I Still Love You London
I was born in Canada, raised in Leeds. From the age of 13, all I ever dreamed about was living in London. So much so, that when it came time to apply for University, I applied for one and one only: The London College of Fashion. I wanted nothing else. It was there or nothing – which made it all the more embarrassing when I didn’t get in. But after a slight glitch and a year of begging, they finally changed their minds and off I moved. I was finally here. I was 19 years old and every day I was in awe of the city, everywhere I went I felt like I was on a movie set. I was in love with it. I was home. I’ve since lived a few places around the world, but I never shook the ‘London’ out of me and have finally gravitated back. As I type this now, helicopters circulate overhead, faint sirens can be heard in the distance – the full impact of the London Riots have only just begun to be felt.
That feeling of awe hasn’t stopped for me. I just moved back to the city a couple of months ago and I’m still waking up thinking how awesome it is to get to do so in this city. London town, one of the best places on earth. Londoners don’t say that, of course. Obviously, it’s different if you’ve grown up here. You take the beauty of it, the opportunities within it and the endless possibilities of it for granted. But when you grow up outside it and finally get the chance to live here, you grab it all with both hands. That sense of wonder just sticks with you.
Watching the riots unfold these past few days went from unsettling to concerning to outright terrifying quite quickly. As we all kept in touch on Twitter, keeping up with the latest, trying to distinguish real news from rumour, there was a sense of togetherness among us there online, all concerned, disgusted and angry about what was being done to our city out there, feeling helpless and scared, calling friends and loved ones to make sure everyone was safe and could get home alright. What started as a peaceful protest over the police shooting of a young black man, soon descended into riots, looting and violence on a scale not seen in this country in the last two decades.
But, as was pointed out repeatedly on Twitter, stealing a flat screen plasma TV or some trainers doesn’t really have sweet FA to do with that shooting. It turned into opportunistic youth (and older people who should’ve had more sense) just wanting to steal things and terrorize the streets. There was no end game, no meaning, no message.
Clearly, we need to look at the societal issues that led to this. The shooting was the catalyst, but something’s been brewing for a while. The youth feel disenfranchised, ignored, beat down, whatever it may be, but how can we address it and how on earth is ripping the city to shreds helping them make their point?
I don’t believe in this idea that ‘there’s nothing for the youth to do’ – there is, if they were bothered enough to do it (and many are). I also believe there’s only so far the being a victim of your circumstances line can take you – regardless of your circumstances, at some point in life you learn right from wrong. Every last person looting, burning and creating any sort of ruckus on the London streets knew what they were doing was wrong. I understand the anger, I’m angry too, about government cuts, about the growing divide between rich and poor in this country, but, people who were out there in the streets – you’ve got everybody’s attention, we now eagerly await to hear what exactly it was all for, what point you were trying to make.
Today, I fly out to Toronto, but upon my return, I shall help with the clean up efforts and long term, I’d like to do more work to help engage young people (put it on the parents all you want, but we have a responsibility as members of society to set examples and be good role models) – and Ill do that because I still love this city, because no matter how scary it might be at the moment, I still wake up in awe of the fact that I’m lucky enough to live here and because I want it to continue to be great for future generations.