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Camden Spotlight

Review of the year 2023

Looking back at some of the amazing arts and culture in Camden this year
A giant puppet of a young girl greets people in the street

A giant puppet parading our pavements, anniversaries celebrating the people and past of our borough, festivals, films, women’s world cup and walk of fame – so much has happened in the London Borough of Camden this year. We’d like to take a look back at some of the highlights.

We welcomed Little Amal on 2nd April 2023

Little Amal came to Camden to celebrate with members of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in a year where the festivals of Passover, Easter and Ramadan coincide. Little Amal’s Gathering was her first return to London since 2021 and was a welcoming celebration of London Borough of Camden’s multiculturalism and an interfaith celebration. Delivered in collaboration with JW3, The Walk Productions, University of the Arts London, London Irish Centre, the Roundhouse, Argent and residents associations from Somers Town and Alexandra and Ainsworth estates, Little Amal met with over 4000 - residents throughout the day at JW3, Rowley Way, British Library, Somers Town (procession) and Granary Square. The event ended with a community Iftar on Granary Square, delivered by the Ramadan Tent project with 1,000 people participating.

We launched the Culture Education Learning Support Fund in June

The fund was created to support our arts, culture and community partners to continue to deliver vital and important creative projects with our young residents. Seven organisations were awarded funding to deliver programmes to ensure more local children and young people had access and experience of arts and culture in Camden. Look out for the next round opening in January 2024!

We marked the arrival of HMS Windrush in 1948 with a Windrush 75 Pitt Lecture on 19th June 2023

The 75th anniversary of Windrush was a significant milestone; it was the last chance to honour the living pioneers but to also open a wider public conversation about the past present and future of the UK. Throughout June we delivered the Windrush 75 Homecoming programme uncovering the boroughs Windrush story.

We launched the inaugural Pitt Lecture at the British Library in recognition of David Pitt, Baron of Hampstead. David Olusoga delivered a keynote speech reflecting on David Pitt’s achievements, how it has changed society and how we take this legacy into the next 50 years, followed by an in conversation with David Olusoga and Darla-Jane Gilroy (daughter of Beryl Gilroy, Camden’s first Black headteacher), chaired by Cllr. Francis, Camden’s Cabinet Member for Young People and Culture.

We invited families to Windrush 75 Homecoming on 24th June 2023

The Homecoming Celebration at Talacre Town Green was a family event celebrating the boroughs collective Windrush story and showcasing Camden’s Caribbean heritage and communities. The location at Talacre Town Green was significant because Camden’s Windrush pioneers settled in Kentish Town in the 60’s and 70’s and Jerry Williams, Camden’s first Black Mayor, was instrumental in securing the Green as a public open space.

We worked with Camden Spark to help year 12 students in July

We partnered with Camden Spark, the borough’s Cultural Education Partnership to provide a week-long work experience programme for 20 year 12 students. The students visited the Ambassador Theatre Group, the Roundhouse, Camden Art Centre, Donmar Warehouse, Central Saint Martins, Bloomsbury Festival and London Film School to gain a better understanding of how cultural venues operate and how they can access the creative and cultural industries through education and training.

We celebrated the NHS with NHS75 Who Cares For Camden at Outernet on 5th July

NHS 75 ‘Who Cares For Camden’ celebrated the achievements and contributions of the NHS and their staff, the Council partnered with photographer Rankin Creative, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), London Metropolitan University, the London Irish Centre and Outernet London, to create a photo exhibition of the diverse communities in Camden who have worked or currently work for the NHS.

Titled ‘Who Cares for Camden?’, the exhibition explored the different forms of care, including who gives care, what it means to care, what motivates people to help others, and how communities can care for the NHS. Over 100 members of staff from across UCLH applied to participate in the project with 20 selected by UCLH staff. The photo shoot took place at Rankin Studios where oral histories were also recorded. The images and audio have been made into a six-minute visual installation. The exhibition was hosted at Outernet in Tottenham Court Road, home to the largest digital exhibition space in Europe.

We considered the impact and contributions from South Asian cultures with South Asian Heritage Month in July to August

South Asian Heritage Month ‘Stories To Tell’ was an opportunity to celebrate the impact and contributions made by South Asian cultures and commemorate South Asian history in the UK. 2023 was first year we presented a public facing cultural programme which was delivered in partnership with cultural organisations and the community. South Asian Heritage Month included the following events celebrating our borough’s South Asian communities:

  • An evening of poetry with the Daytimers’ Mehfil a collective that uses parties and much more to change perceptions of South Asian communities across the UK

  • Regents Roots a one-day festival that took place in the streets and open spaces of the Regent’s Park Estate surrounding Old Diorama Arts Centre (ODAC). There were two dance performances; ‘Pravaas’ from Camden based Akademi Dance, a promenade performance inspired by the climate migration of people from the Sundarbans across India and Bangladesh and ODAC’s ‘Through our eyes!’, performed by your people sharing personal histories across generations from South Asian countries, through storytelling, poetry, dance and music

  • Kilburn based Other Cinemas had a short film exhibition at P21 Gallery. Films from all over South Asia were shown at the gallery. The festival concluded with a stimulating panel discussion featuring the filmmakers, followed by an engaging evening networking session.

We followed the highs and lows of the Women’s World Cup Final on 20th August

We organised a live screening of the screening of the England vs Spain World Cup Football Finals on Talace Road. Up to to 300 residents came out to cheer the Lionesses on!

