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What passes for a riot in Romford

August 11, 2011

As you can probably guess from the title, we’re fine.

Despite all the rumors flying around a couple of days ago–and the inclusion on things like the Guardian’s UK riots: every verified incident – interactive map–nothing serious happened here.

Some kids took the opportunity to break a department store window.


At least one vanload of police showed up before they could do much.

According to the linked story, this was the work of anarchists, not bored kids.


This is unconfirmed, but I understand that the total haul there was a couple of small appliances out of the window display–like a toaster and an electric kettle–along with the trash can coming up in a minute. And the damage was huge.

Not my image. Click through for the source. Burned down? Not really.


And when I say kids, I do mean kids.

At least the press blurred his face. Still tacky as hell, even if he did steal a trash can.


11-year-old boy appears before magistrates.

He pleaded guilty to burglary, after stealing a waste bin worth £50 from Debenhams. A charge of violent disorder was dropped. During the brief hearing the court heard the boy has already been given a referral order after being convicted of a separate offence just last week. No details of the conviction were given…

Prosecutor Steven Davis told the court: “This was 10.30pm on Monday evening with a background of serious violence in Romford.

“Police saw a group of 20-30 youths who were approaching large stores, breaking windows and looting.

“They saw Debenhams had had its windows broken and they saw [the boy] approach the window that had been smashed, lean in, take a waste bin and run off with it.”

He said when police stopped the boy, he said: “I was just taking it to pass on to somebody else.”

Mr Davis said the bin was worth £50. The damage to the windows was £6,000 but it is not alleged the boy broke them.

Hmm, those “child gangs“.  That is one prosecutor who, putting it charitably, was being parsimonious with the truth. 😐 In reality, there was no serious violence or other smashing and looting. There was one broken window, and we’ve seen video of that.

Somebody else started a couple of trash can fires.


On the whole, that’s calmer than the average weekend night in the town centre. Seriously. Another post : Rioting in Romford…sort of, with more photos (source of the boarded-up Debenham’s window):

Early evening last night I saw a few rumours on Twitter and Facebook that Romford was set for distrubances. I kept an eye on Tweeets about Romford and after a while rumours abounded – Primark was burning, McDonalds and Costa Coffee had been smashed, even Romford station was ablaze!

I love quite close to Romfrod town centre. A quick check outside my back door confirmed that the sky was not glowing orange from anything other than light pollution and there was not much screeching of sirens.

In a moment of impetuousness I loaded my tatty Lowepro camera rucksack with my old Nikon D50 and a couple of lenses and headed towards the centre.

And saw…not much. Other than a bunch of cops and some lookie-loos. Which is most of what I saw when I went out Tuesday, after Main Rumor Night (and the couple of incidents that did happen, mentioned above.). Most of the shops had closed down early, and some had boarded up windows:

The Liberty shopping center front doors. Their front windows were boarded up too.


Someone tweeted that they’d called and found out that the nearest Sainsbury’s was staying open, so the dog and I headed down there. I needed to pick up some aspirin and antacids. (Why would anyone get a headache and indigestion?!) It was the only thing I could see open there. This parking lot is usually packed with the after-work crowd at this time of day. Then? Nearly empty. So was the grocery store itself.


Even though the dog doesn’t like bus rides, we headed for the usual bus stop right in the town centre to go home. There were more police than pedestrians. Since I’ve had reason to be nervous around them (even the Metropolitan Police, who have never harassed me at all), I did not want to point the camera at the cops. But, there were only a few other people walking around, who were mostly hanging around the couple of pubs that weren’t closed.


There was some smoke visible later that evening, after I got home (did see it in a photo), but nothing when I went out and had a look in that direction. Probably somebody’s garden debris bonfire (with really lousy timing) or one of the grass fires that happen all the time on any kind of vacant lot or other open space.

All appears to be well, no evidence of fire. Passed along by @RomfordRecorder:"Calmness in Romford, picture from @Urocyon: #londonriots" I thought that was kind of funny.


Some other kid apparently got taken down by the cops, but it must not have been anything serious, since I haven’t seen any more about it. Whatever, it was kind of silly considering the vanloads of police everywhere…

Also not mine.


People still kept tweeting stuff like this (from last night): “15-20 young teens with hoodies and bikes in mawneys park, there’s a pc world right across the A12. #romford” Erm, yeah, it’s a park and tends to attract young teens on bikes. I am not even going to get into the classism and general suspicion of teenagers.

Or this (also last night): “Any idea why there’s a helicopter circling the #Romford area? Anything to do with #Londonriots / #ukriots? Please stop, need sleep!” I can certainly agree with the last part, since we get them overhead at least two nights a week, living on a busy road.

I haven’t even checked yet what people are on about tonight; hopefully, they’ve calmed down some. Sometimes it’s amazing what people can get worked up over. Someone even felt a need to set up a @noromfordriots Twitter account to try to counter some of the panicked rumor and speculation. (Maybe the confrontational style goes over better locally than I am used to…) I hope it helped prevent more panic.

I couldn’t help but agree with one piece pointed out by @HornchurchLife: “The Watford Riots – @weaselpipe writes of the riots that never were – – could easily be about Romford”. Not just with the escalating rumors, but even though I did not grow up here, substitute Essex for Hertfordshire, and this description mostly fits, AFAICT:

A quick note on the mindset of Watford, as a town. It is situated just within the M25 but also within the boundaries of Hertfordshire- this gives it the belief that it can have the best and worst of both Herts and London. If a rapist is reported as being active ‘in Hertfordshire’, the people of Watford can be on edge, likewise on 7/7 people were on tenterhooks as “we’re technically London though”. On the other side of the coin you can be excited about the olympics coming to “our city” and also be smug about all the excellent grammar schools Hertfordshire has to offer. It is a truly conflicted place full of teenagers who believe they live in a ‘Kidulthood’ style urban environment, and their parents who believe they live in a 1980’s middle-class Essex dream. I am generalising, but you can see why the rumours suddenly escalated.

I was intending to throw some more serious thoughts about the rioting and some of the rhetoric surrounding them in at the end here, but this post is already long enough, and I’m tired. That can get its own post, hopefully tomorrow.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Raven permalink
    August 13, 2011 3:00 pm

    I’m glad that nothing much happened. Hooray for nothing! I am, however, sorry that some folks are overreacting in ugly fashions.

    • urocyon permalink
      August 16, 2011 3:56 pm

      Thanks! We were lucky–but, yeah, in spite of all the classism going on, there really isn’t the same kind of deep inequality to drive rioting out here in the burbs. (Especially with the demographics of this particular borough.) I was glad, though, that more people did not take the excuse to smash things, though I’m not sure that the massive police response helped other than to sort of paper over the fact that the social environment is ripe for opportunistic bad behavior in general. More preaching to the choir, I’m afraid. 😉

      I only wish I were surprised at some of the ugly reactions. *sigh*

  2. Just A Bloke permalink
    June 5, 2014 10:43 am

    It’s a positive thing that Romford didnt burn to the ground in August 2011. Some people may ask who wouldve noticed the difference? But joking aside, people couldve been hurt & homes & livelihoods lost, thankfully that didnt happen. The gangs of Havering had to try something to maintain their rating in the London Badman League, disappointingly for them, but a huge relief for everyone else, their efforts were more embarrasing than anything else, & did naink to move them up the L.B.L.
    Still, it’s a warning to this particular part of London. Help the youth, help them to become decent people, help them to feel needed & appreciated, or one day what was once Romford, may be naink but a burnt-out ruin.


  1. What passes for a riot in Romford | shopMatrix

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