Yesterday residents of Hackney’s Clarence Road, one of the worst affected areas in the riots, organised a street party to raise money for damaged local businesses. Volunteers handed out tea and cake (donated by residents and the local Marks & Spencer) while children played in the street and everyone took the chance to socialise and discuss the events of last week. I went along with a carrot cake and my camera to find out how to community is dealing with the shock of the worst riots in London for decades.
One of the shops on Clarence Road that was damaged the worst is an off-licence belonging to Siva Kandiah. The local businessman did not have contents insurance and lost everything when looters raided and striped his shop. However within 24 hours two former residents of the area had set up helpsiva.com, which has already raised over £20,000 for Siva’s shop and other local causes. “You never think it could happen to you but it does,” he told me. “What are you going to do? We are just trying to open as soon as possible. I am really grateful for everyone’s help.”
As the party was underway the shop remained a hive of activity as Shiva’s friends and neighbours work to get the premises ready for business. A note on the door said, “Your shop and the people who hung out here were the closest thing to a community we had. I want to know how I can help you.”
As I stood and chatted to Siva, several people came over to say hi to him and it is clear that they already knew him and had visited his shop for years. It is on the one hand great to see how strong the sense of community is here, but on the other deeply shocking that it was this business that was targeted by the rioters. As so many people have been wondering, why did they attack their own people?
One man came up to Siva and told him his car had been burnt out at the end of the road. Although he didn’t want to be named, he told me, “Believe me, the people who did this are not the ones who organised it. There are people, who for some reason or other, are really behind this but we don’t know why.” This comment was agreed on by a woman who said that she thought the police and government might have been behind it, or at the very least, didn’t do enough to stop the violence on purpose so that they could use it as an excuse for pursuing their own political agenda.
Another woman who didn’t want to be named said, “I’m a teacher and there is not enough discipline in schools. We are not allowed to do anything for fear of losing our jobs and that is the main problem. The kids can come to school and act like scumbags and the teachers are too scared to do anything because of the parents. When I was a girl my parents hit me and I grew up to be a respectful person. Children now days don’t have any respect because there is no discipline.”
Local actor and musician Steven Woodcock said, “The problem is partly poverty, there is definitely a big divide between the haves and the have nots. But it’s also partly a bad attitude. The answer is education – not even just for the children but the parents. This was done by kids with uneducated parents and parents who have suffered at hands of police and they will never teach their kids to respect the police. We need to treat the root of the problem or we’ll never get through.
They are so uneducated they don’t even know what they’re doing. You saw them attack these local shops or the JD Sports, there was no political motivation or thought behind it, they just wanted to go on a rampage and get some new trainers. When I was growing up we had drama groups and things for kids to get involved in. Part of the problem is that there is no funding for these anymore, but even if they were there, the kids wouldn’t go because they don’t care about anything. I was so shocked to see all the violence on Monday but saying that, the community spirit here is really strong, even on Tuesday morning everyone was making an effort to say hi to each other. Maybe it will get better now.”
Local performer Marawa brought her hoola hoops down for kids to play with. “I just wanted to do a little something to help,” she said. ” I’ve lived here for 5 years and I love it. I was going to help with the clean up on Tuesday but by the time I got there it had all been done!”
Another local Benedict said, “It was bizarre. Lots of the kids went home for their dinner and then went back out. But it was all aimed at shops and cars not at people. I don’t think it was as bad as people say. Have you noticed how many police are here today for this little street party. The police presence is a little excessive, I think they are still edgy that something will kick off.”