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Highgate film maker celebrates grassroots Camden music venue

PUBLISHED: 14:49 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:49 02 July 2020

Stills from Carlo Polisano's documentary How Did It Sound which focused on Camden Town's Spiritual Bar

Stills from Carlo Polisano's documentary How Did It Sound which focused on Camden Town's Spiritual Bar

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Carlo Polisano’s documentary The Spirit of Camden should raise awareness of the value of small music venues which are under threat from the pandemic

Stills from Carlo Polisano's documentary How Did It Sound which focused on Camden Town's Spiritual BarStills from Carlo Polisano's documentary How Did It Sound which focused on Camden Town's Spiritual Bar

A Highgate film maker hopes his documentary about a grassroots Camden gigging spot will inspire support for threatened small venues.

Shot last October in The Spiritual Bar, Carlo Polisano’s 30-minute film The Spirit of Camden is the first in a series paying tribute to the creative energy of small music venues which are now facing extinction.

The Italian live music photographer followed five resident singer-songwriters at the club in Ferdinand Street, Chalk Farm.

“My determination is stronger than ever to show first hand these independent artists and grassroots venues - like many others in and outside London - where there is an underground culture which works parallel to the big music industry.

Stills from Carlo Polisano's documentary How Did It Sound which focused on Camden Town's Spiritual BarStills from Carlo Polisano's documentary How Did It Sound which focused on Camden Town's Spiritual Bar

“There are incredible artists and writers, many immigrants from the other side of Europe, who should be heard. Seeing what is happening with these venues I thought there was no better time to show those stories and remind people that this reality is in danger, with hundreds of venues at risk of closing down.”

Polisano backs the Music Venues Trust campaign seeking government support for grassroots venues which foster the early careers of big music acts.

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“I hope this film highlights a system that is vital to the good functioning of our society. The love and creative work that artists and venue owners go through to put on shows. Through my freelance work as a music photographer, I have attended hundreds of live shows, from big festivals with international artists to small venues. Of course live music in any context is a great experience, but the poetry, the connection you feel inside a small venue when you are sharing an experience with an artist who can connect with an audience is something else.

“I saw Nick Cave at the O2 recently and while he had incredible energy and it was very enjoyable, it’s difficult to connect in a big arena.”

Polisano is now seeking funding to make more documentaries for his How Did It Sound? series, with Brixton’s The Windmill and Paper Dress in Hackney keen to take part.

And he hopes to organise an autumn screening of The Spirit of Camden at a local cinema.

“Small venues have a vital function in keeping this underground community of local artists alive. I hope the film will raise awareness of the large number of people who rely on these venues and the need to support them and give back, because the Government doesn’t seem to have figured out that the live music industry contributes billions to the economy.

“We can’t deny there’s a real problem. It’s not safe to gather people together in a small room right now, but those venues still have costs and rent. When things re-open and people are free to go wherever they want, will there be anywhere to go?”

“I am impelled to share this film to remind people of the good experiences they have had over the years and how it could disappear. I want to tell this story before it’s too late.”

For more information on How Does It Sound? go to carlopolisano.com


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