Carnaby Echoes revives musical heritage in Soho
There’s no better time to launch this new exhibition, considering all the events celebrating Carnaby this year, so here comes Carnaby Echoes, a project commissioned to artist Lucy Harrison whose mission was to bring back to memory the musical heritage of the area. Today mainly a tourist attraction focused around shopping, Carnaby Street was once the place to be, thriving with culture and witnessing moments that would make history.
After extensive research, what has come to life may seem in terms of quantity quite poor – the tiny gallery displays a very limited range of memorabilia and shows a few videos documenting past and present Carnaby. All these pictures, magazines and recordings, though, are inestimable in importance and invaluable in interest. One is easily drawn in by the onscreen material and intriguing captions, whiling away minutes to hours; the very curious will get lost in all the connections and what they led to. There is a somewhat bittersweet feeling of nostalgia as one strolls through: moving from a relic to another in lulled complacency, it is hard to believe things have changed so much.
The exhibition is only temporary, just like the ephemera on view – the risk being that the recollections will fall into oblivion again. Covers of Smash Hits and NME, the original sign on the door of Murray’s jazz and cabaret club and similar mementos are only going to be available to see for a short run.
Fortunately, the best and most enduring aspect of the exhibition is the embedding of commemorative plaques on the buildings that were, for one reason or another, significant back in the day. Marking such relevant spots was not enough, so Harrison linked them to interviews accessible on the Carnaby Echoes’ official website. The artist went further, devising an audio walking tour that relates lost stories about the birth, development and often the extinction of music venues like bars, record companies or shops, and their contribution to the dawn and development of music genres like jazz, ska and so on over the course of a century.
In addition, Carnaby Echoes is completely free to enjoy, so a visit is definitely recommended – because everything changes, but legacies are forever.
Photos: Krish Nagari