MBE for ‘rock n roll mayor' Jonathan Simpson

Long-serving councillor 'chuffed' but urges people to support

Friday, 11th June 2021 — By Richard Osley


Jonathan Simpson helped raise funds for the Amy Winehouse Foundation

A TWO-TIME mayor of Camden has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours after championing live music venues and cultural institutions.

Labour councillor Jonathan Simpson immediately said he wanted to use the award to issue a plea for people to show their support and get back to gigs, galleries, theatres and museums where it was possible to return.

“I’m really chuffed. A lot of work has gone in which I can’t in any way, shape or form claim credit for being all of my own because there’s so many people involved in Camden’s cultural and music sector,” he said, adding: “I think the really important thing from this is to put a plea out there for the most possible people to get out there and buy tickets and start going to venues, start going to theatres and appreciate a sector that is desperate to get its audiences back as soon as they can.”

Officially his gong is for service to local government in Camden, the cultural sector and the UK music industry. During his first term as the borough’s first citizen, he became known as the ‘rock n roll mayor’ for his support for the famous live music venues in Camden. He also set up an awards programme to celebrate people who had used music to change people’s lives.

Fund-raising efforts included a memorable performance on the stage of the old Purple Turtle music venue in Camden Town in which he provided a star turn, dressed as Father Christmas and singing Blur’s anthem Parklife.

Working on the Camden Walk of Fame

Then in a second year as the mayor, Cllr Simpson worked with the Amy Winehouse Foundation to raise money for services to help people struggling with drug and alcohol issues at a young age.

He said: “The family set up a drug and education scheme which has helped people’s self esteem and for them to talk about their feelings, and look at why young people may end up misusing drugs and alcohol. We got them into Camden’s schools on a trial to see how the scheme would work, and on the back of that they then got a massive grant from the National Lottery – £4.5 million – so they they were able to expand it out nationally.”

“It’s ten years since Amy died in July and they’ve managed to reach so many young people through their work. It’s really transformed lives – so I’m really proud that this work has been acknowledged. It was a team effort.”

Cllr Simpson said he had found out about the award a few weeks ago but did not know who had put his name forward.

“I’ve got a rough idea that it may have been a fellow councillor which is nice,” he said.

“When other people have got awards they have received a hefty white envelope in the post from the palace but during Covid they are sending emails out and I got an email through saying ‘would you accept this’ and to be honest I thought it was a fraud at first. So I phoned them back and said ‘is this for real’ and they assured me that it was and I had to sit down for a few minutes to take it all in. ”

Cllr Simpson in the council chamber

He added: “I got involved in local government because I wanted to help people. I had some difficulties when I was a teenager, I ended up near homeless myself – so I always wanted to help people myself and I’ve now been a councillor now for 19 years. People think it’s not glamourous or anything but once every month or you see someone again who you’ve helped in the past or you hear about the little things that Camden has done for them.

“I remember encountering a young man who told me I’d helped his Mum out when he was 12 years of age and helped with the overcrowding in their flat for them. When I saw him again he was just about to be the first person in his family to go the university.  That’s kind of what being councillor is about, I think.”

During the Covid crisis, he said he had been working with cultural venues to ensure they were accessing all the grants that they were entitled to and Arts Council funding.

“I think there are probably lots of pubs and live music venues who hadn’t applied for any funding  and I just wanted to make sure they didn’t lose out,”

“Hopefully normality will return but at the moment with social distancing, you can still go to live spaces like the theatre really comfortably. Staff are work really hard to make sure you have a great night out and it’s safe.”




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