!
As a fan of the 1991 movie (who doesn’t love a bit of Mustang Sally sang in a lilting Irish accent) taken from Roddy Doyle’s 1987 book about wannabe band manager Jimmy Rabbitte who puts together a soul covers band from a bunch of Dubliners in the 80’s, I was really looking forward to seeing the West End adaptation and I wasn’t disappointed. I think The Commitments, which opened at the Palace Theatre last Autumn, ranks as one of my favourite shows to date alongside the Book of Mormons.
Donnelly centre stage killing it with his knockout voice (source:www.variety.com)
Killian Donnelly who played the deranged and controversial lead singer Declan ‘Deco’ Cuffe was absolutely awesome. His comedy timing was on point, his acting as the nose-picking, troublesome and obnoxious ‘Deco’ was memorable and his powerful spine tingling singing was off the scale special, especially his raw and soulful rendition of Otis Reddings ‘Try a little Tenderness’. Another mention must go to Joe Woolmer who played Mickah, the roadie in the style of violent punk Vyvyan from The Young Ones/Bottom, he was hilarious in a threatening way (head butted Deco at one point) and was also an awesome drummer.
Memorable stuff from ‘Deco’ aka Killian Donnelly (source:www.thetelegraph.co.uk)
The Commitments was fantastic all round feel good entertainment from start to finish (opposite to the other Irish show in the West End at the moment Once, which I found a little dull) and very true to the movie. The show was fast-moving and energetic, the characters were well cast but I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children as there was a lot of ‘fecking’ swearing and an overall adult theme.
The Commitments vibrant West End cast (source:www.palacetheatrelondon.org)
If you don’t like audience participation, singing along and getting up and dancing then maybe this raucous show isn’t for you (the teenager was muttering about an embarrassing mother, I couldn’t quite hear her over my singing) but I challenge you to stay in your seat when the well-known tunes of ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ and ‘In The Midnight Hour’ among many others get going and the infectious cast are encouraging you to join in.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved.