Last night I listened to Radio 5 and watched Sky until I’d decided that the William Hill we live above probably wasn’t going to get kicked in. I don’t know if the riots are a direct consequence of an unequal, divided city, but the way that they are being discussed and reported seems to reflect one.
1. Paul Lewis of the Guardian did a live report on Radio from Chalk Farm Road describing people booting in Sainsbury’s Local. He described the area as ‘middle class’. Maybe he’s never been north of The Prince of Wales Road. There are middle class streets in London, but there aren’t middle class areas. I haven’t looked at them for a while, but I’m sure in the indices of multiple deprivation, if taken at the Borough level, many of the London Boroughs that are supposedly ‘middle class’ like Islington, are amongst the most poverty stricken in the country. And that’s before we’ve even disentangled the ‘middle class’ tag – Lewis qualified the middle class tag by referring to Primrose Hill. How is Primrose hill middle class? It’s where film-stars buy houses. Pinner is middle class. The reality of an area like Camden is three communities – the super rich and their multiple homes, a mobile population of small groups mostly living in small flats or rented accommodation and families who have lived here, mostly in public housing, for generations. By and large these are separate communities, who don’t talk, drink or eat with each other. I know that’s crude, but it’s not as crude as blithely referring to it all as ‘middle class’.
2. Sky news interviewed ‘local residents’ outside Clapham Junction – they were Australian. BBC news interviewed ‘a local resident from Brixton’ – she was about 26/rounded vowels and it later transpired that she was actually a BBC reporter. In all the coverage last night I didn’t see anyone who looked or sounded like they had lived ‘locally’ before they graduated.
3. Politicians have regularly referred to people ‘smashing up their own communities’. In the main people are smashing up high streets which, are not the same as ‘their own communities’ – I’ll be astonished if anything on Queens Crescent gets attacked and if looting turns into robbing, assault and burglary it will be terraced homes that get burgled not estates. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking – it’s not like any of this seemed possible yesterday.
Olympic promo videos, the aftermath of the July 7th terrorist atrocities, the royal wedding might make have us all believe that we live in the same city, and we’re all the same – but we’re not. I’m not saying that this justifies any of this, or even that it’s a causal factor, but right now it’s just quite apparent.
Am finding the Vice coverage helpful. Go Vice.