Camden Inspire then? What’s that about? Well we’re still not entirely sure what the slightly strangely named two day festival was about? Yes, we know it was something about celebrating Camden’s street culture, art and music, that there was live bands and DJs who tuned out, although it wasn’t really that clear in any of the (rather sparse) publicity circulating before hand, were playing on a stage in the street, one of the streets just off the the main Camden drag, one of two streets closed off for the two day festival. A reasonably sized rather decent music stage at one and of the street, food and various stalls on that same street and then down a second street a whole load of live art, a cast of artists painting for the two days and a big cloud of spray paint alongside more music,a street bar, more DJs and well…
Actually it turned out to be a whole load of friendly fun, well the second of two days, the Saturday, was, can’t really tell you about the first day, we weren’t there. Some kind of two day celebration of Camden culture then, some kind of attempt to take Camden back or something like (or at least that’s what someone said). Don’t be asking us, we might have spent a good chunk of the 90’s handing out flyers, selling zines and putting on gigs at the Falcon or the Monarch, that and getting banned on a monthly basis from the Dublin Castle, that was several lifetimes ago and well, besides the occasional event at the Camden Gallery or a band at the Ballroom there’s been very little to pull us over to that part of London in quite some time. Yes we do still go to lots of gigs, just hardly any of them ever seem to be in Camden now, sure, the Underworld still does what it always did, but that seems to be about it, most of the cutting edge music long since left for other parts of the city and Camden hasn’t really ever been a hotbed in terms of galleries or art has it?
Truth be told we were only at the festival on account of me being one of the artists invited to paint on the Saturday, that’s right more of that damn annoying blowing of my own damn trumpet, far too much of it goes on on these fractured pages. There’s ten of us painting on the second day, there had been another eight doing the same thing on the first day, the same thing being boards attached to a wall on Buck Street, the street behind Camden Open Air Gallery – a rather new gallery that is in fact an indoor gallery, a gallery who name makes no sense until you check out the actual space and see what they’re doing, an indoor space celebrating art that mostly happens out in the open air, a gallery heavy on the graff – old school graff, proper stuff, I like what they’re doing, I like that they’re doing it, graff rather than the more commercial end of so called urban art. The name of the gallery (that’s also a bar) makes perfect sense. Camden Open Air Gallery have organised the live art and invited the artists, we’re on the street out back, they’ve got a bar going outside, there’s a plan to take over the world or something to do with Pinky, there’s more music and we’re all painting from midday.
Camden is pretty much looking, feeling (and smelling) like it always has, shops mostly full of tat, knock off pirated band shirts, racks of dubiously cheap and nasty football tops on the street, the occasional place that sells better quality stuff, it is mostly “stuff” that you get in Camden, there’s one of those awful Boxpark things where that rather suspicious fire happened. There’s the same cast of misfits, the tribes, casualties, the punks growing old disgracefully, tourists, the tattoo artists, the goths, the metalheads, a glam rocker or two, nothing much has changed in Camden. Not so many proper junk stalls these and I guess the Clash tribute band on the festival stage kind of sum up a lot of it. Actually The Broadway Clash weren’t that bad, harmless fun in the sunshine, actually most of the music was on he good side of okay, nothing radical or challenging but then that’s not what was required, DJ Prime Cuts was headlining later in the evening, he of Scratch Perverts, we’d left by then though, all painted out, six and a bit hours, spray can in hand, hard work! Can’t tell you that much about the bands, they were round the corner, I was up against the wall painting for most of the time, or getting asked questions or being photographed. That’s the thing about painting live at these festival situations, barriers come down, people feel comfortable enough to talk, to ask questions, to offer opinion, I like it, I like the interaction, I like the demands of it all, it is almost like a performance (almost, not quite), sometimes art really needs to reach out more than it does, I like doing things like this. I;m not saying art should dumb down, I imagine I love a white walled gallery more than most but art does have to reach out and engage a lot more than it does.
So there’s ten artists on the second day, blanks boards awaiting, fixed to the wall, we’ve come from Leeds, from Wales, well I’ve come from Hackney but it does quickly feel like a collective “we” – there’s Leo Sweron, Arthur Rambo, Jeru kinnaird, Snooze is one side of me, she’s the one from Leeds. Megan Elinor on the other, she’s come all the way from Aberystwth, Zed in The Clouds has come from Bristol, Daimi is a French artist based in London, Perspicere is doing his always impressive string thing just there, I’m Sean Worrall, the trumpet blower – actually I know nothing about wind instruments, although I did find a perfectly good trombone in a case in a skip recently, the poor thing is here in the studio right now if anyone wants it, I have mentioned it several times, been trying to give it away for ages, couldn’t just leave it to be crushed in the jaws of a heartless bin lorry, seems a waste to make it part of an installation piece but hey, if no one wants it that will eventually happen. Ten of us painting then, can’t tell you about Friday’s art or artists, that had been stored away before we got there. Here we are looking at ten blank boards on a wall in Camden at midday on a sunny Saturday, Ten of us, cans and brushes in hand, let’s go!
Ten rather different styles and approaches, hey, I was taking part, not really my place to start picking out favourites or playing the critic, I tried to take photos as everyone’s pieces developed and evolved, document it as pieces started to emerge, fascinating to see Perspicere at work over a period of time, and I did enjoy watching how Megan Elinor approached her piece, she seemed to be having fun. And that really was the day, as serious as art has to always be when you’re making it, the day was fun, I even managed to half enjoy the Clash tribute act and avoid a rant about how overrated The Clash actually were. The day was good, the sun shone, the street was constantly busy, the conversation flowed, Polly and the team from the gallery were great, Dan Lilker said hello, not spoken to him for quite some time, Nuclear Assault were playing an all-dayer at the Ballroom with Massacre and a few more (which might have explained the number of thrashy looking metalheads around) Camden looked like all the same faces from back in the day, but hey, none of them were actually the same faces, just different ones looking just the same, hundreds of people went past, thousands probably, only saw one familiar Camden face all day, where did everybody go? Anyone seen Manet?
So the paintings evolved throughout the afternoon, some quicker than others, some with more success than others, you be the judge, not really my place to say is it? I do believe the finished pieces will now be exhibited in the gallery, date of the show to be confirmed, watch this space, the trumpet will no doubt be blown again when the details are announced. The day was good, the weather was good, the feeling was good, people smiled, fun was had, paint, music and conversation flowed, not sure if it really inspired, can Camden ever inspire again, surely that truly independent spirit that Camden did have for a while (way) back there has long since gone? That’s probably not a question for me though, been there, done that, the place is for others now. Saturday was good, we really did enjoy it, not a thing to complain about, not even The Clash. The day was good, the gallery did more than good (thanks Polly, Finn and team), there were none of the usual street art egos. We met some good people, (one or two Camden casualties along the way as well it would be fair to say), I was reasonably okay with my contribution to the day and well what more can be said? Day two of Camden Inspire 2022 happened, we enjoyed it, it really was good fun, bring on the next one, thanks Camden. (sw)
Do click on an image to enlarge and see it all or to run the fractured slide show