© David John - Flickr: DavenJohn


The London riots two years on

Posted at 10:00 am, August 8, 2013 in News
#ilovelondon we celebrate London after the riots © Time Out

In 2011, London burned as rioters took to the streets after the shooting of Tottenham man Mark Duggan. Time Out responded with an iconic cover that captured the moment: ‘#ilovelondon’. Rebecca Taylor meets four of those affected to ask how their lives changed.

Aaron Biber, barber © David Sandison

The Barber: Aaron Biber, 91 

‘The rioters smashed up my shop and took chairs, razors, tables, the kettle, teabags, even a bag of sugar! I kept thinking: Why? I’ve nothing to steal. The next day, I opened the shop. It’s what I’d done all my life, I didn’t know what else to do. Some locals launched a blog called Keep Aaron Cutting. By the end of two days it had raised £35,000. A month later I opened up with new shutters, windows and electrical fittings. The money left over I gave to charity. Five customers walked in on that first day. One of them was in tears when they saw I was back. Boris Johnson and Prince Charles popped in. Peter Crouch gave me Spurs tickets. The community spirit is amazing. I’ve lost customers, but I’m not packing up. As my father used to say to me in Yiddish, “Arbet makht dos lebn zis.” Work makes life sweet.’

The Rioter: Anonymous, 20

‘I served 13 months in prison for smashing up a police car with a bollard in Enfield and throwing bricks in Hackney. I’d been in trouble with the police before, and at the time felt excited at the chance to get my own back. My mum saw me on Sky News smashing up the car. The worst day inside was on my birthday. I got punished for playing my music too loud and was confined to my cell for 23 days. But inside, I got fitness qualifications. Since I’ve been out, I’ve mentored youngsters and done a course on conflict management with Leap, an organisation which works with young people. I’m closer to my parents and don’t always say the first thing that comes into my head! I think I’m a softer, happier person than I was. And I have a beautiful two-week-old baby, so I’m responsible for someone else now.’

Carla Rees, Flautist © David Sandison

The Flautist, Caria Rees, 36

‘I lost 11 flutes and my two cats in my Croydon flat which burned down. The shop Just Flutes set up a campaign and people all over the world sent money in, enabling me to buy a flute to start playing and teaching again. The response restored my faith in humans. I live in Windsor now. It’s near to where I teach and I appreciate the quiet. I avoid large crowds. On the riots’ first anniversary, I launched a company publishing flute music. Now, I’ve got three new flutes and will play them to mark the tenth birthday of my group, Rarescale (www.rarescale.co.uk), in October. I’ve decided to make the most of life, be positive and focus on what’s important to me.’

Firefighter, Stephen Remell Coleman © David Sandison

The Firefighter, Stephen-Remell Coleman

‘I was the officer who oversaw tackling the fire at the House of Reeves furniture store in Croydon. It was the hottest job I’ve ever worked on. By the end of the night I felt upset that opportunist groups of people could wreak such havoc. But in the weeks that followed, my team and I were boosted by the positive spirit that most Londoners showed. The true face of London was the one that came out with mops and brooms. The only after-effect I’ve had is a dream in which I went over the decisions I made that night. There was a lot of pressure to get things right. I was eventually invited to Number 10 to be thanked by David Cameron. I felt very proud of the London Fire Brigade.’

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