Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Goth's tour of Camden Town

Camden Town, a bustling district in North London, has become increasingly well-known as a Mecca for Goths, punks, and other outlandish alternative types. The three Camden Markets border on the infamous - each is a fantastic place to pick up handmade and brand name clothes and accessories at whatever crazy price you can haggle. This corner of the city is also home to the Hobgoblin-Dev, the pub previously known as The Devonshire Arms (or just The Dev), famous for it's Goths-only dress code (now under new management, the policy has been relaxed - but its legacy certainly remains).

Goth shopping Mecca!
Reader, our journey begins at Waterloo Station, an amazing place for people-watching (and Goth-spotting, which is a popular and entertaining hobby, almost as well-known as train-spotting. Sort of.), especially if there's a big alternative concert coming up in London, since if you want to get pretty much anywhere on the Underground, you have to go through here. [Side-note: regular readers of my old site may know that Waterloo Station is actually where my fascination with Goth began, as it's where I saw my First Goth. No wonder I'm so fond of the place...]

Next, we'll take the Northern Line to Camden. The Tube is crowded, as always, and we'll probably end up sat in a carriage full of bouncy ravers in blinding neon and/or fat people in tracksuits. Beware the tracksuit people, because they will stare at your Gothy finery and snicker amongst themselves for the whole journey.

Here's a quote from an article I found online: '“When you're heading north on the tube, you can always tell who's getting off at Camden Town ,” a British bloke said to me during a recent trip to London , England . “You know, the ones with the blue hair and thousands of piercings,” he said. “The punks, the freaks, the goths - they all file out when you get to Camden .” '
New Rock love!
We get off the Tube at Camden (obviously) and squeeze through the masses of people all milling towards the exits. At the doors we pop out like a cork from a champagne bottle, nearly falling over a brilliantly bedecked punk and a group of Spanish tourists. Welcome, dear reader, to Camden Town.

The first thing you will notice is how crowded it is. The second thing you will notice is the sheer variety of people. Dreadheads, Goths, punks, little old foreign ladies, gaping tourists with cameras aloft... Ooh, speaking of those cameras, my friends and I have a challenge when we go to Camden each year, which is to dress up as much as we can in the hope that we'll actually be able to charge someone to take our photo. There are punks here who make a living from it...

This is probably when I will lose control of my rising excitement and will go running back and forth from shop to shop along the high street in a blur of black, emitting a high-pitched noise that sounds an awful lot like, "Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!" and trailing a growing amount of carrier bags behind me.
Prince Albert says, "Hi there!"
Ah, Camden. There are so many weird and wonderful characters here - allow me to give you a rundown of a few favourites: the crazy preacher who stands outside the tube station proclaiming that 'Jesus is alive', the drug dealers on the bridge who sidle up to you and lisp, "Hey, man... you wanna buy some marijuana?", the guy with literally hundreds of piercings who spends all day having his photo taken with tourists (known as 'Prince Albert'), the people who stand on either side of the street blowing giant bubbles... I could go on all day.

What about the Gothy hotspots? Well, there are many, many clubs, my current favourites being the Electric Ballroom, Underworld and Dingwalls, many, many pubs, including the Dev, and many, many, many shops. My favourite shops are probably Darkside, Sai Sai and G.L.P. (yay, cheap Lolita-inspired threads). The most famous (or should that be infamous?) shop in Camden is the mighty Cyberdog, aka cybergoth heaven, which I would love more if it wasn't so ridiculously expensive and stocked more black/less neon.

Of course, there are hazards. My personal advice would be to avoid the drug dealers, even if you're into that sort of thing, as it's very easy to get caught and I'm pretty sure there's a nasty repercussion for carrying drugs on the Underground. Keep one hand on your wallet, as there are many pickpockets around. Be prepared to say a firm NO to the really overzealous sellers (as soon as they note your interest in what they're selling, be it clothes, belts, food or drugs, they dive-bomb you).

Camden is truly something that you have to experience for yourself, so, please, if you ever get the chance, go on down to Camden Town, before the tourists take over and the alternative scene loses its London HQ. Take lots of money. You won't regret it. Be prepared to take your time and really have a look around - there are always excellent little shops and stalls in weird out-of-the-way places.

Probably my favourite thing about Camden (other than the shopping) is the atmosphere. No one is rude to anyone else on basis of appearance (not that I've seen). Anything goes and everyone is welcome.

Yummy clothes... come to Mama...
Listening to: Cassandra - The Cruxshadows
All images on this post: Google Images


Loupie said...

Just a quick note from someone who lives in London and therefore spends a fair bit of time in Camden.

Firstly the goth scene here is slowly dying. I've seen it happen, it is nothing like it was 10 years ago when I first started visiting. (sorry this is something I rant about regularly)

Secondly be aware that some of the more touristy type shops will over charge you even after they have haggled you down to their 'best offer' don't be afraid to say you'll look elsewhere.


Rach said...

going to london for the weekend in may so i am wondering: how dressed up it is good to be there? Would black jeans and t-shirt be ok or is time to dig out the flowing skirts.
Just thought my expensive skirts might get torn in a crowded place like that.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Rach - Getting dressed up is always fine in London, so if you wanted to go really OTT you'd be all right - but you're right, there is an element of risk to your clothing! I would advise keeping it practical - but maybe dig out your best boots and accessories? And crazy make-up, of course!

Skippy said...

A better london Goth pub is The Fox, in Soho; ( .

Camden is a bit over commercialized now; but its not too bad, however there are nicer areas of london to walk round.

Anonymous said...

Amy, being one who is going to Camden for the first time, how much money is a lot of money, approximately?

ultimategothguide said...

@ Anon - on my last trip I spent £415. But then I am a SERIOUS shopper. The shops are more expensive than the markets but either way if you want a real spree I don't recommend a budget of less than £100.

Black Rose said...

I'm visiting a friend in London and tomorrow we're going to Camden town.
I love London!!!!!

Saltie Black said...

I'm going to Camden today with a good friends of mine, last time I went (1st time) my friends were wandering around sniggering and talking about the clothes being costumes... I was like "Guys I'm right behind you" basically there was a lot of eye rolling. You see the goth scene around where I'm from "Chavcity" is small.
My friend I am going up to Camden with today though is awesomesauce, and we're having lunch in the local graveyard before we go.
I wanted to say thank you so much Amy. You've given me a huge amount of confidence!

Anonymous said...

This sounds so much better than the "Camden" I live near! I MUST visit this place one day...
Realize how lucky you are to have a Goth scene outside of the internet!

Man Van said...


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Man and Van Guildford

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