No doubt that the greatest era of this indoor market was in the sixties and
seventies, a haven for designers, musicians, trendsetters and artists, all of
whom would make London the centre of everything fashionable and interesting.
It was a shame to see it evolve into the tourist trap that, in later years,
was a ghost of its former self.
Shrine to Popular CultureLondon's underground scene and punk ethic doesnt always move to take the high ground on contemporary art but in those marvellous years a movement took over and a mini establishment was formed, having hangouts such as Petticoat, Portobello, Carnaby, and Kensington Markets as their own. As time turns these memories into dust, its quite rare to see the psychedelic ambience of such venues retained to any degree, but Kensington Market seemed to do better than most, with its weird configuration and mysterious winding passages, I think it was worth a preservation order. The presence and creative spirit has obviously re-emerged in the ever growing community of Camden, but there was certainly a self contained shrine in Kenny Mkt that, unlike the ruined Carnaby Street, was a throwback to those crazy creative days.
Here comes the Tourists.Even now, its impossible to think that, right in the heart of Londons most overpriced real estate, there was once this off-the-wall dive of mind blowing belligerence, an epicentre of hippiedom and punk perversion. A three floored maze of creeping staircases and hidden delights, of hand made wearables, jewels and retro, of obscure cafes, tattooists, barbers and manacing gothicary. And for a while this place was foremost in the travels of the worlds enlightened, hoping to take in whatever made it special. It seemed forever to be the home of our subcultures, with original fare to boot, but, as with all great things, its success and succession of faceless tourists guaranteed its reinvention into a just another historic happening in the guide book. The buzz had moved on, and slowly, the homogenized hoards of cheap retailers infiltrated and took over. You could still find some wonderful traders hidden away at the back or in the bowels, but in general, on my last visit, Kenny Market reeked of worthless tatt.
It nearly did a Carnaby SteetWell, not completely, but the near sterility achieved by the ignorant refurb of Carnaby Street was always going to be a possible future for any such London hotspot, and here was a ripe target. Kenny looked more starved of novel notions by the year, but for some reason, always held back from total ruination. I always felt it needed to be turned into some kind of fake disney version of its sixties form, with revenue provided for real artists and designers from the past and present, so that its feel could be kept in permanent stasis, like a living working museum, or a historic enterprise zone, or something not too unlike the London Dungeons, but without the torture, if you know what I mean.
Pity it didnt do a Carnaby SteetAt least it would have saved Kenny Mkt from the fires of hell, and revamped the building into a sanitized spectacle, although maybe not a very interesting one. The commercialism of legendary settings always stinks unless its treated very very carefully. Like Carnaby, which is the worlds worse case of fame made ugly. I guess it was on the cards for Kensington, as I could see it needing either mass historic preservation, or death wouldnt come too soon. It still had a good heart of original craftsmen, but those endlessly identical stalls of cheap casual clothing had squeezed out the life and soul.
Who killed Kenny Market?I never expected it to really fold, but deeds were sold out, developers, as ever, would be the slayers of so much popular history, and, as ever, would wreck the livelyhood of many hard working traders. I loved an exciting trip to Kensington Market. You could spend hours there. It was the best show in town. But thats all gone now...
Charles (of London Town)