Is Camden in pole position to be named London Borough of Culture?

I CAME back from a summer holiday in a nice little corner of Europe this week to find that I need not have flown anywhere at all: sun-kissed Camden provides the perfect idyll. So it appears at least from Camden Council’s poetical new video supporting its attempts to be named ‘London Borough of Culture’ in a contest set up by the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and City Hall.

And doesn’t the borough scrub up well under a warm movie filter, all rich and Instagrammy? Our canal is clean, not strewn with beer cans bobbing in duckweed, the pavements are not pock-marked by chewing gum and so on. Highgate and West Hampstead may feel a little left out by the montage, but at least the council has got in quick to claim Regent’s Park as its own (before Westminster can) and while they’ve got the cameras it looks like they’ve thought why not bag a bit of the Marylebone Road too? You can see the film below.

Intentionally or not, by pitching the boroughs against each other, the Mayor has certainly brought out a competitive streak. Slightly like an episode of Parks And Recreation, you can imagine how every local authority in London has an excitable Leslie Knope character somewhere brainstorming ideas on how to win the competition

Councillors in other boroughs – not too far away – are apparently resigned to the advantage Camden may well have here, as everyone from Keats to Dickens, from Blur and Oasis to Amy have walked this way at some stage, often staying for more than a wistful stroll across the Heath and a swig of whisky too. If you listen carefully, you can hear rival politicians briefing backstage how the judges should look elsewhere for a winner, skipping the obvious choice in a similar vein to the way the occasionally unheralded Hull was named this year’s ‘city of culture’ on a national level.

“Visitors and tourists will always go to Camden whatever happens here,” one Labour politician from a neighbouring borough was grumbling to me last night. “But the point of the competition should be about spreading interest – and visitors – to other parts of London which are interesting and cultural, but are not as instantly recognisable because they are not as geographically central… and Madonna and Madness never played there.”

Too bad suckers! It’s not our fault Electric Eel Shock never gigged in your part of town.

Certainly, they are in medal mode at Camden Town Hall, however, where the prospect of coming first is already a big deal. Councillors are tweeting all the right words and a campaign aimed at “winning the title” is being drawn together through Camden’s website Love Camden, the controversial entertainments listings website run by the council, which  was revamped at a cost of £60,000 last year and competes with established media... oh let’s not get into that again right now.

Lead campaigner Camden’s culture chief Councillor Jonathan Simpson – once the borough’s ‘rock n roll mayor’ – explains the need to be first in a press statement: “As London Borough of Culture we would be able to build even stronger partnerships across the borough and encourage more of our residents and visitors to get involved in everything Camden has to offer. The key to winning the title and the funding will be the support and passion of our residents, communities and cultural venues.”

3 Comments on Is Camden in pole position to be named London Borough of Culture?

  1. A pitch for international property developers to invest in Camden? To raise the cost of living in Camden? Forcing those, Londoners, who have created this marvellous culture out?

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  2. Correct Alan

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  3. It’s nice to know that when the council has been making cuts they can find ways of paying for all the PR for this folly which will also see them redirect money from places it could be better used if we win. Camden has done well enough without this title and applying for borough of culture status is a total vanity project but I am sure winning it would help boost the egos of one or two politicians even further.

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