Now the ghost, back with a bang. Meets London at an angle, spinning off its own axis.
Last Saturday, there were sirens screaming through the night.
Police vans, straight from other boroughs heading fast up Stoke Newington High Street. Cabaret at the Rebel Dog, we knew that something was going on. I get a text from Tamsin “Riots in Tottenham?! X“.
What’s happening tonight London?
The answer is stranger than anything anyone can muster. Uptown, Urban Dusk was settling the next evening when I finally journeyed up the Road, a road I know very well. Maybe the ravens at the Tower started to get restless. I’d never seen what a lockdown looked like.
Smashed bricks still there on wet tarmac outside Chances. A Peoples’ Assembly was being held on the pavement where the men normally drink too much stout.
Ahead of The Game. Connections really running deep. ATP in Whitechapel. Syzygy Re-Productions at the Sydney Youth Project.
Now I have previously drifted through Tottenham Carnival. No carnival, the chatter on the High Road this evening wasn’t too good. The police had killed a man. And the situation on the streets got so tense and heated, that it blew up. Now some of Tottenham’s buildings lay smouldering.
They’d closed the whole Road and the police them there maintaining the line.
Haringey People. I left as more and more police cars sped around the one-way system at Tottenham Hale to get over to Enfield, where there had just started looting.
The Shock. The Horror.
Also just the rupture in the every day mundanity. They were in Wood Green Shopping City for 4 hours before cops turned up.
The next day I was in the West End. I was the final customer that morning at the bank in High Holborn which they were closing early having heard from their management that rioting was happening nearby. An hour later, and this was the scene at the shops in the recently renovated Brunswick Centre:
What happened here? The kids picked on a Vodaphone shop, and smashed the windows to get at the phones.
The spark had spread, from the High Street in Tottenham so that it lit up something in the kids in Gloucester who started doing the same thing. London as Barometer. London as Microcosm. On the second night of rioting, the whole world starts watching.
Later that night, I was back in Whitechapel.
There were kids outside were getting restless. A lot of flashing lights were going around Stepney but nothing was going to get on Sky News. Smoke filled the air and a fire engine pulls into the carpark at O’Leary Square. We hit the street and they’d set the bin on fire.
Easy to talk about Britain going up in flames. It wasn’t. It was a few select locations in London. But Whitechapel Ghost Style, present but not always on hand. I was there following up. Things get too hot and then they catch a fire. And it came from the next neighbourhood up from us. My beloved Tottenham. On the third night, I was staying out of the trouble. Someone’s doing San Ti Shi on a comfortable lawn in an Essex suburb. The rioting and looting spread like a fire and later that night, we watched from a helicopter on the television as parts of the city of London burned.
No-one knows what happened here in the capital city.
In Peckham the following day…
A week later, the violence had stopped and everyone is simply trying to work it all out…
The Ghost still flits around, visiting England. Everywhere, the police are trying to clamp down on something. It is ill-defined. The political classes have no answers. Everyone is angry with police.
I say, what a spectacle from the Bullring in Birmingham! For it was here as well…
It is so easy to break a window.
Strange scenes from what a deadly boring corporatist-fascist state in Britain might look like. See the ad-hoc police cinema screen in the middle showing grainy CCTV faces of urban youth.
See the screen in the middle, amid the logos and the spectacle. “Do you know any of these people?” the police want to know. Streets away, speculative capitalism leaves the shitty Birmingham office blocks of the 1970s empty – and – also – boarded – up. Something is happening in the UK but I don’t know who is really winning or loosing.
The shattered glass of retail centres has all been swept up. And the wooden boarding was still in the windows of the Argos in the Arena Shopping Centre on Green Lanes when I got back. Only streets away from the new Birmingham Bus Station, and people have been busy, dismantling the future they had planned for us all.
But everyone is still shopping.