I’m a self-confessed Philistine, and while I leave it to others to decide how honest I am about my Philistinism, I don’t think anyone would imagine I would have willingly chosen to spend last Friday evening at a “process-based, community-focused project that will be part of the Exchange Radical Moments! Live Art Festival.” But that’s what I did.
It actually provided an interesting contrast with my Saturday morning which saw me visiting the newly re-opened Party Superstore, to which I shall return.
I’ll confess my reasons for attending the workshop were not entirely positive. Instead they were motivated by concern (shared with several others from the area) that the project was also planning a video projection of images from the riots on the Party Superstore. The artistic merit of this can be debated, however, I was not alone in thinking it would be a fairly awful idea in an area that needs its confidence building – not reminding of a fairly horrific night for residents and businesses alike.
I have remarked on the strange dilation of time since the looting, which took place just two months and an age ago. While I’m one of those existing in a bubble, looking at how the council responds and discussing the Kinghan report, most people have moved on. And such was the case last Friday; those attending to express concern at the video projection outnumbering the four or five who attended for other reasons (what was particularly interesting was that only one of those, I think, was actually from Clapham Junction).
A lot of the discussion was inevitably about blame: MPs’ expenses, phone-hacking, government and council policy, war in Afghanistan and Iraq, even “men” – half the population – were hauled before the artistic court for judgement to be passed.
My blood pressure only just remained below fatal levels.
Afterwards I reflected on the five stages of grief. I remember denial on 8 August. I remember very real anger on the 9 and 10 August. I would like to think I’ve moved to acceptance, as have most of the people in the area. This doesn’t mean it’s forgotten or ignored, but that it’s time to move on, look at how we complete the recovery and, ideally, the area is left even better than it was on 7 August.
Yes, we still have lessons to learn, the police and justice processes are still rolling, but generally we are focussed on the future, not a snapshot from the past. I’m not sure we can still do that when we are seeking to excuse looting by blaming the actions of politicians or journalists. And I’m not sure what drives people to travel to raise these issues.
Instead we could focus on the positives, which seem to come to light on an almost daily basis (indeed, only last Friday I heard about plans for a local ‘apprenticeship’ scheme being developed).
But what better symbol of what the future holds is there than the Party Superstore: now open on the third floor of Debenhams and the old Dub Vendor. An incredibly positive symbol of a community that works, because without Debenhams goodwill the Party Superstore would not have returned for a long time – achieved without European funding and something I know will benefit Clapham Junction far more than any video projection!