As I start my second term as Mayor of Camden, the famous North Central London Borough, I'm inclined to do a quick survey of the things that have changed for the better, got worse or stayed the same. On the plus side the music scene, mainly driven by the venues and businesses of Camden Town, is doing well. We even seem to be getting back some of the cooler acts we may previously have lost to 'the East' and the creative industries in general seem to be emerging from under the skirts of the markets and tourist trade and thriving despite the woes of the global economy.
More generally employment and business, so essential to the recovery, are being taken seriously and all of us working locally seem genuinely engaged in seeing what we can do to help create jobs and growth. Crime is down and Camden's sense of itself seems to me to have improved and we are feeling rather confident about the future.
Whilst that's great news we recently lost one of our live venues in Kentish Town. The Bull and Gate had been going strong for 30 years with now legendary acts like Coldplay, Keane, Nirvana and the Manic Street Preachers playing early gigs there. But the owner of the pub decided to close the doors and turn the venue in to a food based venue. We have 63 live venues in Camden and I take great pride in knowing that you can hear pretty much any type of music every night of the week. It's greatly sad to lose such a community asset - especially one that is so steeped in music history.
I have been speaking with local people on why they thought the Bull and Gate closed and it sadly seems the case that Londoners do not fully appreciate the great heritage they have on their doorstep. We all lead such busy lives in London that we rarely get to fully appreciate the brilliance of the city we call home. I doubt anyone living locally could fully appreciate that acts that now close the Paralympics would have started their career at the pub down the road - but that's the beauty of areas like Camden.
Sadly - if people don't go to these venues then they will be unsustainable in the long run. If smaller venues go then it will make it almost impossible for budding musicians to get their first gig. What will happen then? Will we be left with a situation where acts have to audition for talent shows to get their break? It's a depressing thought.
I hope the closure of the Bull and Gate is an isolated case. A couple of years ago the wonderful Luminaire in Kilburn closed their doors which was a great shame. They prided themselves on being one of the few venues to encourage their guests to remain quiet during the acts - which meant you could fully appreciate the music. The famous 100 Club on Oxford Street was luckier in 2011 as it was saved from closure by appreciative fans and the many musicians that had graced their stage.
So as I start out as Mayor I think my message to everyone would be to get out and fully appreciate what is going on in your local area. Camden is one of the most famous areas in the world for music but it is dependent on support for locals. I'm going to be spending the next year reminding people that they should embrace the local music scene. After all - there are nearly 7,000 jobs in our area from the music scene alone. So if you live anywhere with a live music scene - consider going to at least one live gig a month or even a quarter.