London riots

London riots

It is sunset, the sound of sirens is less frequent outside now in Hackney (E8), and it seems like the right time to reflect for a minute on the ‘London riots’.

To set some context for this, I (slightly begrudgingly) thought Penny Red’s blog was very good earlier, and think there are some other stories that the media hungry among you will no doubt have seen, or seen shared widely on social networks.

For instance, there have actually been quite a few positive things to come out of these riots, so to flip expectations I’d like to highlight a couple. In fact the two examples I’m thinking of relate to our concept of community, although I suspect they’re quite different.

First is the story of how members of the Turkish community in Hackney gathered on Kingsland Road (one street over from me) to protect their businesses and community. It was a tricky situation as the Hackney Citizen describes. “Over 100 Turkish men and youths” allegedly chased away a gang of youths with banadanas or scarves over their faces. Video footage of the stand off is on The Guardian’s site. I think this is one of the few examples of a genuinely strong community that I’ve seen since moving to London.

Having said that the Riot Wombles (#RiotWombles), #riotcleanup or the Riot Cleanup movement has also sprung up in response to the London riots. There are already two sites, one at the other where you can join the post-riot cleanup operation. There were lots of willing volunteers this morning manning brooms and wearing gloves, and it can’t help but give you a bit of hope for the future of London, and maybe even more generally UK society (apologies for gross London-centric extrapolation, I know we’re a diverse country, it’s lazy shorthand and I’m a bad person!)

I really like the ethos that gets people together to help with the clean up, I genuinely do, but the difference between these two groups is hard to ignore. One that clears up after the event and the other that stands together in the thick of it. I know which I’d be more comfortable in, but I also know which I feel is taking a bigger leap of faith and standing as a stronger community. Utmost respect to both groups, I just thought the distinction was interesting.

Of course the B3ta mentality has already thrown up the truly briliant Photoshop Looter. A rapidly expanding archive of ‘crap looting’ photography. The internet will have it’s little joke, and for those distressed by the goings on, I hope this raises at least a flicker (Flickr ™?) of a grin.

I don’t have a television at home. Something I was once probably proud of, but am now frustrated by as I do feel I’m too removed from popular culture, the zeitgeist, etc. So please take that into account with my reading of how media is reporting this, but I’m staggered by that classic syndrome of ‘toffs on the tele’ with the occasional interlude from ‘man on the street’. The commentary has seemed pretty horrific (I sit in an office with Al Jazeera or BBC News 24 always on), but even worse the commentators appear utterly clueless. Watching Darcus Howe, broadcaster and respected commentator of more than 30 years, addressed by the wrong name, just reinforced how clueless and removed the presenter was. They then accuse him of being a regular on riots?! Watching the preening, uniformly middle-class white presenters talking about these riots really brought it home to me what this is about. When they then interviewed Bojo, Dave Cameron, Theresa May, Cleggy or whoever, it’s seamless. They are living their lives completely removed from the rest of us. Just watching the media interact with the people on these riots or even just commentators from the community, the juxtaposition is absurd.

Hacks in Hackney

Anyway, when I started writing this 25,000 people had signed up to the anti-riot cup of tea at 8.30pm tonight. now it’s 54,000. I’m not totally sure if it’s in solidarity with the police, actually anti-riot or just an excuse for a cuppa, but hey I’m cool with it just being an excuse.

Anyway, I’m off to boil the kettle. I hope it will be a quiet night for you all. Remember it’s not just about the images you’ll see in the media…


  1. This is dispossessed youth.
  2. This is not a Tahrir Square / Arab Spring uprising movement. Yet.
  3. This is a bad week for JD Sports.


Update: Had a nice cuppa, thanks for asking.

You might also be interested in some of the following:

  • Opinions from the Voices of Youth (who you’ll note weren’t the youth out on the streets).
  • The debates on the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page were also superb yesterday. Basically along the lines of ‘In Egypt you guys were heroes overthrowing your corrupt dictatorship, but the kids better not act up round my way, or express dissent’.
  • Some of the more dramatic photography has been compiled by The Atlantic.
  • Bit more context from The Guardian.
  • Zygmunt Bauman’s consumerist analysis (bit of a hero) in Social Europe.
  • Surprisingly good piece in the Telegraph.
  • buenosam

    You really didn’t miss much not having a telly. It’s basically just a string of Tweets and YouTube clips plus footage of Theresa May or Boris Johnson using the word ‘robust’ a lot.

  • Dermmee

    I agree with alot of this Tom, though I’m never sure vigilante groups formed along ethnic lines are the best news we could hope for.

    Beyond the painfulness of the class divide in media I’m also really frustrated that so few commentators have offer worthy comment or leaders have led on this. We’ve had riots before. We had them in Northern Ireland a month ago. We do know alot about how they form, why they erupt and what we can do to ensure they don’t happen. Have you seen any leaders engage in an exploration of any of this? Well. Ken on a bit of a rant. But otherwise. No.

    • Geecologist

      What’s not to like about ethnically specific vigilante groups? OK, perhaps it was a stretch to treat it as *good* news, especially after watching the video, but I’d say it was on the whole positive.

      I haven’t seen a single politician say anything worthwhile about the entire incident. It’s almost like they completely don’t represent anyone in the country but are actually a bunch of toffs from Eton. Very strange.