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Gemma Cairney

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Riots: The Aftershock

Posted: 06/07/2012 00:00

I write this in the glare of the spotlight that has once again been turned on last year's riots - almost one year on and with stark and scary truths tumbling into our brains from a new report commissioned by the Guardian and The London School of Economics - Please read here.

I heard on the radio yesterday a young policeman describing some rioters who had attached Stanley knives to sticks to use as weapons. This is gutting and the new statistics are stomach-churning. One of the things that I remember most from those evenings last year is the fear. That crippling feeling of the unknown. How close to our homes were they going to get? How long would it go on for? Was this the start of total national anarchy? What was actually going on? Who was doing this? Who was looting? Who was rioting? Why?

Some people I know went down to have a little look - this I didn't understand; the riots weren't a spectator sport. Some other good friends of mine were trapped in their house whilst cars were smashed outside - they were forced to witness it all through their window, they had to watch the hire car that they were supposed to be taking back the next day get completely savaged. All the while they helplessly texted me a blow by blow account and let me know they were safe.

Conversations erupts when the riots are brought up, everyone has a different tale to tell about those surreal nights. I personally cannot imagine what it would have been like for a child living nearby to one of the places affected, the atmosphere in complete disarray, nobody had the answers. I still don't think we do.

On Monday, 9 July my first documentary will air on BBC Three. It is called Riots: The Aftershock and I've learnt so much. We filmed for eight months with different people who were involved in different ways, this includes those labelled rioters and some who were convicted as a result. I also spent time with people whose lives have been ruined by mindless violence, rioting and looting. When I've told people about it so far, I'm often asked 'whose side am I on'? My answer is that there aren't sides; it's a massive, confused tangled mess -an earth sized ball of angry elastic bands and what we've done in our programme is try to focus on a few amongst it. We pull back the hoods and stare in into the eyes and lives of some of those in the rolling footage, the footage that will tarnish our generation throughout history.

When I went to do the voiceover for the documentary a few days ago I wanted to cry out of desperation. I can't help but feel an overbearing sadness that the whole thing ever happened. It is not about sides, it's about people. I hope you find getting to know some of their stories interesting. I hope that anyone tempted to do anything like that again will think about how it could ruin more than the window smashed, more than the shop to get free things, but ruin their future and the entire livelihoods of others. I hope from the new report that together we continue to unravel and try to understand the anger.

Riots: The Aftershock is on BBC Three at 9pm on Monday 9 July.

Watch a clip here.

 

Follow Gemma Cairney on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@gemcairn

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