London Riots: Greenwich Photojournal

I took a walk through East Greenwich into Greenwich proper earlier this morning, to see for myself what (little) impact the threat of last nights’ riots had made on the local community.

There were lots of tourists doing their usual thing, though there seemed to be less than usual. Many locals were walking to work or otherwise going about their business as normal, as if nothing had ever happened. There were a lot less young people about than I’d have expected – the late-teens and early-20’s age-groups simply didn’t seem to be about. Perhaps they’re all sleeping. Maybe Greenwich just isn’t a hip and happening enough place for young people on a nice summer day. It might be that they’re keeping a low profile for, erm… whatever reason.

Here’s some pictures and comments as I found them:

Trafalgar Road

I’d heard from many Twitter posts last night that pretty much every shop along Trafalgar Road was boarded or shuttered from yesterday afternoon onwards.  I was expecting a veritable ghost-town.  What I saw this morning was pretty much business as normal.

Business as normal on Trafalgar Road
All okay here…
Not sure if the Home Guide Estate shop is normally open for business, but the boards showed it very much wasn’t today!
Mr Chung’s Restaurant – guess I won’t be eating here anytime soon.
Not riot-related, but: Really? We’re having to temporarily tarmac stretches of pavement to prevent theft of slabs? And does this signwriter have a basic grasp on spelling or grammar?
Uh-oh. Sirens. Another ambulance (out of shot) followed the convoy.
Getting closer to the high street. Looks pretty normal to me, if a little quiet.

Greenwich Market

I grabbed a coffee in Greenwich Market – best Flat White I’ve had in quite a while, I might add!

On first glance, everything looked pretty normal – tourists and traders doing their usual things.  Nobody seemed to be selling much, though.
Then I walked to the other end of the market place, and it was near-deserted. I don’t remember seeing it this quiet before even on a weekday morning. Maybe readers can let me know if this is normal or not?
These guys were nervously taking boards down from their store. Quite what horrors they were expecting to find behind them, I don’t know.
Serious military-looking helicopters. Not at all an unusual sight here, but their presence did seem more menacing than normal.

Greenwich High Street

I honestly don’t know what I expected to find here, but I was surprised by seeing so many shops open for business. Life goes on, I guess.

Some shops were still taking their boards down.
Fewer people about as expected, but looking quite unaffected, except for that one last board on the Turkish cafe. (Thanks Edith for the correction!)
Amazing to see the patchwork-quilt effect on some store fronts. Clearly much of this work was done in a hurry. It’s not like shopkeepers usually keep a few boards around in case of emergencies!
A pharmacy lurks in the boarded shadows – a sign taped just by the doorway advertised business as usual.
More boarded up windows. Clearly the worry was mainly about the high street area itself rather than the surroundings.

Journey home – and reflections

I’m glad that the riots haven’t arrived yet. Conversations with fellow locals suggested a mood of incredulousness and defiance. Some are concerned for their families and livelihoods, others despair at the loss of a generation.  Tourists perhaps seemed more cautious than I’d normally experience, but were otherwise mostly unaware of anything having been wrong.

As I walked over to the train/DLR station, I noted the Junk Shop taking its boards down, apparently the last store to do so on its rank.
The station was quieter than I’d expected given the number of people generally going about their lives nearby. A tourist with her young son happily asked for directions, and was glad I took the time to help her work out which platform she needed. She told me the signs were too confusing and there were no staff around to ask! No change here on that front at least…

As I took my train home, I saw that David Cameron had announced that the events of this last few days apparently show “that there are things badly wrong in our society”. Well thank you Sherlock, I think a good number of us had already deduced that. Still, his speeches yesterday and today have come across to me as some of the first clear-talking I’ve heard in quite a while on any political issue in recent times. And I hope it continues, supported by  appropriate action to match.

