Monday, September 19, 2011

Don't mention the riot!

Festival goers dancing on Thornton Heath High Street

Yesterday's Thornton Heath Festival was again very well attended. Incredibly despite all the forecasts saying it would, IT DIDN'T RAIN!! Our stall was very close to the sound system which dominated the event towards the end of the day.

Bernice Golberg and Brendan Walsh and the board with the word riot.

The above photo was taken...well for the purposes of taking the photo!! Earlier in the day, shortly after the festival was officially opened, we were asked to take down our, 'What Caused The Riots?' board by one of the organisers.

To observers it must have been a peculiar scene. Cllr David Fitze the Deputy Mayor, the aforementioned Organiser, who I think was member of the Thornton Heath Business Partnership and a couple of burly stewards in fervent discussion in front of the Green Party stall.

The Organiser told us, "We don't want the word riot appearing anywhere." He qualified this by saying, "Thornton Heath did not experience any riots.". We responded by saying that, "Croydon as a borough experienced riots. This is not about Thornton Heath its about what happened in our borough. Its an opportunity to hear what people have to say and to convey our thoughts. The board was there to stimulate discussion."

We explained that we had contacted The Equality Trust for their analysis and they had kindly produced a leaflet for us to distribute (see below). At this point I remember giving said leaflet to the Chief Steward and the Deputy Mayor. The Deputy Mayor seemed taken aback by the Organiser's insistence, which we incidentally respectfully obliged, and turned to the Organiser and said, "I was going to very briefly mention the riots in my speech!"

Despite the lack of signage, we spoke to many residents about the riots, including Malcolm Wicks MP. He too seemed surprised about the Organiser's decision. When we explained what had happened to supporters and those who came to our stall, nearly all said that Thornton Heath did experience the riots. The Cash Plus opposite the leisure centre [on the site of the festival] had its windows smashed.

THE KEY THING IS THIS: The festival was attended by hundreds, possibly thousands of young people. Commentators are forever bemoaning that this generation of young people are apathetic. Here was a chance to discuss the riots issue with not only teenagers but people from all backgrounds. We feel that not only the Croydon Green Party was censored but young people too.

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