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Pub struggles, Mexican-Italian fusion and London musical joy

The highs and lows of life in Camden as we bump along into the springtime

Controversial seating and plants, apparently…

We simply have kick off this week’s edition with a big thanks to everyone who voted so emphatically in favour of this newsletter’s local highlights and listings format, which runs alongside our more longform cultural campaigning pieces. (see poll results below).

In this rapidly evolving era of AI-generated content and search, having a human-curated weekly guide that genuinely, un-algorithmically brings you the best of the neighbourhood feels more vital than ever.

While we look forward to telling you about the theatre, live gigs, new food and more that’s all happily barreling our way this week in the regular sections below, there hasn’t been a Camdenist Diary for a couple newsletters, so there’s a fair bit of note to cover looking back a bit, too.

Pub Pew Politics

There was much understandable excitement at news of the return of Parliament Hill’s Duke of St Albans pub, following years of the building hosting a series of rather nondescript F&B ventures. But as highlighted in the recent Camdenist deep dive into protecting local pubs, there’s always someone (often really just the one) ready to chuck a NIMBYesque spanner or two in the works. This time, an already hugely popular and welcomed new social/cultural space has had a complaint raised about the *checks notes in disbelief* seating and plants placed on the pub’s own terrace. That flagging to the Council means they’ve had to be removed over the first hot days of the year while the case is processed. This is ultimately not a make or break situation for the boozer (we assume), but it causes unnecessary trouble for a fledgling new independent pub, and shows the disproportionate power that residents voices currently have to shut down even the slightest hint of relaxed or unregulated social space. We all live in a city, which necessitates a bit of understanding towards the way others inhabit the same streets. Surely there are better battles to pick then whether people are permitted to sit in the sun with a pint near some nice foliage?

Saving the World?

Did you swing by Earthfest at King’s Cross last month? The 4-day event was impressive for its first year, introducing us to a kinds of people and businesses working on climate-related issues, from the cork tiles and lichen interiors of Greenmood to ebike innovators Forest (see below if you’ve not claimed you exclusive Camdenist reader 60 free mins 🚲). Climate action is complex, but it felt a bit misplaced when Just Stop Oil protesters heckled those assembled at one point - surely that’s only alienating the converted? Still, there are good people doing good work regardless, and we heard about topics ranging from the challenges of getting people to adopt new forms of transport to the massive (and growing) carbon footprint of AI queries. As was pointed out at The Future of Greentech panel at Google, one thing that’s for sure is that future cities can’t and won’t look like the shiny images AI currently produces when requested to envision them.

Joyful London Music

Ray Keith and band at The Jazz Cafe

It was a real joy to see jungle music veteran Ray Keith bring his Renegade Live band set to The Jazz Cafe for the first time the other night - only their second ever live show. D&B royalty were in attendance, as were ravers of an early 90s vintage, and the sense of love in the room for this music and the people who make and have danced to it for 30+ years was something to behold. Although many artists have been exploring orchestral and live expressions of a decidedly computer-based genre, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to keep the energy and consistency of rolling out the breakbeat classics when away from the comfort of the turntables. A few missteps - when “things went a bit South” as Ray called it - were brushed away by the forgiving audience, who boiled over with a guest appearance from the stalwart Ragga Twins. Ray’s enthusiasm for the proudly London sound of jungle and drum & bass, its racially harmonious roots and amazing global expansion shone through, as he told us to brace ourselves for the basslines and set up a call-and-response for the ‘dirty chopper’. Having seen this music grow from its rough hewn early Islington AWOL days, to now a live classics showcase at Jazz Cafe, where Keith even sang at one point, I think the whole room felt a little misty eyed. His tearful Instagram post the next day showed how much it meant.

Everyone loves the Owl

Top job hopeful local MP Sir Kier Starmer took some time away from the non-stop campaign trail the other day to reveal on the Rosebud podcast what he’d do if lost at the next election. His Plan B is to work in Kentish Town’s Owl Bookshop. No doubt he’s not the only one to dream of trading in all the pressures of work for a quiet bookstore lifestyle, especially if they frequent NW5’s legendary literary treasure trove and know how particularly nice it is. We approve in principle, but Kier’s alternative lifestyle aspirations do increasingly seem to at least be put on ice by the small distraction of running the country first…

Back to the Old School

As alumni from, er, a while ago, I popped back to William Ellis School to give some Year 11’s last-minute pre-GCSE careers advice last week. Not sure what they made of the admittedly confusing and difficult way Camdenist and associated hyperlocal media platforms and events attempt to make money, but hopefully it opened a few eyes to the scope of the ever-evolving jobs landscape. With everyone a de facto content creator these days, it really comes back to the integrity of what you choose to produce. Can anyone really predict what media of any kind will look like in even a couple of years, let alone work out a meaningful career path within it? My advice could only be to keep an open mind and watch for unexpected opportunities, as they are certainly out there, and we hope to be facilitating a few of them soon, too.


