How the East End Beat Camden Market
Once Camden High Street was London’s home of hippies, with its head shops, antique fair and the wonderful Compendium Books, a warren of alternative reading. Then Camden Council killed it, so that now only teen tourists visit to buy souvenir tat, draconian parking rules make it impossible to park, the tube is so overcrowded it is forced to close down, and at night drug dealers prowl unchallenged.
Tower Hamlets took a different approach. Its trading laws allow a free-for-all and creativity has roared back, forsaking sanitised Spittalfields Market for the narrow streets leading to Brick Lane. On the average weekend you’ll find genuinely bizarre art, music, decor and life, from the photographer who’ll shoot you for free in an artificial snowstorm, to the shop that sells clothes made of other clothes turned upside down, to the art events that take place in the warehouses where graduate shows are held. Yesterday there were protests, dance-offs, drinking contests, a pop-up fair and curry in abundance. On the first floor of the Commercial Tavern, walls have been decorated with jigsaw pieces loosely attached with label guns. Using an abundance of found objects, the area has given itself a new – and very East End – identity. If you haven’t been to Brick Lane for a while, it’s worth taking a fresh look.