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.

Donuts, is there anything they can’t do?

homer.jpg

If we needed more proof that some pagans are humorless, we now have it. The temporary chalk Homer on the hilside next to the Cerne Abbas giant has some pagans claiming they will do a rain ritual to erase this bit of advertising for the upcoming Simpsons movie.

As someone who spends most of her free time hiking to neolithic sites and researching them with a great deal of reverence, why does this not bug me? I’m not really a big Simpsons fan. I usually hate advertising’s pirating of public space. So what is it?

Maybe it’s so funny to me it actually transcends its function as an ad. It becomes almost Banksy-esque in its irreverence (think of the port-o-let Stonehenge at Glastonbury this year). Maybe it’s because to me the Cerne Abbas giant is not a sacred site. There are no records of this site before the 17th century, and it is more akin to some public toilet graffiti than a symbol of the divine. When I visited it, I found it muddy, macho and underwhelming. Unlike the chalk figure of the prehistoric Uffington horse which rises up, ghost-like and fragmented from the dramatic landscape, constantly obscured, increasingly fragmented as one draws closer, adding to its mystery. It’s set for the eyes of a God, not some human chest beating exercise. Had homer raised his yonic donut to the white horse, well, it wouldn’t be funny, just odd.

That Homer has appeared overnight in his y-fronts like a crop circle– if we pagans can’t laugh at that, we don’t really deserve our cakes and ale.

To quote Homer, “God bless those pagans.”