A wrecking ball to the heart of Camden

Alienate Design, Camden Stables Market. (photo from the store’s website).

Herein continues the quixotic endeavor where I rail against the inevitable encroachment of the inane monoculture and property-development-land-grab into all that I hold dear.

The Camden Stables Market is slated for the wrecking ball. What will be built in its place? A modern shopping mall with more high street chains– H&M, Boots and Topshop.

Friday I ventured from the little converted church where I live in the sleepy village of Hanwell, to the vibrant streets of Camden to meet Cecile. She lives in Camden, and I heard about the development from her. We talked about the absurdity and the sadness of it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t live in London at all– and what I love of London is just being taken away from my friends and I and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

When I first came to London in 1999 it was Camden that really caught my imagination, while everything else– Carnaby, the King’s Road– had already been turned into an outdoor mall, but Camden survived. It was the last days of raver culture, and Cyberdog was going strong. That synthetic aesthetic that is now a cliche was exciting to me– it was done with such exacting verve and daring.

Camden has changed– most notable is the horrid modern development by the canal that is supposed to be stores and flats. Little by little the stores look more like high street clones selling sweat shop club clothing that’s more Coyote Ugly stripper stuff than trad goth or 80’s mix-n-match vintage style. (For Angelinos who remember, it’s like the transformation of Melrose from a fascinating subcultural landmark in the 80’s to a cheezy shopping venue in the 90’s).

The Stables Market’s catacombs, the dank stone labyrinth with its random stalls, was one of the only places I’ve found decent vintage in this town. A place where you could feel like you were discovering something. It is the place where I would eat on the cheap from one of the steam table stalls and people watch. Now what will be there? Another Starbucks and McDonalds?

I imagine the corporate culturemakers with their patronizing vision, taking this place and selling it back to us as trusted brands, now with a mohawk. Not unlike the ironically named Lab/Anti-Mall in Orange County California– a few years after its development it fell into a perpetual identity crisis, with an Urban Outfitters as the anchor store, and everything else an experiment in economic failure. The only difference is the anti-mall, even though it was designed for the “indie” target market, didn’t destroy something that worked, and that was historic and loved by many.

Eviction notices have already been served to the vendors in the Stables, and in a week come the bulldozers.

6 thoughts on “A wrecking ball to the heart of Camden

  1. OH no!!! Camden was my favorite place when I spent a month in London in the 80’s. I bought a gorgeous hat from a hatmaker there. The hat is long gone, but I still have wonderful memories of that time and place. So sad to hear it is being coopted.

  2. that is downright tragic. while camden was a cliche of itself, it still had some flavor.

    the fact it’s being turned into a suburban mall is…just awful. i can barely find the words.

    i am happy that we visited it when we did, in 2005.

    are any markets remaining? i know there were a few different sections. or is the whole thing becoming a godforsaken MALL?


  3. As far as I know, it’s just the Stables they are destroying, which is the largest and most maze-like of the markets– it’s the one down by the old Horse Hospital.

    It’s such a stupid idea.

  4. uh…WHAT? is this a joke?

    that seems……….I don’t even know the word. When I came to London, that was a destination………I went every weekend just about. It was…….part of modern history. I can’t believe they are tearing it down. It’s mind boggling. I’m totally in shock. I don’t believe it.

  5. This is just a bit depressing. So it goes (he said, never having been there). BTW, Allyson, I am only now discovering this blog. So this is where the pictures go! I like it. I will try to keep my comments to only one or two posts a day, but I’ve built up a backlog…

  6. I’m so sad! I’ve been visiting the Stables since I was a little kid long before the gentrification of Camden Lock.
    I remember with real fondness rummaging in the stalls that used to be right up to the side of the lock before they build that mock-Victorian-shopping mall thing that is now the main building next to the Lock on Camden High Street.
    The Stables are the last vestige of what is/was interesting about Camden – as you said so well, who needs another bland shopping arcade..

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