Our second-to-last post covering the London riots is our podfather Mike’s eyewitness account from the studio which was, unfortunately, in the centre of Woolwich and therefore in the centre of the riots. As it appears news sources are shunning the night of terror in our beloved South London Jelly-borough (too close to the Olympic site maybe? Hmmm…), our boys filmed the evidence and strived to put right any oversight or mislabelling of the real events that took place that night.
When the trouble in London started the weekend prior to Monday 8 August 2011, I wasn’t fully aware until the following Sunday evening. Twitter had naturally sprung into overdrive and the situation in North London was obviously very serious. We Jellyfielders used to live in Wood Green, and hearing such stories made it difficult to put into a realistic context.
As the events in Woolwich unfolded on the Monday night, we found ourselves living directly above the clashes between rioters and the police. We had felt safely locked-up indoors, until the streets below us became dangerous. From my bedroom window, I could see people swarming into the jewellery store beneath. Passers-by would stop to grab a souvenir, while peripheral looters helped themselves to the pavement pick n’ mix.
I had already begun filming on my iPhone. As a filmmaker, it’s habit. They say the best camera is the one you have now. My iPhone has captured some interesting events over the last year – from beach holidays to ferrets mating – but this was something happening to our community. Already, I had started tweeting the videos I’d captured, tagging with #Woolwich #londonriots to make people aware that it was happening here too.
At 22:05 the surge of violence began. From the balcony, we could see that when the instigators were satisfied the eight riot officers were not able to intervene, they began to amuse themselves with the Great Harry pub. By now, Chris and Lu had started filming, as the windows and doors we’re forced in and the fire ignited. I went down to street level to make the small band of police aware of the fire. They we’re honest enough to admit there was nothing they could do, being so clearly outnumbered and out-armed. Their advice was to get people out of the building then at least we would be safe.
During this time, one of the postings had begun cropping-up elsewhere online. I had only sent it through yfrog, yet users on YouTube had posted it and the retweets we’re relentless. Messages of support were also coming in from other Londoners, Woolwich residents and concerned folk form overseas. It seemed as though we we’re the only outlet for news on the occurrences in our corner of South London.
Local councillor Nigel Flecther (@nigelfletcher) was also getting in touch, resending the video links and helping make people aware of what was currently unreported elsewhere. We were later able to meet Nigel in the cold light of day for an interview.
At around 1am, Sky News had started using our footage under the guise of events happening in Liverpool. Frustrated, I had no idea how to get word out that this was false, but many had already spotted the mistake and had begun tweeting as such. There was a genuine call for the truth to be heard.
The yfrog hits we’re piling up as the film went global. I don’t know if it can be considered as such by those that coined the phrase, but it was going viral. By the very early hours of Tuesday morning, it was being used on both Sky and BBC News channels. Having watched much of Charlie Brooker’s work, I’m aware of how outlets use and manipulate news footage to their advantage, and it was happening with our little film.
Having already passed-off Woolwich as Liverpool, Sky News decided it was now Bristol (thanks to @jitstark). Other tentacles of the Murdoch empire began to be just as careless throughout the day, with the Sun posting the video online, attributed to YouTube pirates. Sky News also refused to credit or acknowledge errors, until well into Tuesday afternoon. Alas, in the age of User Terms & Conditions it’s hard to have any control over where and to whom your footage goes once released into the wild online.
Storyful and the BBC went about everything correctly. Having given permission for BBC Breakfast to use the YouTube films, what followed was an email from Australia. ABC – the BBC’s antipodean cousins – requested a telephone interview to accompany the riot video that the world was watching.
If I could stay awake, this seemed like a reasonably achievable compromise. Or at least in a coherent state. We were approaching 24 hours of being awake but the adrenaline was still flowing. Thanks to Chris, so was the Red Bull.
Suitably wired, I was plugged into live Australian television, to tell them what was happening in England. Thanks to TheAnimosityGuild for taping it, or I wouldn’t be sure it existed outside of my own mind. I’m the voice on the phone three minutes in. Outside of the media, reality was starting to take hold. By now, the locals had began to venture outside to start their morning routines, only to be confronted by the destruction.
In the Jellyfielder Studios edit suite, we gathered-up our extensive footage of the pub looting and burning. We wanted it to be available where ever possible, as Woolwich was being under-reported by the media. Our video was being looped in part and in full, under a general London heading, whilst all other boroughs and neighbourhoods had name-checks. We didn’t believe this was fair and felt only a credible source was worthy of the truth being accurately retold.
We spoke with ITN and Sky News about rights to our additional material. Mostly, they wanted more violent and dangerous scenes, such as those taken of Ian Tomlinson’s tragic death in 2009. This was completely unacceptable to us and the earlier misrepresentation by News International made any such agreements impossible. By now, other sources had claimed our first video as their own, and it had a existence all of its own. The drama of the night before and the activities of the daytime were overwhelming. So is consuming 24 hours of 24 hour news channels.
As of now, there have easily been over 1 million views of our videos in various YouTube forms. 153189 views have amassed on Twitter alone. The clip has become part of the 24 hour rolling news wallpaper, seen by millions of people worldwide. The retweets and the comments are still coming in.
Thankfully, nobody lost their lives here that night, but the overall quality of life has suffered. The quest to make the truth of what happened in Woolwich apparent is also gathering support. Our extended footage can be seen at
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