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Celebrating all things analogue 📼

These plucky bastions of vinyl records, print magazines and 35mm photography are still to be found in our midst

Crate digging vinyl at Camden Market

Despite the digital domination of so much of our lives, once written off but much loved media formats are proving remarkably resilient.

Reports of the death tangible ways of owning and listening to music, enjoying editorial features - and clearly the reading of books - have all been greatly exaggerated.

Meanwhile, a whole movement still willfully embraces the laborious use and developing of 35mm film, even though the phone in their pocket can shoot virtually unlimited, instantly retrieved stills and video with a tap of the screen.

This part of London may not have quite the embarrassment of riches it once had when Camden High St was choc-full of vinyl emporia for crate digging, but the area is still home to a surprising number of good record stores today.

We’ve fully updated our guide to Camden Town’s best record shops, including a few recent arrivals (and only one closure), making it the ideal companion for anyone who still can’t resist picking up a shrink-wrapped new 12” or bargain bin lost remix discovery.

📸 35mm Photography

📸 Camden Market’s East Yard is home to Camera Hut, proudly selling only analogue photography paraphernalia for over a decade. Their Aladdin’s cave of retro cameras is, ironically, always popular with phone-wielding social media snappers, too.

Darkroom is a brilliant, fully-equipped space near Chalk Farm dedicated to film-based photographers. It’s also a training facility offering workshops for anyone looking to learn the basics of film processing, the use of eco alternatives like coffee and vegetable-based developing, pinhole photography and lots more.

🛍️ Mornington Crescent’s legendary little treasure trove Nicholas Camera Company is the kind of second-hand shop photography obsessives dream about. It’s stuffed full of used lenses, accessories, tripods, lighting plus Polaroid, large format and plenty of other cameras, too. They buy, sell, exchange and repair.

🦓 St John’s Wood’s Black and White Basement offers darkroom hire, one-to-one tuition from owner David and a range of processing including hand-printed enlargements on beautiful speciality papers.

🎞️ Newcomer Camden Camera have been enthusiastically specialising in new and second hand cameras, printing and framing, from their well-stocked unit at Hawley Wharf since last year.

🖼️ Near the British Museum you’ll find Camera City, with a big range of second hand items and repairs.

📷 Aperture is a pre-owner Leica and Nikon specialist, that also deals in all kinds of pro photographic equipment, including printing, from a shop in the heart of the West End.

They also run The Camera Museum in Holborn, where you can grab a coffee and a panini while exploring the story of cameras from the 19th century to the present day, and find a rare specialist Hasselblad, Rolleiflex and Fujifim dealership.

📚 Magazine Specialists

📕 Marylebone's famous Shreeji Newsagents have been stocking a curated selection of global mags for over three decades, in highly convivial surrounds.

🛺 News & Coffee are the international chain of cool kiosks that now have gorgeous units outside both Holborn and Chalk Farm tube stations, selling great magazines and top barista-made coffees. Their latest venture is a converted tuk-tuk named Hugo, which you might spot on a street corner near you any time soon.

Ⓜ️ Monocle magazine wear their passions on their sleaves, manifesting the products and experiences from pages of the mag at their own cafe and shop in Marylebone, complete with a chance to read and buy the latest publications from their global portfolio.

📔 Clerkenwell’s MagCulture doesn’t just stock loads of the best mags in the world right now, it also offers workshops and talks about the art of magazine-making from people who share the obsession.

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Grasso is brightening up Dean Street with its 70s aesthetic and lip-smacking tomato ragus

Hot Dinners has brought our attention to an independent, family-owned Italian-American diner opposite The Soho Theatre, which in turn had just been brought to their attention by a reader.

One look at Grasso’s delicious-looking Instagram feed and we were in love with the purposefully flash-exposed shots featuring sloppy plates of their third generation family recipe meatballs with parmesan all over the place, oozing great pizza slabs and the remains of seafood pastas that have already been gobbled down.

The homely New York meets Sicily atmosphere seems to jump right out of the photos too, so all that’s left now, we suppose, is to get down there and get eating. The drinks list don’t look too shabby either….


🎖️ We’re spoiled ‘round here for great pubs of all stripes, but it was those of a gastro bent that were in the news this week, with no less than four of Camden’s local locals in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list. Top of the lot (at #6 on the poll) was Highgate’s Red Lion & Sun, with Parliament Hill’s classic just down the road The Bull & Last holding proud at #31, while the newcomer a little bit further down the hill into Kentish Town, The Parakeet was straight in at #36. It’s a veritable golden mile of posh pub grub. Then take a hop over the border into Islington for the fourth; reborn backstreet pub The Baring, coming in at a fantastic #26 on the list.

🆕 Next week (Thurs 1st Feb) sees Marylebone’s latest restaurant incoming. Bellazul promises to be a swish but laid back place, serving a menu to transport you to the sun-kissed shored of the Med, which is certainly an attractive promising on another dark January morning in London.

📊 This week’s pizza-related poll question

We’re flipping the format of this week’s poll, so instead of a multiple choice, we’re asking for readers’ top tips on where to find the best pizza in or around the borough of Camden.

