The wanton destruction and violence that plagued England from 6th August was something that truly made my blood boil. It was heart breaking to see images of people’s livelihoods go up in smoke, to see people jump out of windows as the flames destroyed their homes, and to even hear of the loss of lives.
I was abroad at the start of the mayhem, and although social media was portrayed as the source of all evil for the role it played for spreading the madness, ironically, it was also a tool for mobilizing individuals to come together to help rebuild their communities by taking part in massive clean up operations under the hashtag #riotcleanup. Furthermore, whilst abroad, social media alerted me to the unfolding saga in the first place.
My next couple of blog posts will focus on different aspects of the riots in its aftermath. Despite the violence, destruction and hype surrounding the riots and looting, for my first post, I felt largely inspired to document the messages people left on the boarded-up shop windows. When I first stumbled upon the messages in Clapham Junction, it really touched me and I felt compelled to take pictures of ‘The Love Wall’ using my phone. So I thought I would try and go to the other affected areas and observe people’s expressions of love for their community.
15th August, Clapham Junction
It’s funny how the looters didn’t target Waterstone’s, which is a bookshop.
21st August, Clapham Junction
By the time I went back to Clapham Junction, most of the boarded-up windows with the messages had been removed. But I still found some new messages on the remaining ‘Love Wall’.
21st August, Ealing Broadway
I live in the Borough of Ealing, so the impact of the riots really hit home when I woke up to hear that Ealing Broadway had been targeted. As with Clapham Junction, by the time I decided to take pictures of Ealing Broadway, most of the shops had removed their boards, so I’m not sure if any messages where left on them too.
I was actually surprised to see that some of the windows were still smashed, and that broken glass was still lying on the floor. It was evident that behind the boards with the kind and sometimes humourous messages, businesses and homes had been badly affected. It had been over a week since the riots and looting had ended, but it was obvious that the various communities’ scars were still raw.
It’s unbelievable to see that charity shops were targeted as well.
I’m not sure if there were other message boards in the area before the boards were taken down, but I found it a bit strange that these messages were behind the glass windows. I felt slightly excluded because I couldn’t contribute. But it was a Sunday and the shop was closed. I’m not sure how it would’ve have worked during opening hours.
22nd August, Brixton
I was hoping to see other affected areas like Peckham and Tottenham. However, as demonstrated when I visited Hackney after work, there weren’t any love message boards to see, if there were any, because everything was pretty much cleared up and swept away. New windows were installed and it was business as usual, as if it never even happened. Well, apart from a boarded up opticians on Mare Street.
So after I went to Hackney, I thought I would visit Brixton again. I should actually backtrack and write that I was on a night out in Brixton on 11th August when things were starting to calm down, and what really struck me was the following sign was on various shop windows. This was before the spontaneous phenomenon of ‘The Love Walls’ started.
Now the following photos are from 22nd August. Again, there weren’t really any signs that any looting took place. Apart from the burnt-out Foot Locker store, and some other boarded-up shops around that building. I’m not sure if there were any love messages on any of the boards which were removed, but I noticed that the boards covering Foot Locker seemed a little bare, but were still meaningful.
22nd August, Ealing Broadway
For the last leg of my journey, I made my way back down to Ealing to the floral tributes on Spring Bridge Road where 68-year-old Richard Mannington Bowes was brutally attacked for trying to stamp out a fire by some industrial bins. He died days later in hospital. His death, and the four others that died in Croydon and Birmingham, definitely represents the ugly face of the riots.
In contrast to the other locations I went to, I couldn’t bring myself to read the messages that were left there, let alone take photos of them. It just felt too personal and private at the time. Instead, the flowers conveyed those messages rather well. I pondered over the makeshift memorial as I slowly made my way back home. I left in a somber, reflective mood with the floral words etched into my conscious: “Why”…?
This post was originally published on 1st September 2011.