Tag Archives: London

Brixton cleaning up after the looting

Kaye Wiggins reports on the clean-up efforts in Brixton last night

As I left work last night, I quickly checked Twitter for the latest on Brixton. For the first time since Sunday’s violence, the page did not fill up with rumours of riots and stories of trouble. Instead, there was talk about volunteers getting together to clean up the damage. I went along to help out – and to find out why it was happening.
Outside the Ritzy there was a group of around 30 or 40 people brandishing binbags, gloves and brooms. They chattered enthusiastically, sharing stories about where they lived and how shocked they were by the riots across the city and beyond. They grinned and cheered for the press photographer. Before long, I found myself with a glove and a binbag in my hands.
As we set about getting to work, we received some odd looks from passers-by and even police officers. Some teenage girls shouted “well done” to us, but when we said they should join us they giggled and said, “I wouldn’t go that far.”
We soon realised much of the damage had already been cleared up and there was little for the volunteers to do. We settled on clearing some broken glass from the doorway of the Vodafone shop. This rankled a little, since the volunteers weren’t in it to help capitalist giants save money. But we reminded ourselves that removing broken glass was, in any case, a good thing for Brixton.
Once the Vodafone glass was cleared, we scouted around for more work to do. Trouble was, there wasn’t much. We swept some scattered shards of glass from the pavement outside the station, and we tidied the pavement outside KFC. Then we retreated to Windrush Square for a quick gathering before wandering to the Effra Tavern to get to know our new-found neighbours.
Some Twitter users have already observed that this was largely (but by no means exclusively) a young, white, middle class affair. As @lascasartoris points out, we must give huge credit to the local businesses that reopened despite everything, the residents that went to a Monday afternoon meeting to discuss what should be done, and to the council and police for cleaning things up so that there was little for the volunteers to do.
Still, the clean-up tells us something. Plenty of residents, including those that work outside the area and cannot play a part in its everyday life, feel strongly about Brixton. They are willing to give up their evening to do a fairly unglamorous chore because they want to make that point. Well done, folk. 

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INTERVIEW: Malark and his street art in Brixton

We interview street artist Malark, whose paintings have been appearing on the shop shutters of Brixton this month

How long have you been doing street art for and what got you into it?

I’ve been painting for years both on and off the street, but it’s just really within the last couple of years I have been doing shutters. I started doing some in Newcastle then Barcelona and now these in London.

You’ve been living in Barcelona for a while – what made you want to come to Brixton and do these pieces?

I was back in the UK for a exhibition in London bridge, where I met Billy – who I paint with in Brixton – and we painted a shutter just near there. After that we wanted to get some more done, we wanted to steer clear of East London where most of the graffiti and street art seems to be, and just start somewhere fresh that didn’t really have a scene at all. I’ve always loved Brixton because it’s got such a strong culture; it’s almost like it’s a completly different place to the rest of London. I was surprised it didn’t really have a scene for street art actually.

Why do you think Brixton is a particularly good place to do something like this?

Brixton is real nice for this. Everyone is real friendly, a lot of the shutters are big and smooth and you can buy export Guinness in every off licence.

How long does each shutter take to paint?

Depending on the shutter, it takes 2-4 hours. We usually chill at the same time, have a beer and that – we try to make a day out of it.

You’ve got quite a distinctive style – can you explain what it’s all about?

The style I’m not really sure. I love the bright colours. I just try to paint how I like to see things. I imagine if i was a passer-by what would I like to look at, or what would make me smile and it sort of informs itself.

Have you got permission from the shopkeepers to paint the shutters? What has the response been like generally from shopkeepers and passers-by?

Its easier to get permission so we can take our time and not worry about any sillyness. The response from passers-by has been awesome, always positive, most of the time they cannot belive we are not being paid or anything and we try to explain we like to do it so thats why we do it. Shop keepers are getting more into it now they have seen a few about, but big thanks to the first guys that let us paint!