Which slice slays the rest? Do let us know your opinion!


📺 Enjoy Camden’s chequered history

📽️ If you were interested in our visit to discover more about the iconic Senate House last week, here’s a remarkable video shot throughout its construction in the 1930s. Look out for the clearance of rows of original Georgian housing at the centre of Bloomsbury, and the ambitious project begin to rise.

🙈 This fascinating Thames TV report from the 1980s delves into the proliferation of sex shops and peep shows in Soho at that time, complete with grumbling locals, raids by bumbling bobbies and the difficulty of defining obscenity and vice in any era. Serves as a remember that change is a constant in the city, too.


Five live gig highlights from all four corners of the world this week

The Asaka Quartet

🎶 The January Blues Festival at The Forge comes to a climax tonight ant tomorrow, with two shows from longtime mainstays of the UK scene, Dr. Feelgood and Eddie & The Hot Rods.

🎻 Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution is the setting for a night of award winning chamber music performance on Wednesday 31st, courtesy of The Asaka Quartet, (pictured above) who are currently Chamber Music Fellows at the Royal Academy of Music.

🪕 A night of proper Americana is promised at the Green Note this Sunday (258th) when world-roving troubadors Rain of Animals join banjo-bass combi Stereo Naked for a double header that sold out gigs across the UK back in 2022.

🪕 Sunday is also when King’s Cross music boozer The Harrison hosts another free Brazilian choro and Latin jam - bring your instruments if you wanna join in - at the Rodo do Harrison, with Rachel Haytor (Alvorada) and Jonathan Preiss (Choro Matiz and Caratinga) your hosts.

🎤 With nearly four decades of performing, making her Ireland’s leading soulful jazz and blues vocalist, Mary Coughlan, brings her uncompromising and emotionally honest music to London Irish Centre on Thursday (1st Feb)


New range of clobber reminds me of a golden era

The weekly Camdenist column: a week of living, working and playing in the borough…

Heaven nightclub in Charing Cross

Thirty years ago this month (thirty!) I took a breather outside on the terrace of Bagley’s nightclub in King’s Cross (now the upper level at Coal Drops Yard), gazing wide-eyed across the twinkling lights of London with some friends, as we contemplated making a New Year resolution. We’d all been going ‘out out’ a fair bit over the previous months, which all agreed had been very fun but inevitably draining, so heading fresh into 1994 we decided it might be best to restrict our all-night raving sorties just to special occasions.

Looking back, that’s far from how things panned out. Perhaps a clue to our abject failure to rein it in was the fact we were already out clubbing in the first week January when we made the vows, but the main reason for ’94 ending up being the year we ended up going ‘out out’ pretty much every single week, was React.

For electronic music lovers who remember/revere that era, React was the record label that powered a high energy sound of European techno, proto-trance and harder house that, in the heady cultural melee of the early 90s, was really picking up steam.

Trailblazingly enough, their ‘Reactivate’ compilations were among the first to assemble an all-killer selection of the biggest tunes into a single album, rather than the only other alternative at the time – spending hours tracking down Belgian import vinyl 12s, for £15 a pop. They also helped crystalise a sound that was dancefloor dynamite, despite being looked at a bit snootily, if not ignored, by the self-appointed custodians of club culture at the time.

I was reminded of the power of these compilations and the impact they, the label, and the people all around it had on me this week by news of a new range of t-shirts and other merch reviving the React brand. It’s all courtesy of rave-inspired Aussie fashion company Synthd Designs, released to celebrate the label’s history, its music, and the unique design aesthetic that was a key part of its cult success. So what better excuse to reminisce about those unbelievable days back in the 90s, right?

Casting those doomed resolutions aside, it was a time when Friday nights inevitably meant heading to React’s weekly night at Heaven in Charing Cross. It drew me to Ibiza for a first suitably misspent Balearic summer (including photos from Carl Cox’s first ever gig at Space), and led the way to a career writing about and working in the culture I still love.

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  • Congrats to reader Tati Sollis who was the winner of 4 x tickets last week to attend Moonwalkers: A Journey with Tom Hanks at King’s Cross venue The Lightroom. Keep an eye out for more ticket grabd in the Community section of Camdenist imminently 😉


Was all the sustainability stuff we included here in last week’s newsletter 'cultural' enough for you?

Fantastic - I learned about loads of things I want to try out
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 89%

🤷🏼‍♂️ Nonplussed - life is hard enough, but it was a good read
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🚳 Against - stick to nice things to eat and visit
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…Well, that’s good proof of how environmentally-minded you lot clearly are. There were plenty of nice comments left, too including:

“Lots of useful info - thanks. It can be hard to find out, even locally, what's possible to try to live greener”

“It's never too late to make a New Year's resolution! Lots of great ideas”

“Definitely - love the stuff you cover - so glad you signed me up when I popped into the old pizza express in k-town [for the recent Camdenist Poster Sale pop-up] and had a chat! Keep it up!”

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