There is an uncanny atmosphere on Hackney's streets as a vicar leads the clean-up and looted Carlsberg flows freelyby Oliver Bullough / August 10, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
A grim greeting for Hackney residents and local volunteers this morning. Image: StolenGolem
I dropped my son off yesterday morning like normal, but couldn’t concentrate when I got home, so I took a detour up to Mare Street and Clarence Road to see the damage. It was amazing the job the council had done up there. Mare Street was cleaner than normal, but up where the rioting had been worst, there wasn’t much they could have done.
There were burnt-out cars dotted all up the street—someone had spray-painted “Welcome to Hackney” in green on a gutted convertible—and the Convenience Store was gaping open, all its shelves torn off, a slop of nappies mixed with tea bags mixed with porn mags on the floor.
The owner—a Sri Lankan guy, 45 years old, maybe—was outside in a small knot of people just crying, with snot pouring down his face. People were standing about, not sure what to say, patting him on the back. Some plump man in a tie came up from the council to see what he could do to help.
“Just clean it,” the Sri Lankan man said, then turned away and hid in his van, where he sat in the passenger seat and cried some more.
Twitter had said there would be a clean-up meeting outside the Town Hall, so I wandered down there. I’d taken my dustpan and brush and some bin bags, and it was stirring to see dozens of people holding brooms and keen to do something to help even if they weren’t sure what. A bearded man took charge, entirely randomly, then an Anglican vicar stood up on the steps and appealed to everyone to march up to Clarence Road to show solidarity.
It seemed weird to be led by a vicar, and I was dubious about the idea, but no politicians had turned up, and he was more inspiring than the bearded man, so the crowd wound its gentle way past the wrecked shops on Mare Street—Ladbroke’s was boarded up, the Nationwide’s door smashed in, and Holland & Barrett was “open for business” despite a smashed-in front d…