Is it just you or are you working together with other people?

Mainly I paint with Billy but also some other guys. It depends on who I have spoken to that week. I always love to paint with new people.



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Point of view: “Today I went on strike for the first time”

A London Underground Customer Services Assistant tells us why he’s striking today

Photo by tompagenet

Today I went on strike for the first time. This is something that a few years ago I would have found a ludicrous idea. To me, striking has always conjured up images of miners fighting with the police, French farmers burning sheep, and ‘Bloody Arthur Scargill’ as my Dad used to affectionately call him. Like most children, for many years my opinions of the world mirrored those of my parents. Strikers are troublemakers. If they don’t like their jobs, tough, who does? Either put up with it or leave.

My attitude towards the unions began to change last year when I joined London Underground as a Customer Service Assistant (CSA). During training, my class and I were approached by reps from the TSSA and RMT who explained their role and how they could be of use to us. The benefits offered seemed useful: free legal advice, accident benefits, and more. I opted to join the RMT simply because it was the larger of the two and the rep hung around afterwards to chat to us about the jobs we were about to start. Despite my obvious reservations I knew I could always cancel my membership if I wasn’t happy with their actions.

This nearly happened a few months later when an ongoing pay dispute threatened to boil over into a strike. London Underground Limited (LUL) had offered an increase which the unions had rejected and strike action seemed imminent. I totally disagreed with the TSSA/RMT stance, feeling that asking for more in the current financial climate was unreasonable especially as I felt we already got a good wage for our job. I worked much harder for a lot less money in my previous job as a warehouse manager. But as well as the issue of whether I felt a strike was financially justified there was another question to deal with. In this case, could I justify inconveniencing the very people I’m paid to help? The answer was a very definite no. If we had gone on strike I would have been too ashamed to look at our customers in the face the next day.

This brings me to today’s topic. It may seem hypocritical but I feel the current strike actions (and the ones which may follow) are the only way we have left to ensure our customers continue to get the service they pay for. LUL are intent on cutting nearly 2000 jobs. A large chunk of these are front line staff who customers have the most interaction with. They are the people who sell you tickets, help you when those tickets don’t work at the gate, top up your Oyster cards and all the other things passengers take for granted. London Underground is quite unique in how many front line staff it has, as anyone who has travelled on the Paris Metro or New York Subway will testify. This is something which LUL were proud to tell me when I joined the company and which Boris Johnson said he would ensure remained the case when he ran for Mayor.

If these cuts go ahead, travelling on the Tube will not only be less convenient but less safe. LUL claim this won’t be the case but that makes no sense. There will be fewer staff on duty which means fewer people to deal with situations such as unattended packages, fire alerts and customer accidents. Part of the cutback plan is to shut some of the quieter ticket offices on the network because they aren’t financially viable. I believe the extra security and peace of mind customers are given when passing through a staffed ticket hall late at night compared to an empty one is worth any loss the office may be making.

I feel I will be letting London Underground customers down if I don’t try to stop that from happening. Obviously I also don’t wish to see any of my colleagues made redundant (thankfully my job is currently safe) but my biggest motivation for giving up a day’s pay today was to try to ensure London Underground is able to continue providing the service customers expect from ‘A world class tube for a world class city’.


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Doctor, doctor…I need my windows draught proofing

If you belong to the Brixton Low Carbon Zone, make sure you get a ‘Green Doctor’ around to take a look at your house. The new team of five set to work this month to advise residents on eco-living, from how to save money by not wasting food to good recycling practices. The five ‘green doctors’ were all previously unemployed and have been trained by Lambeth’s First Future Jobs fund in energy assessment and draught proofing. Although it is a London-wide project and so not part of the co-op council strategy, it follows the same idea – get the community to work together to tackle problems. But for a real and positive impact on the environment, we’re still going to need strong action from government…or we’ll soon be facing fines from Europe of up to £300 million…

For more info go here

The green doctors

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