We commemorated the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop culture with the Inverness Street Block Party on 26th August 2023

We launched the 2023 Block Party with the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop culture, presenting an exciting and engaging one day family friendly event to celebrate, educate and reflect on the impact of hip hop culture over the last 50 years and its roots in Camden. Camden based Mandala Productions worked with us on the event to celebrate the borough’s history which was attended by local, national and international hip hop lovers!.

We walked the Camden Music Walk of Fame from 5th to 12th September

The Music Walk Of Fame was a week of stone laying and festivities. During the week, 11 stones were laid honouring Harvey Goldsmith, Janis Joplin, UB40, Paul Trouble Anderson, Gordon Mac, Sugar Hill Gang, Eddie Grant, The Kinks, The Buzzcocks, Billy Bragg and Shalamar along Camden High Street. The inaugural Camden Music Festival took place on Saturday 9 September presented over two stages, one on the High Street and the other on Hawley Crescent.

We brought you Black History Season from October to December 2023

This was Camden’s biggest Black History Season since extending Black History Month in 2020. We dedicated three months to celebrating the incredible and wonderful achievements and contributions of Black people across Camden and the UK. There were over 40 events across the season, 28 delivered by the council with 17 from partner organisations including the British Library, British Museum, Bloomsbury Festival and the Roundhouse. Key cultural commercial organisations such as Outernet, House of Koko, Samsung KX, Coal Drops Yard and Labtech collaborated with us to provide spaces for artists to platform their work. The programme launched on Friday 29 September at Coal Drops Yard in Partnership with Black Owned London and their first ever BOLO Fest. BOLO - Black Owned London is dedicated to the economic empowerment of Black-owned businesses and fostering a strong sense of community.

We partnered with Nubian Jak Community Trust to commemorate Claudia Jones in December

Nubian Jak Community Trust are an organisation dedicated to installing blue plaques commemorating significant individuals from underrepresented groups. We are working with them to install a blue heritage plaque at 58 Lisburne Road in Camden, previously home to pioneering human rights campaigner and activist Claudia Jones. The plaque should go up later this month.

Claudia worked tirelessly for equality and in support of Caribbean communities in London from the 1950s onwards. Some of Claudia’s inspiring work includes:

  • Setting up Britain’s first black newspaper, The West Indian Gazette

  • Organising the anti-racism campaigns

  • Putting on Britain’s first Caribbean Carnival in Camden to enable people to share and celebrate culture

We’ve brought you exciting exhibitions at Swiss Cottage Gallery

Following refurbishment Swiss Cottage Gallery re-opened in 2023 with an eclectic mix of exhibitions. Here are some of the highlights:

LIKE GODS, 9th February to 30th March

Celebrating the books, relationships, collecting, and libraries, LIKE GODS includes installation, paintings and video by artist Ruth Beale, created in collaboration with their father, David Beale. The exhibition is inspired by David's lifelong love of science fiction and the act of rescuing and keeping books, as well as the iconic Swiss Cottage Library itself.

KITCHEN SINK REALISM: the next round 14th April to 15th June

The exhibition was curated by the Central Saint Martin’s Culture, Criticism and Curation undergraduate students and included historic works of art, collected from the late 1950s to the late 1980s. A small group of artworks from our collection were chosen in relation to Kitchen Sink Realism, a cultural movement which began in the 1950s and reflected working-class realities.

Quilts at the Library, June to July

London Quilters presented the highly anticipated Quilts at the Library 2023 exhibition. Attendees were invited to join for an extraordinary showcase of artistry and creativity.

This exceptional exhibition featured over 60 quilts, each a testament to the skill and vision of London Quilters. From contemporary to modern, traditional to art quilts. The stunning collection included magnificent bed quilts, captivating wall hangings, and a delightful selection of mini quilts inspired by beloved books.

SWITCH, 2 August to 14 September

An audio-visual journey into the psyche of a shape-shifting puppet maker: Shady Lady. Entertaining, magical, and provocative, SWITCH traversed the space between fashion, tech, and performance art through VR, moving image, and installation investigating the nature of identity, with raw emotion and a large dose of whimsy.

Cause I Know I'm A Meet You At The Cross Road, September to December

This special photographic exhibition from Alexis Chabala builds upon the themes of death, religion, and reckoning. Through a compelling collection of photographs, this exhibition invites viewers to explore the intricate relationship between mortality, spirituality, and the pivotal moment of transcendence. There’s still time to catch it until 14th December.

We continue to provide venues for events

We have a portfolio of buildings for events, meetings and conferences, internal, community and corporate. 2023 saw the delivery of the Wedding Fair at the newly refurbished Camden Town Hall and the annual Hindu Durja Puja indoor festival event at Swiss Cottage successfully hosted 8000 visitors and more over their 5 day residency. In addition the team distribute the Community Festivals Grants programme, with 57 community festivals receiving grants of up to £2,000 to deliver activities across the borough.

We continue to provide locations for films

Our Film Office continues to manage multiple film shoots in Camden, from student projects to Netflix juggernauts. This year we can boast a minimum of 700 filming days in the borough. High profile drama’s include Netflix’s Bridgeton, The Crown, Slow Horses, an Amy Winehouse biopic film, Olly, a period feature directed by Steve McQueen, Sky TV’s Day of the Jackal and a key shoot - Paddington in Peru, to mention only a few.

If all of this doesn’t sound fantastic enough, we’ve got so much more to come in 2024!

The second round of the Culture Education Learning Support Fund opens on 8th January 2024, Light Up Kilburn will be illuminating our skies in February and keep an eye on our website and social media to keep up to date with all the other cultural and arts events and opportunities coming soon.