Tag Archives: Riots

Moving Forward: The final contribution from Sid Phoenix

14 Aug
Our final post concerning the London Riots is the third contribution from A Winter Road‘s Sid Phoenix: Moving Forward.
Us High Tea ladies went to do good deeds and volunteered in Portobello Road for Operation Cup of Tea. We mingled with kind locals, served biscuits and brought together the community through tea donated by Tea Pigs, cake donated by Hummingbirds and all served by volunteers rounded up by Chelsea and Kensington Volunteers.
In the aftermath of disaster, watching locals and non-locals alike come together and relax was a wonderful thing to behold. When Londoners take a stand, the sheer display of neighbourly love is really something astounding. Now let’s look to the future… cuppa in hand!
Moving Forward – Sid Phoenix:
In the past two days I have written two opinion pieces which The High Tea Cast have been kind enough to publish on their blog. The first was an appeal to rioters for perspective, the second a critique of a society that ignores the problems of its youth. The first was met with fairly universal agreement, often tempered by statements to the effect of “it’s a pity they won’t hear it” – the “they” being the faceless, nameless rioters. The second was more controversial, with people often trying to heap blame on government and “the system” as opposed to focusing on the lack of societal parenting that I believe to be at the core of the riots.In the calm (whether before the storm or not) after the past few days, I feel it is important that we gather around the things we agree on rather than descend to partisan disagreements as we all try and claim the riots for our own political agendas.This is the greatest danger of the aftermath. I tried to stress the point that society as a whole must take responsibility for the upbringing of its individuals if we are to move forward. Individuals are fallible – there are bad parents in the world – so when we see a child being rude on a bus, we as a society have a responsibility to tell them to stop; not to hide behind our papers, books, and iPhones. Whatever your criticism of government – and trust me, I have many, oh SO many – surely you do not disagree with this. Regardless of whether or not you agree it is the cause of the riots, you must agree that it is in and of itself a good idea.

In the next days, weeks, and months many, many people will come forward with their particular “cause for the riots”. With the best intentions in the world, they run a very strong risk of drowning each other out and homogenising in to one deafening mass that will go completely unheard by government. So government will continue to do whatever it wants, caving only to the most hysterical of requests.

Why? Why do we all feel the need to dig our heels in and shout our particular answer and suggestions as indignant gospel? Because, much like the rioters, we all feel that government is not listening to us – that they seem to be working to some agenda of their own which is not completely in line with anyone except themselves.

This is the very definition of the issues inherent in the current system – NO ONE is happy. We all feel very strongly that things should be very different, very quickly. We are all disillusioned with those in power. We all feel that the current state of affairs is completely unsatisfactory. We are all frustrated by how little we feel we can change. This is universal, and completely irrelevant of upbringing – hence my point that the issues in government are not the root of the riots per se, as the riots themselves are a warped, horrific, immature and underdeveloped manifestation of feelings we all share. What is so tragic is our apparent inability to look at the bigger picture and put differences aside to work on the points we agree on.

The one thing that seems to be increasingly apparent to us all is that at its very core capitalism as we know it does not function. Some of you advocate a resource based economy such as the one proposed by The Venus Project (www.thevenusproject.com), others take a more moderate approach and simply believe that we need to reign in the absurd levels of corporate power. Myself, I believe we should utterly remove the fallacious legal assumption that a corporation has the same rights as an individual: it does not, nor does the legal system owe it the same protections.
Regardless of which end of the spectrum you lean towards you cannot help but acknowledge that the current state of affairs is unsustainable and requires change.

Yet as soon as change is proposed, what happens? We all decide our way is best, refuse to listen, to compromise – we come up with our own ideas and then decide they are infallible – and so the machine grinds on. When the opportunity for substantial change finally presents itself, no one is entirely satisfied with it, meaning the horrifically simplistic argument of “better the devil you know” proves alarmingly effective – and so the machine grinds on.This is the danger we face in the aftermath of the riots. The danger that despite all the debate, all the yelling, all the analysis, all the reporting, all the discussion, all the suggestions – nothing will change. We will continue exactly the way we always have, only slightly angrier, slightly more paranoid, slightly more mistrusting of our neighbours.So I beg of you, do not pick one idea and fight hand tooth and nail. Do not succumb to the erroneous notion that there is one universal answer – there is not. Immerse yourself in the myriad of suggestions that are bound to emerge and grab hold of any and all that appeal to you. There are petitions springing up everywhere, they take less than two minutes to fill out – do so. Any idea that you find that you agree with, take a minute to share it on any forum you frequent. This is how we will find common ground – the ideas that speak to us all WILL be heard. If we all vote for everything we believe in, everything we agree with, certain universally held beliefs will emerge.This is the true nature of democracy – we do not vote for an individual, or a party, or a policy – we vote for ideas.And ideas can come from anywhere.

