Of all the sights and sounds that I could have taken away from the Lambeth Country Show on Saturday 19th July, be it the sheep sheering; the stunts of the African Acrobat Company; the tunes of the South London Jazz Orchestra or the soulful songs of Omar; it is the events that occurred after the close that has occupied my mind.
After the event finished my wife and I walked to the 468 bus stop towards Croydon. Ahead of us we could see dozens of police some in full riot gear. To our amazement we saw the police appear to commandeer a bus heading towards Southwark and force dozens of young people on to the bus. There was a degree of mayhem in all directions on the corner of Herne Hill. At one point we were ‘steamed’ by around twenty youths running away from the riot police. For a moment it was terrifying but in an unusual way, I felt no fear because the youths that were running around were in their own world and we were unlikely to be victims of any violence. I must commend the police for the way they handled the situation, especially with so many families and children streaming out of Brockwell park. What could have been more than a flashpoint was swiftly dealt with.
On the bus on the way home, the top deck was buzzing with excitement with what had just happened at Herne Hill. We could hear mobile phone conversations and groups chatting. It appears that the gangs from Peckham were forced onto the bus to avoid any trouble with the gang from Brixton.
It is difficult to explain the gang phenomenon and I recognise that gangs have an organised crime element to them but most if not all those involved were juniors. Nevertheless, the events of Saturday have given me an understanding of how basic human traits were actually exhibited on the streets of Herne Hill. Arguably, status and pride coupled with a sense of belonging to a group were on display. Also for those youths who were involved in the ‘cat and mouse’ chases with the police and other gangs, for them there was a sense of excitement born from tension. Those youths who were sitting at the back of the 468 bus there was a similar sense of excitement which had materialised from the tension on the street.
It is not unusual to see young people wanting excitement in their lives. Similarly, it is clear that young people want to be known, respected and talked about. The gang that was bundled on to the bus heading to Southwark felt important – they were the centre of attention; they were being talked about.
What is a real shame is that these basic human traits are not channelled in a positive way and not through notoriety. Is it not possible for this drive for status and competitive spirit to be directed into sport or music or even education? It just goes to show how important genuine facilities for this generation of young persons are required to ensure that their potential is not lost to mindless gang violence.
Croydon Green Party
Images of the trouble at the close of the Lambeth Country Show can viewed at AW Balfour's flickr album
Tags croydon, greenparty