Camden market is situated on the Regent’s Canal and occupies a complex of disused Victorian warehouses, and even an old horse hospital, that cluster around the canal and up Camden High Street. It mainly sells clothes, books, music, food and a range of wonderfully useless bric- a- brac.
The market is loosely composed of six large sections covering many acres, and is so large on Sundays, that they have to partially close the Camden Town tube station to help with the overcrowding.
It was not always so large; when I first moved to London Camden market was tiny. In fact this small area to the right was the whole of Camden market. It was all pretty amateur too, my sister and friends used to arrive early on a Sunday morning with old clothes and a pasting table and pay a few pounds for the day.
As it has gone through its mammoth growth period, the management have, however, maintained it as a place for small businesses, and have done their best to keep its unique feel. Perhaps a lesson learnt from corporate rinsing suffered by Carnaby Street in Soho?
Naturally, big corporates have made bullish attempts at muscling in on all that lovely money going in the wrong pockets, but so far so good. Despite attempts to knock it all down and build something in glass and steel, the leaky, rusting Camden market soldiers on. It is like no other shopping street in the country and has more in common with Marrakech than Manchester, and all the better for it.
The view I chose to paint is the iron bridge spanning the Regent’s Canal. It passes over the bridge diagonally in a sort of lazy ‘S’ shape which is the partly why I wanted to capture. As I worked on the pencil part of the painting, I mused on why the bridge did not pass over in a right angle like all other bridges in the world. I then hit on the answer.
The bridge was built like that so horses and carts could pass over at a decent shallow angle in the tight space of the canal. Yes, a clever piece of Victorian thinking. As I worked the barges were put putting in and out of the locks and it was most restful.
Whilst working, I spied over to my right a fella in a Liverpool football shirt flitting excitedly in and out of the takeaways. He was looking for ages. He appeared very keen in getting exactly what he wanted, he flitted away until he disappeared among the stalls and shoppers.
I saw him again about ten minutes later just in front of me leaning on the railing and stuffing his lunch greedily into his mouth.
He noticed me noticing him. ‘I just got in from Afgan!’ he piped by way of an explaination, clearly a soldier on leave. ‘Ya don’t get Chinese takeaway in Afgan!’ The Scouse accent clear through gob fulls of Chow Mein. ‘Fu##in love Chinese’ he continued without looking up.
Once the emergency rations were over we shared a Coke together in the afternoon sun and he informed me that although they get 5000 calories a day whilst patrolling none of it was Chinese or Doner Kebabs. We both agreed that ‘War truly is hell’.
I was glad to see him back, not only safe but with his meal of choice too. I told him I would put him in my final painting and indeed I did. He is over on the right hand side searching for his takeaway from heaven.