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Who is covering the Woolwich riots? – a contribution from Jellyfielders

13 Aug

Our second-to-last post covering the London riots is our podfather Mike’s eyewitness account from the studio which was, unfortunately, in the centre of Woolwich and therefore in the centre of the riots. As it appears news sources are shunning the night of terror in our beloved South London Jelly-borough (too close to the Olympic site maybe? Hmmm…), our boys filmed the evidence and strived to put right any oversight or mislabelling of the real events that took place that night.

When the trouble in London started the weekend prior to Monday 8 August 2011, I wasn’t fully aware until the following Sunday evening. Twitter had naturally sprung into overdrive and the situation in North London was obviously very serious. We Jellyfielders used to live in Wood Green, and hearing such stories made it difficult to put into a realistic context. 

As the events in Woolwich unfolded on the Monday night, we found ourselves living  directly above the clashes between rioters and the police. We had felt safely locked-up indoors, until the streets below us became dangerous. From my bedroom window, I could see people swarming into the jewellery store beneath. Passers-by would stop to grab a souvenir, while peripheral looters helped themselves to the pavement pick n’ mix. 

I had already begun filming on my iPhone. As a filmmaker, it’s habit. They say the best camera is the one you have now. My iPhone has captured some interesting events over the last year  –  from beach holidays to ferrets mating – but this was something happening to our community. Already, I had started tweeting the videos I’d captured, tagging with #Woolwich #londonriots to make people aware that it was happening here too.

At 22:05 the surge of violence began. From the balcony, we could see that when the instigators were satisfied the eight riot officers were not able to intervene, they began to amuse themselves with the Great Harry pub. By now, Chris and Lu had started filming, as the windows and doors we’re forced in and the fire ignited. I went down to street level to make the small band of police aware of the fire. They we’re honest enough to admit there was nothing they could do, being so clearly outnumbered and out-armed. Their advice was to get people out of the building then at least we would be safe. 

During this time, one of the postings had begun cropping-up elsewhere online. I had only sent it through yfrog, yet users on YouTube had posted it and the retweets we’re relentless. Messages of support were also coming in from other Londoners, Woolwich residents and concerned folk form overseas. It seemed as though we we’re the only outlet for  news on the occurrences in our corner of South London. 

Local councillor Nigel Flecther (@nigelfletcher) was also getting in touch, resending the video links and helping make people aware of what was currently unreported elsewhere. We were later able to meet Nigel in the cold light of day for an interview.

At around 1am, Sky News had started using our footage under the guise of events happening in Liverpool. Frustrated, I had no idea how to get word out that this was false, but many had already spotted the mistake and had begun tweeting as such. There was a genuine call for the truth to be heard. 

The yfrog hits we’re piling up as the film went global. I don’t know if it can be considered as such by those that coined the phrase, but it was going viral. By the very early hours of Tuesday morning, it was being used on both Sky and BBC News channels. Having watched much of Charlie Brooker’s work, I’m aware of how outlets use and manipulate news footage to their advantage, and it was happening with our little film. 

Having already passed-off Woolwich as Liverpool, Sky News decided it was now Bristol (thanks to @jitstark). Other tentacles of the Murdoch empire began to be just as careless throughout the day, with the Sun posting the video online, attributed to YouTube pirates. Sky News also refused to credit or acknowledge errors, until well into Tuesday afternoon. Alas, in the age of User Terms & Conditions it’s hard to have any control over where and to whom your footage goes once released into the wild online.

Storyful and the BBC went about everything correctly. Having given permission for BBC Breakfast to use the YouTube films, what followed was an email from Australia. ABC – the BBC’s antipodean cousins – requested a telephone interview to accompany the riot video that the world was watching.

If I could stay awake, this seemed like a reasonably achievable compromise. Or at least in a coherent state. We were approaching 24 hours of being awake but the adrenaline was still flowing. Thanks to Chris, so was the Red Bull. 