Another lady stopped me for directions after I got off my train. We got talking. She was new to the area, having apparently moved here from Nigeria, via some other London suburbs along the way. She felt that the excuses given by those involved that they were bored were simply irrelevant – that they really were just excuses to kick off. She suggested that engaging young people in society, enabling them do something useful, and to contribute to the world around them would be good starts.

As for I’m not sure what I think. But I am encouraged by what I’ve seen today. This is not a suburb living in fear. It seems to me the boarding-up of yesterday and the keeping-calm-and-carrying-on of today stand in clear defiance to whatever might come our way.

Oh and one last gambit: Apart from the car I photographed going by earlier, I didn’t see a single policeman the whole time I was out, until a vanload of officers disembarked outside Westcombe Park police station.

10 thoughts on “London Riots: Greenwich Photojournal

  1. There was absolutely no chance of a riot in Greenwich yesterday, it was all hyped up by malicious twitter messages. I spent all afternoon rubbishing the really silly ones and requesting proof of the most menacing postings “reports of rioters congregating in the park” really? where? take pictures and post them please, none appeared.
    The ones that did appear where simply pictures of a normal warm august day in the park.
    I understand that even the police got caught up in this state of panic and were advising that credible evidence of a riot occuring in the evening was going to happen, and that shopkeepers should take precautions to protect property.
    I’ll tell you all now that there was absolutely no chance of a riot in Greenwich yesterday and why?
    Because, there is nothing in Greenwich that a rioter would want, it has 2 mobile phone shops, no JD sports, and no Comet.
    Even one of the river cruiser companies got in on the act by telling people that “Greenwich was closed” only local residents should disembark etc.
    It was all twitter twatterings and unneccessary malicious behaviour.

  2. I used to live in Greenwich, next to the Gypsy Moth near the Cutty Sark For Maritime Greenwich DLR. My house was (is) literally next to the gypsy moth, on the right, and across the road is marks and spencers.
    I know it’s silly, but please, please, can you take a photo or two of that area and my old house? We live in Australia now but we feel really connected to Greenwich,

  3. sorry, guess I was getting a little worked up there, I only just read that things have began to calm down. I saw photos and posted before actually reading. Still, if anything does happen, it would be reassuring to know that our old place doesn’t get trashed. My family is worried and we were planning on moving back soon.

  4. I walked past past the junk shop etc through the centre of Greenwich before 9am today, on my way to work. Lots of shops were still boarded up then, and others had taken down their window displays to discourage people, but I didn’t see evidence of any damage.

    In my experience the market is always pretty quiet on a Wednesday, even at lunchtime, so your picture doesn’t look *that* out of the ordinary to me. Foot traffic tends to build through the week to near-unbearable levels at the Sunday market!

    BTW the building you labelled a ‘curry house’ is actually a small, quite recently opened Turkish cafe – not been in myself but a couple of colleagues recommend it.

    Frustrating that mere rumours can have such an impact on a place (I was sent home from work early yesterday afternoon), but I can understand given the horrors of Monday night why both police and businesses wanted to play it safe.

  5. @John on August 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm “There was absolutely no chance of a riot in Greenwich yesterday, it was all hyped up by malicious twitter messages.”

    Actually, you are wrong. East Greenwich Traders were tipped off about possible trouble at 15:00. (I have a copy of the e-mail.) Word got around, and businesses in Greenwich prudently closed at 14:00.

    “rioters congregating in the park” really? where?” Well,obviously, the very visible police presence helped deter them, wouldn’t you think? Police took the threat seriously, and presumably they have more intelligence than you.

    “there is nothing in Greenwich that a rioter would want, it has 2 mobile phone shops, no JD sports, and no Comet.”

    Rioters have cleaned out mobile phone shops elsewhere. Also shops selling alcohol – quite a few shops and pubs in Greenwich sell alcohol.

  6. Mevali is actually a shisha bar and they also serve lebanese cuisine, really nice place with a lovely garden in the back. good to see that nothing serious happened

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