Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Episode 2

Wednesday, the second of April 1980

            The TV’s on but the sound’s off. I’m wearing headphones and the Clash’s debut album is on the turntable playing loud. I find this the best way to watch the news. It’s all doom and gloom, specially the economy.

            News At Ten is now like one long very depressing set of football results. I’m waiting for the moment when Reginald Bosanquet says:

            “And in unemployment news, British Steel South Wales – 11,000 redundancies; Tyneside Shipbuilding – 8,000 redundancies, British Steel will now go on face ICI in the recession championships.”

            Look away now if you don’t want to know the results.

            The TV screen is red. A line of cops are silhouetted on a city street against a back drop of raging flames. There’s a riot going on. Inner city Bristol is burning.  And at that moment, almost as if it was planned as the soundtrack, the Clash start singing “White riot - I wana riot, white riot – a riot of my own.”

            The song lasts barely two minutes. When it’s over I lift the stylus off the record and take my earphones off. The journalist’s measured tones are clearly intended not to scare the viewers.

            “…While the majority of the rioters are black, it is unclear what the causes of the riot are. However, there are suggestions that it started after a raid on the Black and White Café – a known drugs den.”  

             This isn’t the last riot, and ITN might not want to guess what the causes are, but I know, deep down everyone knows.

In Bristol it might seem to be because of police attitudes to black people. Or at least that might be why the government will claim the coming riots kick off. But the real reason is that young people feel like they’re getting crushed by the recession. There’s no hope, no future, and if we feel like there’s nothing to lose then there’s nothing to stop us.

I know I’m luckier than most. My step-dad’s a barrister, and mum’s a lecturer at the local further education college. We’re not rich, but we’re not exactly skint either.

I studied at school and got O’ and A’ levels like any good middle class kid. The results weren’t brilliant, but they would’ve got me into a polytechnic. But why? What’s the point?

Getting a degree would’ve meant, once, that after graduation I’d have swapped my diploma for a job as a trainee manager in a humongous factory. But the way businesses are closing, if I went off to study now, by the time I graduated there might not be any industry left for me to manage!

Besides, I want something more than just to be a faceless cog in a machine that turns out…I don’t know…widgets. That’s almost as soul destroying as being unemployed.

On the screen a thin line of cops are using dustbin lids to shield themselves from a rain of bricks and petrol bombs, and I put the headphones back on and cue up Police and Thieves.

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