BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I regularly travel to London to go to gigs, football matches, protests, union business etc, and my visits tend to focus around that particular purpose and not much more, which is a shame, because London has such a lot to offer. This time we decided to fit in as much ‘tourism’ as possible around the gig, so after quickly dropping off our bags, armed with out underground travel card, we headed for the legendary Highgate Cemetery.

The there aren’t many cemeteries, other than war cemeteries, that can be considered tourist attractions, the only other one that I have ever bothered to visit is Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris.

Highgate has many reasons to be famous; it is listed by English Heritage as a site of outstanding historical and architectural interest, it is a nature reserve with countless rare and exotic plants, animals and insects and of course (it is a cemetery after all) there are lots of famous dead people there. It was one of seven private cemeteries opened up in London in the 1830s and is resting place to over 100,000 bodies.

The most famous dead geezer planted there is Karl Marx, the memorial there now was paid for the Communist Party of Great Britain to replace the original humble one placed there at the time of his death in 1883. Some people do not like Marx, hence the attempt to blow up the monument in January 1970.

Marx tomb is in the Eastern Cemetery, which itself is quite impressive but is nothing compared to the slightly older Western cemetery which can only be visited by guided tour. The architecture of some of the tombs and mausoleums is incredible, but I was somewhat taken aback by the condition of the place, it is completely over run by ivy, brambles and various other foliage, and many of the graves are literally falling apart. After getting your head around the condition of the place it actually makes perfect sense, it adds to the character of the place and makes it all the more interesting to visit.

Apart from the ‘real history’ of the place it has lots of myths around it, like the legend of the Highgate Vampire, and the Hammer House Of Horror studios used it as a set for many of its movies.

The beauty of the guided tour means some interesting looking tombs take on a whole new perspective when you know the background to the person lying beneath.

There is too much to say about the place to put in a blog, so check out the official site, or the Wikipedia entry.

The cemeteries are located next to Waterlow Park. It never ceases to amaze me that these wonderfully maintained huge parks exist in the middle of a city of 10 million people and manage to resist development.

On the way back from Highgate we called into Camden, for years my favourite part of London and it still holds a special place in me heart, but I have been there so many times now it has lost its excitement. I am not sure it is actually the same place now anyway, it is no longer a punk DIY heaven, it is more a place for people who want to sell you mass produced punk DIY. I still like it enough to make a flying visit when passing though.

Then it was back to base to get ready for the main attraction that had brought us to London… watch this space!


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