Suitably wired, I was plugged into live Australian television, to tell them what was happening in England. Thanks to TheAnimosityGuild for taping it, or I wouldn’t be sure it existed outside of my own mind. I’m the voice on the phone three minutes in. Outside of the media, reality was starting to take hold. By now, the locals had began to venture outside to start their morning routines, only to be confronted by the destruction. 

In the Jellyfielder Studios edit suite, we gathered-up our extensive footage of the pub looting and burning. We wanted it to be available where ever possible, as Woolwich was being under-reported by the media. Our video was being looped in part and in full, under a general London heading, whilst all other boroughs and neighbourhoods had name-checks. We didn’t believe this was fair and felt only a credible source was worthy of the truth being accurately retold. 

We spoke with ITN and Sky News about rights to our additional material. Mostly, they wanted more violent and dangerous scenes, such as those taken of Ian Tomlinson’s tragic death in 2009. This was completely unacceptable to us and the earlier misrepresentation by News International made any such agreements impossible. By now, other sources had claimed our first video as their own, and it had a existence all of its own. The drama of the night before and the activities of the daytime were overwhelming. So is consuming 24 hours of 24 hour news channels.

As of now, there have easily been over 1 million views of our videos in various YouTube forms. 153189 views have amassed on Twitter alone. The clip has become  part of the 24 hour rolling news wallpaper, seen by millions of people worldwide. The retweets and the comments are still coming in.

Thankfully, nobody lost their lives here that night, but the overall quality of life has suffered. The quest to make the truth of what happened in Woolwich apparent is also gathering support. Our extended footage can be seen at  

http://www.citizenside.com/en/reporter-photo-video/jellyfielder.html 

Mike Jelves

An eye witness view of the riots – a contribution from Jellyfielders

11 Aug

This week has been a strange old week – not just in London, but across England the rioting has dominated every conversation and even most of the tweets in the HTC timeline. So as you will have noticed, we’ve dedicated the blog this week to thoughts and views of these happenings.

On Monday night, we heard that our fantastic producers and filmakers Jellyfielders were placed right at the heart of one of the worst hit areas. Here Chris (@geektothechic) from Jellyfielders Studios gives his eye-witness account of what he saw.

Having seen the news over the weekend, we had heard through Twitter that something was said to happening in Woolwich on the evening of 08/08/11. After the weekend’s riots, I think everybody was naturally nervous about further disturbances, dismissing the rumours as just that: rumours.

I was walking through the town centre at around 5:30pm on Monday. I had only nipped out to get some cash and do a bit of shopping. I was on the phone to fellow contributor Eleni Cashell when I suddenly became aware that over thirty hooded youths were about 10 ft behind me. When a single police car pulled up at the end of the road, the crowd behind me started to run towards it, throwing missiles at shop windows they ran through the town shouting. Other members of the public got out of their way and could only stare on, appalled that the trouble had found its way here.

Everything quietened down for a little while and police started to leave the area. We heard through Twitter that the high street had been raided and badly damaged. This was sadly just the calm before the storm.

The view outside our living room window looks out onto Thomas Street. This includes the Great Harry pub, that until that evening, fellow Jellyfielder Lu had worked in for a number of years.

Mike, the final member of Jellyfielders, was standing on the balcony with some of the other residents and he filmed the now infamous footage of the eight riot officers backing away from the throng of rioters. Before the fires broke out, myself and Lu were filming as much as we could from out the window, there were times when rioters had spotted us and threatened to throw objects, so some footage had to be shot behind the glass. It’s important to say this now: filming a riot isn’t big or clever, but as clearly no news crews would be able to get here, we in part felt obligated to film the unfolding events. Obligation, and healthy mix of stupidity and gusto all round.

The riot in Woolwich started with just two individuals trying to get into Cash Convertor (no class); violently kicking the heavy metal shutter, which drew the attention of other rioters. It wasn’t long before a large crowd had amassed and started on the other shops. We live in a ten-storey apartment block, and below us are shops and a Wimpy restaurant on the corner.

It took parts of the now hundred strong mob fewer than three minutes to smash their way into the jewellers shop a few doors down from us. Using a shopping trolley and brute force, they decimated it as quickly as they broke in.

