2 days, 40 venues and over 150 new and emerging artists, plus the opportunity to catch bigger name acts in intimate surroundings. Add to that daytime gigs, an outdoor stage, live street art and exhibitions, comedy, poetry and book slams, magic and theatrics, pop quizs, films, DJs and aftershow club nights, all happening in one small area of North London.

The Camden Crawl returns this April and RoomThirteen spoke to organizer Lisa Paulon ahead of the first wave of line up announcements.

A brief history lesson for those who aren’t totally aware, Camden Crawl began in the mid nineties, with the aim of showcasing the hottest new acts, putting them alongside more established bands while maintaining an affordable ticket price. After a break of eight years this chaotic night returned in 2005, and with a complete sell out behind it, the event was restored as an annual event. A further single nighter took place in 2006, with the event expanding to its current two-day format in 2007. So with it’s initial launch, break, then return and the subsequent birth of other similar in ethos inner city festivals in mind, where does Lisa Paulon see the Crawl sitting alongside events such as Brighton’s Great Escape or Concrete and Glass in East London?

“To be honest, that is kind of a funny question. The Camden Crawl has been going since 1995 and has always retain the same format. I guess it is the grandmother to those other events and quite flattering to see so many similar styled events emulating the Crawl’s basic framework in recent times.”

The Camden Crawl has a strong reputation for giving emerging acts a key position in the line up, the two-day format sees a significant number of those performing twice but at different times on each day. A look back through old schedules shows many acts who have since gone on to enjoy a considerable amount of success, with Lisa being especially proud of hosting the likes of “Mogwai, Klaxons, Beth Orton, Adele, Kate Nash, to name a few”.

In addition to catching new artists, for some part of the attraction of the Crawl is catching bigger name artists in smaller venues. In 2007 one of the largest queues was spotted for Amy Winehouse in the Dublin Castle, with Ash, The Damned, Travis and The Charlatans also topping the bill across the weekend. In 2008 it appeared that there were less arena-sized acts at the headlining end of the line up, but Lisa says it’s as much down to who is available as any event policy on the size of band they try to book.

“In 2008 there was Fratellis, Robyn, Kano, Wombats, Wiley, just different styles of big draws really. Also, the event is about giving exposure to new artists, so it isn’t necessarily a great thing focusing on the handful of big names. It really just depends who’s around and wants to play the event when it comes to the established artists.”

That said, the Camden Crawl does always look for at least one legendary act, with Sham 69 popping up in the Underworld in 2008. “We always have at least one seminal act that was an influence on contemporary alternative music, thus Buzzcocks, Wedding Present, Echo & The Bunnymen, Supergrass, Charlatans and so on.”

Tickets for 2009 are already available, with sales being described as “similar, but slightly slower than last year”.

With an event such as this, where the great selling point is the unknown, given how money is hardly falling off trees at the moment, is Lisa worried that people might decide to get their festival fix at an event where they’re more familiar with the line up?

“Yes, of course I am concerned with that. But, I am hoping that the people that come to the Crawl year on year are coming for precisely the notion of discovery, the unexpected and good value and are bored with festivals that showcase the obvious choices in less than glamorous conditions.”

The Camden Crawl is an event which, assuming a weekend in London is convenient, all curious music fans should experience at least once. Most of the acts playing are announced before hand, but stage times and the venues they’re appearing in is kept quiet until the day. Punters arrive, receive a running order and map, and are released into the wild to go find as much or as little as takes their fancy. Most of Camden’s famous names are involved, with the lieast of places hosting gigs expanding every year and, in 2009, the legendary Roundhouse has been added.

The identity of those playing will be revealed over the next few months, but plenty is planned in addition to the music.

“There is much much more happening in the daytimes which is already booked including, comedy, book & poetry slams, magic, live graffiti art, speed dating and quizzes, all to be announced on the website shortly. We are also incorporating a lot more unusual venues.”

Those who have attended in the past know this not to be the case, but due to the mainstream media spotlight being on the current hyped Indie end of the spectrum, we wondered if there were musical styles Lisa wanted to see have a greater part in the event.

“Every year we are making a concerted effort to expand the percentages of the genres represented. This year you will see even more alternative urban, folk, rock/metal, electronic and even pop.”

Which all sets things up nicely for April 24 and 25. In the past the Crawl has happened during the week, but last year the two-day version switched from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday which made perfect sense and is set to remain the home of the Crawl. “Thursday is a difficult day for most people to take off (as well as Friday) so early in the year and in the middle of a bunch of bank holidays.”

If you fancy a piece of the action in 2009, head over to the
Camden Crawl website because, as Lisa Paulon puts it, “once you have Crawled for the first time, you never want to walk again!”