Until the dawn of the 19th century, what we now know as Camden Town was at best a few grubby houses along the River Fleet.
In 1791 the owner, Charles Pratt, 1st Earl of Camden (a man so interesting, he probably merits his own Netflix series) decided to build a leafy residential neighbourhood. However it wasn’t until the arrival of the Regent’s Canal in 1820, then the railways in 1830 that the area really started to change.
It was a time of mass mobilisation of manual labour. The work involved in digging a canal or laying a railway by hand is astonishing, and a huge influx of foreign workers, notably from Ireland, arrived to help.
Many passed through the area, and Camden became, and remains to this day, a centre of the Irish community in London. Hostels sprung up to house the itinerant labourers – the best known being Arlington House in Arlington Road, made famous by Madness in their song One Better Day.
And of course, being an Irish community, pubs sprung up by the barrel load. Camden had pubs on every corner. Outside Central London, Camden still has the highest density of pubs in the country. What’s more they were Irish pubs, so they had stages for music…
With so many places to play, it’s no surprise that, from the birth of pop music in the 1960s, Camden has always been a key part of the London live music scene.
Dingwalls, the now famous venue and bar, started out life as the wharf at the heart of the Piano business which also dominated the area.
Crucially for David Rowntree - at some point in the 1990s Camden Town became the absolute epicentre of the UK music industry, so its pubs, markets and record labels because famous across the world. Then the fashion changed, and the world moved on.
David will look at the history of the area with authors and writers and talk to his friends and colleagues from the Britpop moment in musical history, as they were the people who were actually there, sometimes enjoying rivalry and friendship simultaneously. The different tribes making, watching and buying the music came from all over the country (and indeed the world) with one destination in mind – Camden.
David’s guests and commentators (in brand new interviews and archive clips) will include Matt Everitt and Johnny Dean (who formed Menswear in a pub there), local tour guide Alison Wise, Suggs from Madness, Nick Mason, who as drummer with Pink Floyd played an early gig at The Roundhouse, Andy Macleod (who as well as running Club Fandango and booking The Bull & Gate, was one of the first people to see Coldplay and then released their first EP), Saul Galpern (from Nude Records who signed Suede), Louise Wener (from Sleeper), Andy Ross and Dave Balfe from Food Records, Alan McGee from Creation Records and Phill Savidge from Best in Press PR and Parkway Records.
David Rowntree from Blur explains why Camden has always been the centre of the music world