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At Proud

July / August 2008

Camden


In the effervescent and culturally profound world of Camden the quaint image of barges being drawn by horses send a flutter to the heart and slight disbelief to the brain.

The path from 19th century Camden to today’s social and creative hub – notoriously frequented in the Nineties and Noughties by regular patrons the Arctic Monkeys, the Gallaghers, Amy Winehouse and Carl Barat - took a significant twist with the start 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, used to treat those barge horses in their days of need, has been redeveloped by Alex Proud and earlier this year opened as Proud Camden Bar & Gallery.

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 visonary’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, Alex 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’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 location.

The new 800-capacity venue is set out in three indoor rooms; the South Gallery/Acoustic Room, the Main/Live Room and the Stable Room, plus an outside area that can accommodate a further

  Furthermore it also allows its guest performers to sample these products and have the opportunity to wow the crowd with their performance at a unique location. 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 was keen achieve: “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 know better than the original architects’, nor did I have any thoughts of re-shaping the landscape. I’m secretly really pleased with it.”

200 people, totalling 10,000 square feet. A 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.

The Main Room and South Gallery are both sparse in terms of design, with simple white walls, Kobe from Russell 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’ve used hand printed wallpaper behind the bar from Watts of Westminster.” 
The Stable Room is characterised with jungle inspired wallpaper in various colours. Large skylights and high-beamed ceilings overlook the individually styled booths. 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’s decision to use SSE London to carry out the full audio installation - their commitment to the job and workmanship clearly impressed him. He said: “They are probably the best if you’re not an audio geek, which I’m not, 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 it. 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.”

SSE has installed a Nexo Geo S12 system and the very latest Nexo RS15 subs, complimented by an SSE MB4 monitoring system with everything controlled from FOH by a Midas Verona 480. The Main Room and South Gallery is powered using Camco and Yamaha amplifiers alongside BSS Soundweb, KT and Nexo processing.

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 with the 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.

The intricate design elements in the Stall Room are mirrored by the technology install. Whilst two EV ZXli 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 MP3, 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,” said Emma Barwell, SSE’s operations director in London. The amplifiers and MP3 pre-amp from Vieta are designed to mount onto a DIN rail, enabling SSE to build an individual ‘amp racks’ for each stall - these are fitted under the seat. 

At Proud offers its customers the ultimate experience courtesy of the latest new technology from the worlds of lighting and sound.

Furthermore it also allows its guest performers to sample these products and have the opportunity to wow the crowd with their performance at a unique location. 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 was keen achieve: “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 know better than the original architects’, nor did I have any thoughts of re-shaping the landscape. I’m secretly really pleased with it.”

 

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