About our consultation and the creation of "From the Top of this Hill"

When Camden Council started on the journey of applying to win London Borough of Culture, we knew that we wanted our bid to be shaped by Camden’s communities. Our consultation approach needed to reflect this.

Fortunately we were already listening to people’s thoughts on culture in Camden as part of developing the Cultural Framework alongside Camden 2025, the next iteration of the Camden Plan. We continued consultation with open group discussions, themed sessions on place-making, health, wellbeing and community cohesion – as well as how creativity and artists can survive and thrive in an ever-changing London.

To look deeper we had one to one conversations with partners from across the cultural, community, public, academic and creative industries. To engage wider we ran online surveys, Twitter polls and Facebook albums. To encourage new partnerships we drew culture and community closer together in dynamic sessions.

Reaching people through culture itself felt like an important piece of the jigsaw. To do this we asked Parrabbola’s performers to take to the streets. Over three days they moved across the borough, stopping in more than ten places to ask people: ‘What is culture’?

Not one answer from those who took part in the consultation was exactly the same. This shows that culture means something different to everybody. You can find some of these answers on the cover of this book.

These words were also shared with Camden based poet Polarbear, who used them as inspiration for ‘From the Top of this Hill’.

All of this is helping us to build a strong community perspective of what culture is for Camden’s Cultural Framework, and to firmly root our bid to be London Borough of Culture within our diverse, dynamic communities.

 

Parrabbola’s perspective

Creating opportunities and access, asking people what they like, what they have, and what they would love to try has been at the heart of our conversations with those who live, work and study in Camden.

Everyone has a response to artistic activity, so to find out how culture makes people in Camden feel, Parrabbola took a series of pop up performances – music, spoken word, dance, film - out onto the streets across the borough, and asked people passing by to write a quick word or phrase in response to what they were hearing and seeing. Each contributor was then photographed with their word – a kind of creative selfie.

When you bring communities together through a shared artistic activity, you start a conversation: "How did it make you feel?" Popping up in an unexpected space, the artist makes an offer to those passing by. People come out of their front doors or stand on their balconies. They pause in their journeys from there to here. They listen and look.

As we talk, the group builds and differences are replaced by mutual enjoyment, creating new shared understanding. Stories are told, memories exchanged; and when the artist slips away, a new performance begins – and then we know. Camden is Culture.

Read the poem here!