There's never been a better time to rekindly those Camden Town memories

PUBLISHED: 16:58 17 December 2007 | UPDATED: 14:38 07 September 2010

Camden Town Unlimited s Chief executive Simon Pitkeathley explains the challenges facing his organisation You ll be relieved to hear I m not going to tell you about my first sexual experience. However I know a lot of people who ve been through such rig

Camden Town Unlimited's Chief executive Simon

Pitkeathley explains the challenges facing his organisation

You'll be relieved to hear I'm not going to tell you about my first sexual experience. However I know a lot of people who've been through such rights of passage in Camden Town and I'm willing to bet a fair few of them are regular Ham&High readers. Which may be why so many people I come across have strong views on the place.

It may also be because, though many of these people never actually frequent Camden Town these days, they feel its presence. And for Ham&High readers, Camden Town is an important part of the "ambience on the doorstep".

I'm concerned with this issue because I've recently become the Chief Executive of Camden Town's Business Improvement District. And as I look at and discuss ways of improving the town, I'm continually struck by the depth of feeling almost everyone has about Camden Town and any potential changes.

So what is a business improvement district? Camden Town Unlimited was voted into existence in April 2006 by a large majority of its 300 member businesses for a five-year term.

Businesses with a rateable value of over £40,000 per year pay a one per cent levy on top of their business rates in order to fund our work programme. The programme has three elements to cut crime, to clean and green and to celebrate and promote.

I interpret my brief as being to improve Camden Town for its businesses and residents without losing its essential character. Or to put it another way, to give Camden Town back to Londoners.

Camden Town is well known for its retail and night life. Not to mention the tourists and drug dealers. I'm of the view that the Lock, Stables Market and the retail environment to the north of the tube are all faring well. I see no need, or desire to recreate another Brent Cross in our midst.

Our music scene is surely second to none and still very much a Londoners' playground.

What is less seen is the thriving fringe of creative and media industries based here. The European headquarters of Getty Images, Hugo Boss, French Connection and Emap spring immediately to mind. MTV, APTN and shortly China State Television seem to have picked up on the advantages of the place.

Then there's ARUP, Shepard Robson, Y&R and CBS Outdoor who are all taking advantage of rents far cheaper than they'd find 10 minutes down the road in the West End, together with a night life environment that many younger staff see as a plus to working for their organisation.

Yet many of these companies, together with residents from both sides of the high street, exist around the southern end of a high street they barely use. This same part of Camden Town is now a 10-minute walk from the back entrance to St Pancras Station. Something surely isn't quite right.

If we look further south to the exciting new developments around King's Cross and in the future Euston, we can see a developing corporate world that could, if managed appropriately, bring much needed jobs to some of the more deprived parts of the capital that sit right on their doorstep.

But where will these shiny new developments get their character? Where will their workers, visitors and new residents go for their entertainment, culture and fun?

If we begin to think creatively about Camden Town and see its southern end as part of a growing Camden Creative Quarter, that adds much-needed character to King's Cross and Euston, and if we remind ourselves of the creative media organisations that are already part of our landscape, a brighter future for that part of the high street begins to seem possible.

I'm dreading the day I see a T-shirt with ''my parents went to Camden and all I got was this lousy T-shirt'' sprawled across it. The Lock, Stables Market and the tourists they attract are what many people now regard as quintessentially Camden Town. But my feeling is the working and residential populations don't see themselves as part of it. Reconnecting these groups with Camden Town requires looking more broadly at our opportunities.

The tourists are important - this is London's second biggest tourist attraction, after all. But nearly as many people come in and out of Camden Town tube station on each weekday as they do at weekends. And how many of them use the high street?

So when you next think of Camden Town, or hear of plans to change things, perhaps it's worth wondering if the place in your memory still exists in the same way and if some of the ideas people like me are developing, might in fact bring back some of the things we've lost. You could also consider revisiting some of your old haunts.

They will have changed no doubt, but they may still be interesting. For lots of reasons.

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