Siva Kandiah nearly gave up. On one of the first nights of unrest in Hackney, rioters broke into his shop and stole stock worth around £85,000. Once everything had been looted, they trashed the premises and tried to set it on fire.
“The whole shop was devastated,” says Kandiah. “They ripped it apart. I was left with nothing.”
Fortunately, the local community rallied and raised £20,000 through an appeal, allowing the married father of two to get back on his feet.
“I had some amazing support from the people of Hackney,” he said. “With that money I was able to start again.”
“First we had to clean as it was a complete mess. Then we called in a company to fix the shelves and the refrigerators, and then I bought some basic stock. Exactly one month after the riots, I reopened. For the first few weeks all I had to sell was milk and bread. Then we get some newspapers and magazines and started to build up from there.”
Unfortunately, Kandiah had no contents insurance. He is waiting for compensation from the government.
“I’ve put in a claim but it’s going to be a long wait,” he said. “They asked me to provide evidence, which I did, but I know that when you claim money from the government it’s not that easy.”
The 38-year-old said he did not know how much if any he would receive. “They won’t give me any details. It’s all process,” he said.
Despite Christmas, trade remains slow, with the shop turning around 60% of its pre-riot business.
“I think it will take maybe a year to get back to normal. I think a lot of people don’t come in because they feel shame for what they did.”
“Every week we see local people getting charged with rioting. The papers are full of them. Lots are from Hackney.
“I want justice but it’s nothing to do with me now. Whatever they [the rioters] did to my shop, the police and the judges have to decide what to do with them. They have to be punished, but it’s nothing to do with me.”
Kandiah admits that he was scared in the first few weeks following the looting but he got through with the support of the community. “People just wanted to shop back to normal. I could feel their support so I just got on with it.”
Unfortunately, the summer events had a more lasting effect on his wife.
“Oh, she was not good,” he says. It took her one or two months to get back to normal and she’s still stressed out a lot.”
“The day after the riot, I said to myself ‘no more retailing’. Or if I do retail, not in Hackney. But after three or four days, enough people had come forward offering help to convince me to stay. They wanted the shop back so I had to do it.
“Nobody thought I would come back in one month's time and reopen the shop,” he said. "But I did."
Does Kandiah think he will ever see anything like the summer unrest again?
“No,” he says, firmly. “I don’t want to hear… I don’t want to even think that sentence. I couldn’t take it. It would be a hard thing for anyone to go through once, but not twice. I think I would go mental.”
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