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camden blog

"Why do people change the names of things that everyone knows? Two of our most legendary venues, Dingwall's and the
Camden Palace, have undergone
the indignity of such ridiculous
re-branding"

 
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Palmistry in Camden



Gary Markwick is camden's leading palm reader - visit him at Camden Lock Market
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Mushrooms in Camden

Camden traders could
be facing life imprisonment for
selling magic
mushrooms

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Funny how we get stuck into our own little time loops. A bit like Scotty in that episode of Star Trek TNG, albeit ours is more a loop of the imagination rather than a transporter diagnostic. For example, anyone of my generation and older may see and even read the word "Snickers" on a certain chocolate bar, but our brains still interpret the word as "Marathon", and Marathon they will always be.

Why do people change the names of things that everyone knows? Their reasons are always absurd. Jif was changed to Cif, apparently, so that people didn't get big white bottles of cleaning fluid mixed up with small plastic lemons (interestingly, my spellchecker has just underlined Cif but not Jif, even the computer agrees).

Two of our most legendary venues, Dingwall's and the Camden Palace, have undergone the indignity of such ridiculous re-branding. In the West End there has been real excitement over the return of the Marquee, now in its fourth incarnation, but the name means everything. Camden had not one but four of the most world renowned venues on the planet. But while the Roundhouse is closed for redevelopment (at least its still going to be the Roundhouse), the Electric Ballroom is threatened with closure by a witless and unnecessary plan by London Underground to demolish the whole corner from Kentish Town Road to Buck Street in order to build a new mega-tube station full of McDonaldses and Café Neros; meanwhile Dingwall's is now called Lock 17, and the Camden Palace is now "Koko".

Jif was changed to Cif, apparently, so that people didn't get big white
bottles of cleaning fluid mixed up with small plastic lemons

Dingwall's has been Dingwall's since the beginning of time. Well, as far back as anyone can remember anyway. Like the Electric Ballroom and the Roundhouse, it is part of the cultural fabric of Camden. This re-branding is akin to renaming the Hope & Anchor something like "Oxyacetylene's", not only pointless but completely counter-productive. When people ask directions to Lock 17, we just tell 'em its Dingwall's. All the posters and flyers for gigs there have to say "formerly Dingwall's" just to remotely interest the punters.

The Camden Palace has been through a few monikers in it's hundred year history. As the original Camden Palais Music Hall it entertained the post Victorian generations until acquired by the BBC in the 1940s, when it became the Camden Theatre, playing host to legendary BBC radio shows, most notably of all being home to the Goon Show. Yes, it's true, the adventures of Neddy, Eccles, Bluebottle, Henry Crun and Colonel Bloodknock all took place within it's hallowed walls. Just as the ghost of Tony Hancock is said to haunt the stage of the Royal Festival Hall, so one might imagine the empty music hall still echoing with the reeling laughter of audiences enthralled by the glorious insanity of Milligan, Sellers and Secombe. The BBC pulled out in the early Seventies, and the music hall became a rock venue. As The Music Machine it was an instant hit with the gig going masses, and is even celebrated in legendary rock movie "Breaking Glass", as "a real hall of fame". It became the palace of punk, and by the end of the decade had usurped the Marquee as THE venue that the great and the good of the alternative movements wanted to play. Soon after, under the directorship of Steve Strange, it evolved into the Camden Palace, doubling as London's largest and most culturally influential nightclub (indeed it was there, twenty five years ago today, that the news of the death of Joy Division's Ian Curtis first reached the public's ears, when it was announced over the PA). And the Palace it remained, until a few months ago, when it underwent (yet another) refurbishment, and was relaunched as Koko. Whilst we all want this most precious of venues to live long and prosper (okay, I have been watching you-know-what a little too much this week), there is cause to take issue with this latest re-branding. The name "Koko" simply has no class compared to previous incarnations. It is a cheap and brash name for something with a fierce and proud mythology; it has no edge, no vision, no pride, it is a neutral and meaningless word. As such the venue itself already feels less important. It's a naff and unloaded PR stunt name, and, like "New Labour" before it, it can't decide what it wants to say. It lacks an innate understanding of Camden itself.

Despite all attempts throughout the history of the borough to co-opt it, Camden remains defiantly alternative, and it's sub-culture is now so deeply interwoven into it's cultural fabric that if one doesn't want defiant alternatives, sub-culture, rebellion, awkwardness and social diversity then frankly one should go elsewhere. I actually find it rather amusing. But then, I realise that Camden people do not wear ties, at least not around their necks.

Jude Rawlins


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