9th of July 1981 : Dalston Riot.
The pink and orange wash of a late summers day hung in the sky. The town, largely populated by a community from the commonwealth, roasts under poor housing and high unemployment. Fumes, that wheeze out from the route master’s exhaust, fuse with the heat of the day and a closeness sails along a faint breeze. Since the police have obtained license to ‘stop and search’ at random, the traditional beat of the high street had been mute for some months now; but the echo still rattled down side roads and spiralled up high rise estates. However, todays rhythm is dead. Operation ’81 pursued a community that was already suffering under a second year of a recession, targeting ethnic minority’s and the working class. In 5 days alone the area had seen 1000 people searched at random, with only 85 arrested, picking the scab of injustice raw. The increasing number of police filtering through the street generates the notion that the crowd outside the Rio cinema wishes to rebel. As Impoverish living, unemployment and racial/social tensions fuel the increasing horde, the warning signs sparks a hustle for civilians to retreat from the war zone; to barricade themselves behind boarded windows until the riot subsides, anxiously awaiting the return of kin seeking justice. The roar of the working class army tore down the route. As they charge forward, cars and shops cry tears of smoke as flames hollow out their insides. Too many cries had been muted by the system and they demanded to be heard. Before the clan can race pass Dalston Junction into the city, the police forced them back with their wall of shields. Batons bounce off skulls and spines, forcing the rioters to retreat back up Ridley Road market. Blood seeps from eye sockets and wrists cramp into cuffs as the anarchists are forcefully picked-off by the police, desperately racing for the for The Three Compasses, slipping through forsaken lettuce and fish, in effort to disperses from the massacre …
12th of March, 2016. Dalston- The Three Compasses….
TPOD: There’s something to be said about the way Britain is portrayed to the rest of the world, which can be quite alienating? FATA: Well, I think it’s the combination of both the stereotypes that are held by others (their perception of us) versus how we present ourselves, and ultimately the reality of what the majority live here, in comparison to what people ‘think’ we live here. I would agree, this can often make for really alienating experiences when talking to foreigners, because it is a complex amalgamation of all of these things, that make Britain what it is. When Britain promotes themselves as a country we bring to the forefront; the strength of the pound, the Monarch, Parliament, the government, democracy, multicultralism and advanced welfare, to name only a few. All of these things, are completely true in and of themselves as factors that make this country what it is. The tourism that is brought in yearly, because of the Monarch and what it traditionally stood for in this country, our political structure in comparison to the rest of the world, where we are allowed a liberty and luxury in freedom of speech- which so many elsewhere do not have, an established Welfare system that allows for huge support to those in need… Such elevations are hard to shun or ignore, because they do ultimately have a huge impact on us all, and we all, imperceptibly, live the benefits of these things everyday- which in turn hands us a standard of living that is far greater than most countries. Having said this though, there are a plethora of other things that exist as British-isms, that the world does not know about, and I think this is because if we look at this objectively, from a macro perspective, the ‘problems’ we face here, nationally, are relatively few in comparison to our global problems. So, because of this, (getting to the point of your question more precisely) what I’m attempting to articulate is that … the ‘real’ Britain that we (you and I) experience is not necessarily what the rest of the world experiences when looking at us from the outside. I think it would be even more crucial to point out now the difference in being simply British (living in the UK), or being a British Londoner. You and I, both Londoners, live in a fairly large bubble of, for instance, multiculturalism and ‘integration’ (in quotations, yes; I have my reservations) that is not spread so evenly across the UK, and thus not experienced in the same way. Brexit I think is a good example in showing how disconnected London is from the rest of the UK. I think, it has been a wake up call to the problems we do have nationally that have only just been exposed, but have been simmering away for a very very long time. The inequalities that lie bare, between London and other major cities; how they were forgotten about entirely post- Thatcher, how for years we have entertained the (as Owen Jones, states in his book, The Establishment) 19th century idea of ‘laissez faire at home’ and ‘free trade abroad’ system, which has in turn lead to an overall hugely uneducated majority, and an elite minority (all London based) trained to continue this very cycle. …This is ultimately Politics, and it is the strongest influence in maintaining both image and control. I think that, ‘Politics has become a closed shop for the privileged.’ Most voters, by Piero’s talks, think politicians are, ‘Liars, arrogant, in it for themselves’ – and in my opinion, surely this widespread contempt for the elected is an indictment of the state of British Democracy. So, let’s talk about Democracy as a concept. How can we have a fully functioning democracy, if the people being asked to vote are not educated fully in the subject that they are being asked to vote for? Is that fair? Is that going to provide anyone with a true reflection of what our society wants? It is shown that we, the public, the majority, will educate ourselves via the Media, and this is where our problems lie- because ‘The establishment could hardly hope for a more effective lobbying operation than the British Media’. Ipsos Mori found that two weeks into the campaign for Brexit, immigration had replaced the economy as the single most important factor driving the leave vote. Yet, the details of the referendum show a paradox, in that those who experienced the highest levels of migration were in fact the least anxious about it. The highest levels of remain voters were in areas of highest net migration, while some of the strongest leave areas had the fewest recent new immigrants. What does this tell us? Does it suggest that the education of the true impact of migration on our socio-political-economic infrastructure, was not accurately reported to the people? I think it does. I think it suggests further (with statistics showing that the most read newspapers in most areas who voted leave were The Sun, and The Daily Mail) that these media outlets’ political bias influenced these readers massively- instilling what countless newspapers then documented as a complete ‘fear’. YouGov did a poll that revealed 6 out of 10 Britons advocated a new 75% tax band for those earning £1 million or more, and City AM made comment on this saying ‘On some economic issues, the public is far more left wing than the Tories realize, or than Labour can believe’… going on to say, ‘…unless they address the concerns of the public, they will be annihilated’. Maybe some would argue, that we came close to that political ‘annihilation’ with Brexit? Some voters who were asked why they voted the way they did, expressed a huge desire to ‘just shake the system’, and ‘to be heard’. Hm, who knows…I’m not sure I could argue the establishment was annihilated, but I do think it was taken by surprise, and that it was chaos… …but, lets move on and ask ourselves a further question, if the YouGov poll is accurate, why haven’t we made a law, a policy, an alteration in tax already? Well, because whilst there maybe a popular demand for increased taxes on the rich… ‘such demands must be resisted because the ‘wealth generators’ would flee abroad’. ‘David Cameron told the Conservative Party Conference in 2013. ‘that this is about the most damaging, nonsensical, twisted, economic policy you could come up with… If the public is overwhelmingly in favour of a policy that might put the business elites noses out of joint, such a policy cannot be entertained.’ So, here is the reality of modern British politics. The views of millions of Britons are just not represented. Is that democracy? Not in my opinion. To conclude, and use a metaphor perhaps to try and reign in the complexities of being British and viewing Britain from the outside…I guess, I feel British politics wears a silver coat, not grey for grey is too dark, but silver, which when the light shines on it, it sparkles and bounces back rays of blinding promise…but there is no silver without grey… and grey is its biggest component.
