Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Camden's tribute to Amy Winehouse

On what would have been her 31st birthday last Saturday, a statue of the late British singer, Amy Winehouse, was unveiled in Camden's Stables Market. Her style was bluesy jazz and soul, and immensely popular. By the time she was 20 years old she had released an album - Frank - that was destined to go platinum and launch a truly stellar musical career. Sadly, she had a life as filled with pain as the soulful songs she sung, and Amy never made it past her 27th birthday, dying of alcohol poisoning in 2011, and joining the infamous '27 Club': a group of famous musical individuals who died at the age of 27. (Amy Winehouse shares this debatable honour with people like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain.)
While she was still alive however, topping charts and performing gigs, Amy was very definitely a Camden girl. Although it is probably fair to say she didn't spend her days hanging out amidst the foreign tourists who wander the market each day. But just opposite the market, beneath a railway bridge, stands the Hawley Arms: a classic English boozer, much frequented by famous people from the worlds of music, fashion and TV. According to the media, it was Amy's home away from home. When the pub went up in smoke in 2008 practically every article or broadcast on the fire made mention of Ms Winehouse's patronage of the place.

Amy Winehouse's actual home wasn't far away from the bustling centre of Camden though. Head on up the hill out of Camden towards Holloway, and you soon come to Camden Square; a large residential square with a sizeable central garden and huge white houses round its edges. Here, Winehouse purchased a mansion of her own, threw up high security fences and installed a recording studio. When she died, it was here her fans came to mourn. They tied flowers and letters to the trees opposite her house, set up vigils through the night, and left candles and bottles of whiskey all over the pavement. Camden Square is on one of my running routes, and even today - now the house has been sold and someone else lives there - you can see the odd note or red rose pinned to one of the nearby trees.

And now Amy has returned to Camden. I went to see her new statue at the market yesterday. At least I think it was supposed to be hers...

The sculptor, Scott Eaton, has recreated Amy with her trademark behive, a pout...and someone else's face. Those  Disney-princess eyes may be ringed with the same thick black eyeliner she loved, but they don't look much like hers. The statue is described as 'life-size', yet with tiny, spindly legs Winehouse looks more like Bambi than a young woman. (Of course she was notoriously teeny, but there is an oddly unreal quality to this depiction). I couldn't spot a single one of her famous tattoos anywhere on her new bronze skin.

The tourists in the market didn't seem to mind however. They queued up to pose with Amy's statue, copying her hand-on-hip stance, grinning at their companions behind cameras. By the statue's bronze heels lie hand-written notes and plastic-wrapped flowers from her fans, who now have a new place to visit their lost idol. She may not look exactly the way many of us remember her, but Camden's famous daughter has come home once more.

4 comments:

  1. I think it's a dreadful sculpture but in a way makes a fitting tribute!

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    1. I think it's great that fans now have somewhere to go to 'see Amy' rather than her old house. (Must piss off the current owners a bit!) But yes, an odd monument to her, eh?

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  2. We all miss Amy (or at least I do!). I haven't see the sculpture just yet. I need to go back to Camden. I miss Camden, actually.

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    1. Well, anytime you fancy a wander round up here, Muriel...just give me a shout! x

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