From council estates to the British Museum: ‘Camden Alive’ on track to engage over 60,000 people in culture and the arts

The creativity, talent and diversity of Camden’s communities will be showcased on the big stage when the best projects from its ‘Camden Alive’ programme star in North West Noises at the British Museum on Saturday, 7 March 2020.

Camden Council secured £225,000 through the Mayor of London’s 'Borough of Culture' competition to deliver ‘Camden Alive’, a programme of arts and cultural events that celebrates Camden residents, their stories and their artistic flair.

Research commissioned by Camden as part of its funding bid had shown that 80% of Camden residents were not accessing culture, despite the world-renowned creative institutions on their doorstep.

Now, Saturday’s showpiece event, held in the Great Court at the British Museum, will demonstrate the breadth of impact made by ‘Camden Alive’ which engaged nearly 10,000 people in 2019. Projected figures for 2020 show:

  • Over 60,000 people are set to engage with the programme – either as a creator, participant or audience member
  • Over 39,000 people will be new audience members
  • 10,000 will access the Camden People’s Museum app and web pages
Culture should never be seen as the preserve of a so-called ‘elite’ – and ‘Camden Alive’ has absolutely ripped up this misguided notion, reaching all sections of our community, enabling people to form lifelong bonds.

“Camden Alive’s projects represent Camden at its absolute best, showcasing its diversity and giving a voice to everyone. The inspiring Cloudspotting project Raquel Meseguer developed alongside 50 disabled residents across Camden. The sound project led by Peter Adjaye at Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate to capture the sounds and stories of tenants living there. The striking Queer Wall at Lismore Circus, created by artist Scottee and Friends and queer activists to reflect on the experience of the local LGBTQIA community – which, at the current rate, at least 5,000 people will see.

“These projects and many more, have taken culture back to the streets, back into our communities and unlocked some amazing opportunities for our residents.”
Councillor Jonathan Simpson, Cabinet Member for Promoting Culture and Communities

‘Camden Alive’ has allowed filmmaker Luke Allen to collaborate with celebrated artists David Blandy and Larry Achiampong on a film project exploring The Brunswick, where he lives as a council tenant. He has also filmed fashion project ‘Made in Camden’ and taken part in the sounds on the estate ‘Oral Histories’ recording as part of the programme. For him, ‘Camden Alive’ has not only opened up personal opportunities, but benefited the wider community.

Luke said: “I had a friendship with my neighbour, who steadily got more sick. Before I knew it, I was his full-time carer. When, two years later, I was faced with going back to the workplace, I was slightly disconnected and technology had moved on.

“I wanted to get back into the industry. This project seems to have scraped through the borough and found the other nerdy people like myself! I never knew there was a guy up in Queen’s Crescent who liked making clothes out of scrap!

“If only you could distil this – this is how strengthening communities works in practice. Old people. Young people. Across cultural boundaries. There are all these invisible barriers that are now being broken down. I, a 50-something black guy, would not have otherwise met and worked with a Jewish woman in her seventies and a young man with Asperger’s.”

The legacy of ‘Camden Alive’ will be a virtual Camden People’s Museum. Presented through web-based augmented reality, the museum will illuminate and animate the collection of Camden resident stories, capturing the work for today’s and future generations. In the future, Camden Alive will also become part of ‘Cultural Camden’ – the borough’s cultural partnership - using a joint approach between our cultural organisations to offer exciting creative opportunities for our residents and visitors.

The Place - London's powerhouse for dance development - worked with the residents and staff of The Sidings community centre to create short dance films centred on a range of residents.

Helen Keall, Director of Operations at The Place, said: “We were excited by the opportunity offered by Camden Alive to connect in a new way with our local community. As we are running the only Postgraduate course in Screendance in the world - choreographing for the screen - there was a natural match with the digital innovation at the heart of Camden Alive. Our students made a set of striking short films centred on some of the extraordinary people they met at The Sidings, which we are proud will form part of the virtual museum and be enjoyed by generations to come."

North West Noises will run between 7–10.30pm on Saturday, 7 March 2020 at the British Museum. View the programme for the evening online. 

Camden Alive in figures:

Since last autumn, Camden Alive has already had 9,500 people who have participated in and engaged the arts programme and of this:

  • 786 residents have taken part in neighbourhood-based engagement and participatory projects,
  • 1,270 attended, either the Launch Event in April and/or the Bloomsbury Festival (Cromer Street) in October,
  • 7,078 have attended a Camden Alive exhibition and/or performance, and
  • 48 residents have engaged in research and development activity to establish the Camden People’s Museum.


Read more about Camden Alive projects.