North London's Cultural Guide

BBC6Music Festival in Camden: Amy Lamé speaks

As the high-profile radio station bash touches down in Camden Town this weekend, Ben Osborne speaks to their presenter – and London Night Czar – on why the area remains vital to our culture


s a wholeheartedly adopted Londoner, DJ, radio and TV host, LGBTQ campaigner and promoter of Duckie – perhaps the closest thing London has to a Weimar Republic nightclub – for an amazing 25 years, Amy Lamé was an ideal candidate to become the city’s first official champion of night time culture and economy.

She sees her role as the Night Czar as being primarily as guardian of the street level places that make London a unique capital.

“We need to save our cultural spaces, music venues and pubs – all of which are fundamental to our city remaining our London,” she says. “Otherwise these places will simply get bulldozed and London could easily end up looking like any other city in the world.”

That’s why she’s particularly pleased that radio station and home to her own weekly show, BBC6Music, is bringing its annual music festival to the heart of Camden this year, showcasing all that makes the area so good.


“I’ve lived in the borough for a long time,” she says, “I served as Mayoress of Camden between 2010 and 2011, where we spent the whole year highlighting the importance of the music cultural heritage of Camden. Our charity was the Roundhouse and we raised over £25,000 for their amazing youth training programmes.

“I think people in music, and the creative industries in general, still really identify with Camden, so having the BBC 6Music festival here this year is a dream come true – especially as I only have to get one bus home,” she laughs.

“Some of my favourite venues are part of the festival, like Dingwalls and The Electric Ballroom, and I hope people will go and soak-up the atmosphere of places like the Dublin Castle, too. The jukebox alone will keep you entertained for a night.

Alongside three nights of multi-artist gigs, look out for daytime talks including an ‘in conversation’ with The Stranglers’ JJ Burnel, and also (David Bowie producer) Toni Visconti, plus some of the guys from Madness will be chatting about the importance of the area, too.

“I can’t think of a better bunch than Madness to explain why Camden is a place where people want to come and play,” says Amy. “Camden’s music life is down to its venues, so we have to make sure they don’t just survive, but thrive. Last month Westminster Council gave 100% rate relief to the 100 Club, which we campaign for and I’m incredibly proud about. I would like Camden to be the second London council to do that for grassroots music venues.”

People flock to the area to pay homage to the Amy Winehouse statue and now the newly installed Camden Music Walk of Fame. The first band to be honoured being The Who, a band inextricably linked with The Roundhouse, following by the area’s most famous sons, Madness, earlier this week.

But does such a strong history sometimes mean people feel the area isn’t relevant today?

“People do think of Camden in terms of heritage acts,” admits Amy, “but we are also very much about the here and now. I’m really proud of the artists who have agreed to make the trip over the river to play at the BBC6Music Festival and are sharing their south London vibe with us in the north, which is very kind of them. People from all over the world know that Camden is the place to come and see live music. We have to keep it that way.”

BBC6Music Festival takes place from today until Sunday at venues across Camden Town. Full listings info here, plus you can listen live or on demand too, if you can’t get a ticket

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