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Friday, December 6, 2013
People who live and work in one of only two London streets to bear Nelson Mandela’s name spoke of their pride today at its association with the anti-apartheid revolutionary.
On quaint, cobbled Mandela Street in Camden Town residents paid tribute to South Africa’s first black president, who led the country through a peaceful transition from white-only rule and died last night in Johannesburg aged 95.
Mandela Street is today home to pretty mews houses and bustling fashion studios.
But during the 1960s the exiled Anti-Apartheid Movement had its headquarters in the unassuming backwater of Camden Town, then called Selous Street.
It was later renamed Mandela Street in November 1985 by Camden Council - at a time when Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island and Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government were still denouncing the African National Congress as terrorists.
A quiet sense of pride at the historic links with one of the great political icons of the 20th century was felt in Mandela Street today.
Mum Jessica Brown, 26, who has lived there for four years, said: “It’s such a privilege to be living in this road and nice to carry his name.
“Every time we say the name to people dropping off in taxis he gets mentioned and people say what a lovely road to live in. People are definitely proud.
“It would be great to see a tribute to him here, perhaps something at the top of the road because there is a park there that has memorials in it, so maybe something in celebration there.”
South African pattern cutter Renee Davidovics, 30, who works at John Kaldor fabric makers in Mandela Street, remembered the day Mandela walked free after 27 years of incarceration by the pro-apartheid regime.
She said: “I was there in South Africa when he was freed, I was eight or nine-years-old, it was goose bumpy. He was compassionate after everything that he had been put through.
“Tata Madiba, I think he is South Africa’s father. I hope we get somebody as good as him again. I will remember him with pride.”
Colleague Sylvie Mellersh, pattern room manager at John Kaldor, said: “I was at one time involved in an activist group which gave me connections to South Africa and East Timor and he was a totally great man.
“He’ll be remembered in a 1,000 years.”
Others spoke of Mandela’s place among the greatest politicians of the 20th century.
Fashion designer Patrick Munroe, 51, who works at Cover Up Clothing in Mandela Street, said: “I loved the man, so of course I am proud to work here.
“I actually wept last night, I didn’t think I would, I was watching the news and emotion welled up.
“I will remember him as the man that saved South Africa, without him that would have been a bloodbath, everyone would have died.
“Basically there’s been four of five people like him in our life time - Kennedy, Gandhi, Mandela, Luther King - you’d be pushed for another one. It’s interesting that three of them are black.
“We haven’t had many icons to look up to, I hadn’t growing up I know that, and many of them have often been murdered.
“Mandela wasn’t. They didn’t actually put a bullet to his head and shoot him and that’s pretty amazing considering what he stood for.”
Camden Council said it was too soon after the death of Mandela to comment on whether a permanent memorial may be considered for the borough.
Nelson Mandela himself visited Camden in 2003 to unveil a blue plaque to fellow anti-apartheid campaigner Joe Slovo, which is in Lyme Street, Camden Town.
The other Mandela Street in London is in Lambeth.