Markets of my youth

With the sun comes nostalgia. That’s seems to be the natural order of things in my world anyway…

I spent last Sunday afternoon in Camden, and had a fantastic time catching up with a good, longstanding friend. We shopped some, and I got a jacket, I had coveted for a long time. Losing weight last year meant I felt I could wear this style of jacket which is a fantastic feeling. But Camden itself has changed, and it got me thinking about the Camden of my youth and the cremated Kensington Market affectionately called Kenny Market and I wanted to share my ode to wonderful inspiring unique places, which are unfortunately long gone.

I first found Kensington Market in the mid 1980s. I was a teenage gothic punk and Kenny Market was a Mecca for those searching for punk central. The market was contained within a 3 storey terraced building along Kensington High Street between the underground station and Kensington Gardens. All the stalls were within individual cubical like structures, with walkways in between. Once inside it felt cavernous, magical and mystical. It was impossible to navigate your way systematically, and so it was better to drift and breathe deep the treasures on offer. The treasures were a combination of shoes, belts, jackets, trousers, t shirts, tops, chains and whips, which were sandwiched between record, poster and accessory stalls. There was also a splattering of tattoo, piercing and hairdressers. There were from memory a couple of random cowboy shops selling cowboy boots, jackets and shirts. It was a labyrinth, but wherever you were there was a waft of patchouli, and loud thumping punk music. It was divine, and a vast difference from the sleepy Hertfordshire village I grew up in.

My parents took the stance of buying clothing staples and a little more, and expected me buy any additional items myself from Saturday job savings. They also assessed that ‘fashion’ items were more expense and of a lower quality! Blah blah blah! I am sure we all heard that at some point. There was, however, an advantage to buying from my own resources, as neither parent particularly liked my punk stage, and really couldn’t object too strongly when I was buying the items from my own, hard earned cash reserves.

I bought so many items from Kenny Market over the years, and fondly remember two in particular. I had coveted a black suede jacket with tassels and silver buckles for quite some time. They were £65 which was a lot of money in 1985! I looked at them on every visit to the market, flicked the tassels lovingly, and had tried several on. I would stare at myself in the mirrors longing for the time when the jacket would be mine to take home. I saved and saved and eventually had enough spare cash to splash out. I was so excited, and would have easily bought the first one I saw, but instead savoured the moment and tried them on in several stalls. They were in essence all the same, but that didn’t matter, as I knew that was the day when I would be taking one home, and it filled me with ecstasy. I buckled relatively quickly and handed over the cash and kept the jacket on. I walked around the market for the rest of the day with my head very high, and trying to look, and act cool. This was easier said than done as I really longed to shimmy my tassels at anyone who walked past me, whereas I needed to look as if I had thrown ‘this old thing on’! I never felt so ‘part of the crowd’ as a gothic punk more than that day at Kenny Market.

The second item was a little discovery. It was a black suit style jacket which had been shortened in length so it fell to the waist rather than the thighs. The sleeves were also rolled back to the mid forearm which allowed for a brilliant display of bangles and bracelets (also the necessary attire of any goth). What was so brilliant about this second jacket was that no one else in my small part of Hertfordshire had one and it made me feel very original. I wore it to the village pub where I where it was not received quite as well. My excitement waned, but I had to remember, I was the only punk in the village!

Kenny Market was demolished in the early naughties and I still can’t believe it’s gone. It only exists now in the memories of its sellers and patrons. I look back so fondly on the many weekends and school holidays I spent there immersing in a true London scene.

Camden Market still exists fortunately. Well I say fortunately as in it still physically exists despite its enormous metamorphosis. I started going to Camden Market at the same time as Kenny Market, and for the same reasons. Camden Market was much smaller in the 1980s and mainly consisted of the structured market area near to the tube station. The lock and all its offshoots were not yet conceived. Each stall within the market had very different and unique items, yet affordable. Many new designers had stalls to try and sell, and market their upcoming collections. It was really exciting and a psychedelic colour splash. The market gathered in popularity and unfortunately seemed to implode within its own commercial development. Gone were the new designers, and in their stead were rows and rows of endless, copy, uniform leather jackets. I actually stopped going to Camden Market in the 1990s as to me it had lost its way, and I could get the same leather jackets at any market, and didn’t need to go to Camden. Not that I wanted one you have to understand.

Fortunately, over time, it found its way back to its roots, and as the market areas sprawled then the original sellers reappeared with their unique brand of London in the newer areas. It birthed Proud Galleries as a magnificent music and arts venue. By 2000 Camden had found it’s cool again, while remaining exceptionally busy.

As I stated at the start of this entry I went to Camden Market last weekend. This was the first time in a year, and was really overall really disappointed. It seems to have evolved, or should I devolved again! There is so much, to be frank, tat suffocating the real roots and creativity of Camden! A lot of the designers seem to have moved to Hoxton and trebled their prices in the process. The few original and inspiring sellers left are being suffocated out by cheap copies and real tourist trap rubbish. Come on Camden! Get your act together!

My one purchase of pride, however, is a military parade drummer jacket in black and silver which I have wanted for years. I did not feel the same sense of excitement as when I got the tassel jacket years earlier in Kenny Market, but I am older, wiser, and less prone to sudden dramatic outpourings! I also enjoyed a jug of Pimms with a good friend so all was not lost.

Where are the new and up and coming markets where you can still buy new, innovative and unique items? If you know please share with me… I promise to keep your secret!