In the effervescent and culturally profound world of Camden, where trends are set and names are made, the quaint image of barges being drawn by horses send a flutter to the heart.
The path from 19th century Camden to today’s social and creative hub — notoriously frequented in the Nineties and Noughties by regular patrons such as the Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, the Gallaghers, and Carl Barât — took a significant twist with the opening of Camden Lock Market in 1974, and the ensuing years witnessed the uprising of several different markets, set amongst the existing structures.
Positioned at the forefront of the Stables Market, the old Horse Hospital in Chalk Farm Road that treated the barge horses of by-gone days, has been redeveloped by Alex Proud and opened as Proud Camden Bar & Gallery on April 3 with The Enemy headlining the live bill.
Camden is as rustic as it is groundbreaking, and the importance of the historical market places to both the spirit and diversity of the scene have culminated in recent distaste at building in the area — the clash of modern development and cultural integrity proving to be volatile.
At Proud, the original guise of its visionary’s musical ventures, and the gallery, were forced to give up their Gin House residency when the short-term lease reached its conclusion, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the already riled public.
Faced with curtailing or relocating, Proud set his sights firmly on a new dawn in a new Camden location, as he explained: “When it became clear that the old Gin House was going to be redeveloped, there was only one place for us. We had to fight tooth and nail to get it, but we did. Initially in 2001, I wasn’t fully aware of the importance of setting up in Camden but we’re used to it now, there was a bit of luck involved.”
At Proud was the offshoot of Proud Camden Galleries that opened in 2001, the most successful independent photographic gallery in Europe. From its inception, the orientations of the exhibitions had been rock’n’roll related, which brought natural crossovers into the world of music, usually in the form of one-off performances.
The desire for a more permanent configuration was incessant enough to create a space dedicated to both art and music.
In 2006, Alex Proud’s ambition was realised when he hooked up with infamous promoter, Vince Power, to create At Proud, the licensed, musical arm of Proud Camden and it is this combined interest that has moved to the Horse Hospital.
The new 800-capacity venue is set out in three indoor rooms — the South Gallery/Acoustic Room, the Main/Live Room (above) and the Stable Room — plus an outside area that can accommodate a further 200 people, totalling 10,000ft2.
The raw aesthetic is present throughout, with the different areas receiving varied levels of design work. The most pungent design features decorate the Stable Room, where the partitioned stables provided a different blank canvas for designers Russell Sage Studio, whose current interior refurbishments include Gordon Ramsey’s first hotel on the edge of Regent’s Park.
The Russell Sage team collaborated with Alex’s wife, Danielle Proud, the venue’s creative director and erstwhile Sunday Times Style magazine columnist.
Kobe from the Sage Studio explained the move: “Our focus was the stables. We didn’t do too much to the gallery and gig spaces, as we didn’t want to detract from the photography [hung throughout the South Gallery]. In the South Gallery we have used lighting to give an intimate feel in the evening, where the space will host DJs, to add a touch of luxury, we have used hand printed wallpaper behind the bar from Watts of Westminster.”
The Main Room and South Gallery are both sparse in terms of design, with simple white walls. The Stable Room is characterised with jungle inspired wallpaper in various colours by Karen Beauchamp for Cole & Son. Temporary structures arching over occasional stables support interestingly sinister plastic animal forms that are awash with jungle decoration and can be spotted by the keen eye, hiding in the ceiling or climbing up walls.
The dedication to music is conveyed in Alex Proud’s decision to hire SSE London to carry out the full audio installation — the company’s commitment to the job and workmanship clearly impressed him.
He said: “They are probably the best especially if you’re not an audio geek, which I’m not, because they can really make you look like one! I have bands coming up to me thinking I’m a genius, when it’s SSE that have done the work.
“We were working on an incredibly tight budget and I’ve been blown away, which is nice to say because amid the stress, relationships can become fractured but they worked tirelessly and didn’t charge me extra for it.”
The ‘gig room’ system installed by SSE features a Nexo Geo S12 line array, comprising of eight S1230 loudspeakers, two Nexo PS15 infills, and four of the very latest Nexo RS15 subs. At FOH, a 40-channel (plus eight stereo channels) Midas Verona V480 console handles all of the mixing duties, including sending four mixes to eight SSE MB4 stage monitors — all of which are powered by Camco amplifiers.
Outboard devices include Klark Teknik Helix and Square One EQs, dbx 1066 compressors, Drawmer DS201 gates, a t.c. electronic D2 delay, Yamaha SPX990s and a Lexicon PCM91. A full complement of Shure, AKG and Sennheiser microphones and stands were also supplied as part of the ‘gig’ package.
With an obligatory 1m diameter mirror ball in place, this area is lit with 12 ProCan PAR 64s, four Martin MAC 250s, four MAC 300s and four ETC Source 4 Junior Zooms, all controlled by an Avolites Pearl 2000 console.
GALLERY & STALLS
To compliment the ambiguity of the South Gallery, a showground of both photography and music, SSE has installed a Yamaha-amplified system featuring six Turbosound TQ440 speakers and an optional pair of EV SB1 subs to accommodate DJs and bands.
For live shows, a mobile live rack can be plugged in and provides a Behringer MX3242 16-channel console with effects and inserts — rack units include a BSS Opal DPR 422 dual compressor and 522 dual gate, plus a Yamaha SPX 990 reverb. DJs can be set up using the latest Pioneer and Allen & Heath DJ products or by dialling into a feed from the Main Room.
The intricate design elements in the Stall Room are mirrored by the technology install. While two EV ZX1i speakers are positioned in the bar for ambient coverage, each stall is kitted out with a plasma screen and its own PA system, made up of two Vieta Do5 mid-highs and a Do80 sub.
Customers can either listen to the background music from the bar area or plug in their own MP3s, incorporating an innovative use of the latest products from Vieta Systems. BSS Soundweb zone control is at the core of the venue’s audio hub.
“It was Vieta’s compact amplifiers and very new MP3 pre-amp that inspired us to look at the concept of a personalised audio system in this area,” explained Emma Barwell, SSE’s London-based operations director.
The amplifiers and MP3 pre-amp from Vieta are designed to mount on to a DIN rail, enabling SSE to build individual ‘amp racks’ for each stall, which are fitted under the seat.
Both the South Gallery and Stalls feature mirror balls and are lit Coemar Punto 12 LED spots, managed by Zero 88 Level 6 controller.
Proud Camden Bar & Gallery has embraced its surroundings, offering an arts venue that is both diverse and high profile, and in doing these things, stayed true to the area, something that Alex Proud was keen achieve.
In summary, he commented: “We wanted to compliment what was there and work with it. Like most venue operators, I’m a perfectionist, but I wasn’t going to have the arrogance to think I knew better than the original architects, nor did I have any thoughts of re-shaping the landscape. I’m secretly really pleased with it.”
Main story by Michael Nicholson
www.atproud.net • www.sseaudiogroup.com
With thanks to Idea Generation