Lee Bennett (second from left) pictured with Will Smith
Published: 15 November, 2012
by ROISIN GADELRAB
AS if Camden didn’t have enough music running through its bones, next year is set to be a huge one for the borough’s rhythmic soul.
As music is declared the theme for Camden as chosen by next mayor Jonathan Simpson, and talks are under way for special celebrations to mark Amy Winehouse’s 30th birthday, we will finally see Hollywood’s golden touch on our pavements as the much-awaited Music Walk of Fame is unveiled.
On Saturday only (November 17), Camden residents will have their chance to catch a glimpse of what the walk is all about and help shape the scheme when a public exhibition opens at Castlehaven Community Centre, between 10am and 2pm.
In a matter of months the streets will be paved with discs commemorating some of the industry’s most celebrated figures – many of whom will have been voted for by the public.
It is hoped a place on the Music Walk of Fame will become the highest accolade in the UK music industry, honouring musicians and behind-the-scenes industry greats from all genres of music, old and new, and of all generations. It will bring with it investment in music education and career opportunities for youngsters interested in the industry through the yet-to-be-finalised music academy project, which will include offering some hopefuls the chance to jet off to Hollywood to train amongst the professionals.
Lee Bennett, head of the Music Walk of Fame project, said: “The general consensus is that Camden is the home of global music, past and present, and continues to be so, which is why it should take place here. We’re preserving Camden’s history and heritage.”
While it has been several years in the making and so far has failed to excite Bob Geldof, it is hoped any doubters will be silenced at the first unveiling. The Walk, which has already won the support of the late Robin Gibb, The Stone Roses’ Mani and many more, will ultimately lead visitors on a path through the borough as discs set into the pavement chart the industry’s great success, both on and offstage, while passing by Camden’s most iconic venues.
Names to be honoured will be revealed closer to the first wave of up to 20 stones due to be unveiled in May or June next year around Chalk Farm.
Lee said: “The borough will see a better footfall as the initial stones are planned to be spread out across Chalk Farm at 10-metre intervals close to the Roundhouse. We’ll hopefully open up Camden so people will be encouraged to arrive at Chalk Farm tube rather than add to the congestion at Camden. We’ll be looking at putting money back into the community, into schools and community centres.”
While a committee made up of global industry figures and local community representatives will generally pick the first names to be honoured, some will be chosen by a public vote.
Lee said: “We’ve widened voting. It’s not just who you may see as icons and unsung heroes, but also those behind the scenes, anyone from Chris Blackwell to Bill Fuller, who set up the Electric Ballroom as a rockabilly club. It could also be technical people like Gibson and Technics. So it’s not just who you expect.”
Organisers are also in talks with the Amy Winehouse Foundation to possibly tie in a further wave of unveilings next September with celebrations for what would have been Amy’s 30th birthday, although this is yet to be confirmed.
Mr Bennett said the scheme would be more than an aesthetic addition to Camden, encompassing a wider programme of music education for local youngsters, and investing in local schools and community groups.
Budding musicians, producers and behind-the-scenes industry wannabes will be able to develop their talents at the Music Walk of Fame music academy, a programme yet to be finalised.
Lee said: “We’ve engaged with council officers, councillors, community associations and got feedback on what they want to see. We’ve keyed in on the music academy, where there will be mentoring, the opportunity to work with bands, in production and with record labels. We’ll be able to guide people into college.”
There will also be an enhanced music programme at Castlehaven Community Centre.
Lee, who has spent much time over the past few years over in LA in talks with Hollywood Walk of Fame, has even won the support of singer and actor Will Smith.
He said: “When I spoke to Will about the project he said he wished he could get a stone for music as opposed to film as music is where his roots lie. He would definitely come and visit with his family.”
While the rights to the Walk have been granted by its Hollywood namesake, one element is conspicuously missing. Where LA’s Chinese Theatre bears the handprints of the chosen ones, Camden’s Walk will not be the same. Instead, the stones will emulate vinyls bearing the important details of each figure set in a star shape.
In the end, the discs will lead visitors on a tour around some of the borough’s most significant music venues.
Where possible, discs with connections to certain areas and venues will be placed nearby. For example, The Doors have a history with the Roundhouse.
. Public exhibition, Castlehaven Community Centre, Saturday November 17, 10am-2pm.