🌮V🍕= Don KOKO to pit the flavours of Italy against Mexico

Just announced as this summer’s official weekly pre-party for the KOKO Electronic club nights, which are held next door in the Mornington Crescent venue’s main theatre, Don KOKO is Cafe KOKO’s new tacos v pizzas fusion fiesta, running every Friday night starting next week (17th).

The Exec Chef from the upstairs members club (that’s Club KOKO, phew, that’s a lot of KOKOs) Andreas Engberg, who we pictured resplendent in our recent roundup of Camden’s best late night lounges, has curated a talented team of guest chefs from London’s top pizza joints and Mexican restaurants, who will go head-to-head on menu creations with DJs and artists appearing at the club nights.

Expect some fiery, quirky and delicious creations, starting with cult food influencer @whatwillycook’s Forbidden Surf And Turf taco (shredded chicken, crushed scampi fries) up against singer/songwriter SG Lewis’ FOREVERDAYSS pizza (pepperoni, hot honey, burrata, parmesan, red onion), alongside surprise DJ appearances until 2am, when you might be lucky enough to access the club’s VIP stage via the Cafe’s secret door.

🌮 Meanwhile up on Inverness Street Market, the longstanding Bar Gansa site is preparing to reopen as authentic Mexican bar and restaurant El Cenote. Helmed by familiar Camden face, the much-tattooed model and performer Aima Indigo, she’s on a mission to bring killer margaritas and tacos to zing things up at this international food strip.

🍕 And while we’re on the pizza innovation tip, Doughnation Pizza has just opened on the ground floor at 3 Henrietta St, that’s Covent Garden piazza’s multi-roomed food townhouse. The specialise in a truffle-based ragu, do a potato pizza base, and donate one slice of every pie to good causes. They, too, will be announcing guest chefs and unusual fusions in the coming weeks…

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KX newcomers and events

🪴Following the recent departures of both Wolf & Badger and Caravane, it’s nice to see a new purveyor of aspirational interiors gubbins in the Coal Drops ‘hood, with today’s grand opening of Søstrene Grene on Stable St. You’ll find all manner of hygge products and what they term ‘creative DIY inspiration’, but not the B&Q kind.

📻 It’s the return of the fantastic Independent Label Market tomorrow (Sat 11th) at Coal Drops Yard, bringing the UK’s admirable indie vinyl imprints together for a massive social get-together and sale. Expect rarities, test pressings, signed merch, live sets and DJs all day too, the finest craft beers plus a tasty afters over at The Standard hotel.

🧢 Upstairs at Samsung KX all Saturday afternoon you can witness ASA All Styles Allday, showcasing one-on-one dance battles, ‘where Street Fighter meets Tekken’.

Camdenist in partnership with

🎭 Comedy, Cabaret and huge Crocs

Croc fun at the Open Air Theatre

🐊 A new musical version of Roald Dahl’s picturebook kids classic The Enormous Crocodile opens next Friday at Regent’s Park’s lovely Open Air Theatre. Runs through until June 8th.

👒 A Word for Mother is a simmering family drama about the intertwined history of four women, sisterly relationships, and motherly love, penned by local writer-actor Tim McArther, and currently showing at Highgate’s Upstairs at The Gatehouse until May 26th.

🤣 Monday night is always good for saying f*** it, and heading out for a laugh, and Camden Comedy Club at has a double bill of mini keyboard-wielding Amy Webber and newcomer Eddy Hare for you.

👯‍♂️ The London Cabaret Club in Holborn is currently paying homage to the movie Chicago with a dazzling roaring twenties extravaganza called Roxie Rocks Chicago. Upgrade for food, bubbles, and access to the after party. Until June 22nd.


🎶Who to go and hear live locally in the next seven days

Obi Franky at Cafe KOKO

🍺 We first met singer song-writer Brave New Broken Hearts Club at a boozy pub celebration with our friends at CityStack earlier this year, and now locals get to hear him live as part of a mini-tour of ‘pay what you want’ gigs at a selection of CityStack-featured pubs across town. You can find him tonight at NW5’s Rose & Crown and on Thursday (16th May) at NW1’s Colonel Fawcett.

🎸 Chingford’s The Rifles haven’t released a record for seven years, but now they’re back with LP Love Your Neighbour and a gig at the O2 Forum Kentish Town on Saturday (11th) with trademark electrifying energy, anthemic songs and relatable lyrics of modern British life.

🎻 Cello and piano music by women composers is celebrated up at Lauderdale House this Sunday (12th) as Heather Tuach and Yoko Misumi play together once more to fundraise for the Susanne Beer Cello Corner Foundation.

🎤 West London multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Obi Franky (pictured) and her three-piece band grace Cafe Koko with their eclectic afrobeat, soul and reggae-tinged sounds on Tuesday (14th).

🤘 Warm up for next weekend's epic Desertfest 2024 weekender (taking place across six Camden venues) with a tasty pre-party at The Black Heart on Thurs 16th, featuring Lucid Sins, Parish and Flickers from the Fen.


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As a pub has to remove benches and plants from its own terrace due to a single complaint, do residents have too much power over London's social and cultural spaces?

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