TPOD: How does that translate to the ethnic/social minority?
FATA: Gosh, that’s a big question. It all becomes even more complex because of Britains past, and continued rule over many parts of the world. British 2nd or 3rd generation ethnic minority citizens, have a history, and sadly the truth is that it isn’t necessarily a pleasant one. Some will forget it. Some will retain it. Some will hold a grudge. Others won’t want to. Everyone is different, but when I see statics: in the workplace, in pay differences, in education, in opportunities at every level, that suggest an almost hidden engrained racist discrimination in London (I am being city specific, because it is unique to the rest of the country in terms of its migrant history) … I do feel very disheartened and angry, because this country was built and enriched time and time again on the backs of migrant workers. I don’t think such things should be forgotten, and going back to my favorite topic of Education, I also think we should learn more thoroughly, about the truth of this countries history. Take our Black Power Movement in the 70’s. Do we get taught this at school? No, we get taught about American Black History. I feel the lack of taking ownership of this country’s past, can and does, lead to resentment. Couple this with discreet, rooted, racist discrimination in every day life and it’s these things that make a person feel apart from ‘British’ society- which they were born, grew up in, and yet have lived feeling as though they were never quite embraced completely as a ‘true’ Brit. I think that this exists as a big problem in some cases, and that ultimately it causes a lot of frustration and a lot of friction. *I also, believe this could also be part of the saddening explanation for the increased number of British and French citizens who decide to leave and join militia groups, as many reports suggest a fuelled alienation prior to their departures.
TPOD: How do you feel that things can get better? There seems to me that there are so many problems, is there somewhere we could start off?
FATA: I feel like no problem is within isolation. I feel we as a British public, need to voice ourselves at every opportunity. In order to that, I feel we need to demand better education, and struggle together to make new policies that can affect the education system radically. Marx, spoke of the ‘few intellectuals’, well let these ‘few’ rally those who have not had the chance, or luxury because of circumstance to attain this knowledge. We need to support free thinking, intellectual debate. We need to encourage everyone to have the equality, the right to be able to have these. If we are taught well, and we are all given the same starts in life, we could have a society where true democracy does exist. We already have a structure. What we need now is less apathy, more education, and confidence. I feel we as individuals have lost confidence in ourselves, and our abilities… I hope that Brexit (despite the outcome) has shown that we shouldn’t lose confidence, because we can in fact change things. I’m a utilitarian at heart, but you are only as strong as your weakest player. Speak loudly about classism, racism, sexism. Pull it down. Awareness is the first step to change. Unity is Strength and we should allow ourselves that right.
TPOD: How do you feel about Jeremy Corbin, he’s speaking out a lot for equal pay and more benefits?
FATA: I like him and I like his ideas. I think he has a lot of integrity. At the heart of this, however, I think Labour as a whole needs to sort themselves out, there is no point in having this voice unsupported by it’s own party. What confidence will it instill in others, if they themselves are fractured?
In terms of getting people on board, it’s tricky. It’s difficult to penetrate a system that doesn’t want to be penetrated. I feel that in some places this is where we’re at. In the council estate where my parents live, the neighbours feel they’ve been let down so many times. People don’t trust the government, as we’ve discussed. Politicians need to think like the ‘people’ more. Jeremy is making a mighty effort on that front.
TPOD: So if there not listening to the politicians, then who? I completely understand that it’s hard for them to relate, but at least these politicians are trying something. So who can relate, so that these communities aren’t trapped inside themselves?
FATA: You’re right. OK, Lets talk about the MOBO’s… It’s an odd point I know, but I promise I have one!
Some of these new artists, I listen to their music and it’s moving because they talk about where they come from, it’s powerful. Ultimately, they then go on to earn their awards, earn millions and the music turns to sex, drugs and money. These artists, for example, are potentially some of the only people, a young kid living in a council estate in East London would relate to. In such a powerful position where young people would follow their ideas. I do wish they themselves would take a larger view of the world and try to relate this back to their following. I feel they need to talk about things with greater perspective, of course it’s important for these artists to stay connected with the reality that their following are living, but on top of that, if they could also articulate the importance of voting, and change on a larger scale than just their own lives… how amazing would that be?
I just don’t believe its enough to say, ‘I’m successful and have achieved in life and I’m and ethnic minority, so you can too’. Imagine having walked all your life on your knees, and now being shown you could stand, you’d need a greater helping hand… at least to try to start a new wave of change.
I’m an artist and I know how hard this is to do, but I’ll try, and I hope that we all do.