Back in May, I landed myself a unique opportunity to undertake a paid internship at a magazine which is being subsidised by my university. The internship starts in September, so when I found out, we had such a lot to sort out.
Chris and I had our flat in Darlington, two kittens, and he had his job. The magazine placement was based in London, and I was itching to go. So he began applying for jobs, and before we knew it, he had been offered a really outstanding job in Streatham, so we made the decision to move South.
Finding a flat didn’t prove as difficult as expected. Chris came down on his own for a couple of days and picked something for us. A lot of pressure, but as expected, he rose to it, finding us a lovely, cosy (not estate agent language, actually cosy) one bed in South West London.
Moving from a two-bed flat in the North East to a one bedroom flat in London was a logistical nightmare. We had to find somewhere to store our beautiful leather sofa’s, find a new home for our kittens, cut down to one car and throw out so much of our stuff, but with the help of Chris’ parents, a van and lots of packers and unpackers at either end, we made it to the Big Smoke on the 7th August.
And that evening, things in London started to kick off in a way which will probably be remembered in the future in a similar way to the Toxteth riots and the first Tottenham and Brixton riots. Buildings burned, shops were looted, people throughout the city were constantly on edge as rumours spread through each of the boroughs about where was going to get hit next.
Luckily, where we were remained pretty much untouched. We stayed in on a night and watched events unfold on the news, hoping that it would end soon, and people would stay safe. I found myself hooked on the news, constantly checking the Guardian app on my phone, and rarely switching from BBC news 24, watching it spread across the country.
What started out as a peaceful protest seeking answers for a police killing turned into and was overshadowed by mindless violence and criminality that spread across the country in copycat crimes like a particularly virulent bacteria.
People took to social media in their hoards, everyone saying their piece. It was interesting that people had a platform on which to express their views, but from what I saw, ignorance was pretty rife. It was as though as soon as anyone saw the riots on the news, people saw it as a racial movement. But there were people of all cultures and ethnicities involved, and people of the same cultures and ethnicities affected. So many local businesses were ripped to bits by the people involved in the riots across the country, be they black, white, Asian, Northern, Southern or from Timbuktu.
But the violence aside, the community spirit which came from those affected by the riots was overwhelming. Peckham had their peace wall at the pound store, the boards covering Clapham’s Debenhams was covered in messages of love for Clapham and dislike for the rioters, and Ealing used facebook to create the event ‘Ealing is still awesome,’ an event for ‘people from anywhere, as long as they’re nice.’
Funds have been set up to support those small businesses so massively affected, and the Riot Wombles hit the streets with numbers as their strength and brooms in their hands, and as David Lammy said in an article in the Independent on Sunday:
“This is a patriotism more truthful and more authentic than any EDL thug. It is the reality of modern Britain that the likes of David Starkey prefer to ignore. Britain’s immigrant communities have stood shoulder to shoulder with their neighbours this past week. They, and we, should be deeply proud of that.”
It was an interesting introduction to our life in the big city, but I hope that the London (and other cities affected) riots will be remembered as a time when communities came together, stood strong and were united by these terrible crimes. And I hope that sense of community is maintained.