I can only describe it as something out of a zombie movie. Hordes of people everywhere, shouting, screaming and laying waste to everything in their path. Feverishly grabbing at handfuls of stolen goods as though it were human flesh. I’ll admit that at this point, the fear really started to kick in. It was pure chaos, the police were outnumbered as the streets were overrun and without sounding over-dramatic, it felt like the end of the world. Fires started to be break out on the ground, law enforcement powerless. It was anarchy. That’s when a thought ran through my head that stopped me cold in my tracks: they are burning the businesses they break into and we live above a string of shops. We were all becoming genuinely afraid for our lives as there was no safe way out of the complex, we were essentially surrounded with no chance of the police or fire brigade reaching us.

More rioters joined them and shortly after they turned their attention on the Great Harry pub, it took them no time at all to smash through the windows and doors. One rioter punched the glass on the entrance door until it smashed, once inside they started taking the alcohol and shared it around. Laughing, joking and posing for pictures, they were all utterly blasé about the surrounding carnage.

The rioters inside the pub set fire to menus and left them on the tables, when this failed to ignite they poured spirits over chairs and set them ablaze. Within a few minutes the fire was spreading throughout the pub and out of control. Rioters continued to drink and take pictures of the pub being consumed by flames.

I could feel the heat from the fire against my face, growing hotter and hotter. The mob’s attention then turned to the burger restaurant next-door. Smashing through the windows with ease, a fire broke out almost instantly that was hard to see from our window. People in the crowd below shouted “Your building is on fire”. My heart sank. Not only does the restaurant have gas cylinders, it’s directly below the corner or the tower block. If it went up, it could take half the building with it. It’s an indescribable feeling: the town ablaze; lying in ruins; people shouting at you to leave the building; screaming from the residents echoing throughout; panic setting in and people fleeing to the car park.

We grabbed a handful of belongings, Mike took a backpack of things as Lu rounded-up the ferrets Grub and Daphne, and beloved pet rat Mr Smith. I grabbed a few family photos, my MacBook, iPad, video-camera, my lucky penny (my priorities are all fucked up) and a roll of toilet paper. Now, I can’t explain exactly what was running through my already tired brain at this point. Maybe it was a subconscious way of expressing just how much I was shitting myself (not literally, I can’t stress that enough), or that if the world was ending, at least we had loo roll.

Residents packed up their cars and clutched onto hastily packed bags and suitcases. Others called friends or family and a few struggled to comprehend what was happening. This sort of thing doesn’t happen on your doorstep on a Monday. It still ceased to feel like it was real. You watch it on the news or in a movie, you don’t live it.

Through another resident it was suggested that the building wasn’t on fire, and it was looters trying to get into their now empty and unguarded homes. We received a tweet from a gentleman the day after, who was not a rioter, but just a citizen trying to get somewhere safe. He was one of the people who entered the building, knocking on doors to raise the alarm. As suspicious as events may have been that evening, it was genuinely an act of kindness by these people to take it upon themselves to help.

The rioters moved on to destroy the newly opened Wilkinsons store, burning the precinct out entirely. also, a poundshop and branch of Barclays bank were badly damaged. It’s believed that they then returned to the main high street and set fire to clothing store Blue Inc. They broke more shop windows while they were at it as well.

In this time the police and fire brigade were able to get to the fires and thankfully extinguishing them. Returning to the flat to see what was going on, I was so relieved to see police standing where rioters were a few minutes earlier. I asked one of the officers if the building was on fire or at risk. I was told the fire was out and the building was safe. In the car park I told the residents what the police officer had said and slowly most of them returned to their homes or ventured out to speak to the police themselves.

As you can see from these exclusive screen stills, Woolwich was hit just as badly as other areas. It was left off maps published in the Telegraph, on BBC and in the Metro newspaper. We suffered just as much destruction as other areas.

I don’t wish to throw in my two pence worth about why this is going on, and I don’t mean to trivialise any of these events, but the film Super, which I watched recently, contains a brief monologue, of which the words are not that applicable, but the sentiment is more than fitting:

“YOU DON’T BUTT IN LINE. YOU DON’T SELL DRUGS. YOU DON’T MOLEST LITTLE CHILDREN. YOU DON’T PROFIT ON THE MISERY OF OTHERS. THE RULES WERE SET A LONG TIME AGO. THEY DON’T CHANGE.”

Chris Suffield