Emma-Louise Harries is 33 years old & from Northfield.
She enjoys blogging on local and national issues,
and sometimes some random things too!
She blogs at emmalouise1978.blogspot.com
On Monday morning last week, I was preparing to go and visit the in-laws in Norwich. As I packed my bags, I had BBC News 24 on permanently. (I wasn’t in the mood for Jeremy Kyle – I’d seen enough angry teenagers on the news) The people in Tottenham and Enfield had my complete sympathy, and I just couldn’t fathom how people could behave in such an appalling and indecent manner. I felt sorry, and a huge surge of concern for the emergency services, as they battled to restore law and order, and care for those injured. I was relieved that nothing had happened in Birmingham, although there was a niggle at the back of my mind that was telling me not to count my chickens.
As we hit the motorway that afternoon, I heard via Twitter that the Bullring closed early. By clicking on a Birmingham hashtag, there were constant updates. Then things started to change. By the time we got to Norwich three hours later, there was tweets saying that various shops had been looted, things had been smashed up (and a rumour that the bull’s head had been removed from the bronze statue) The hashtag had now changed to #birminghamriots. I was extremely upset. For the three days I was away from Birmingham, I used Twitter to hear about the riots – the looting of city centre shops, the burnt out cars, the police station in flames, and finally the deaths of three young men who finally had the guts and the strength of character to stand up and say “enough’s enough”.
I spend a lot of time persuading people not from Birmingham that it is an amazing city. I am proud that even though I was not born in Birmingham, I was bred here. In my opinion, it’s under-rated. So, it was disheartening to hear of the devastation that mindless yobs were causing, and that they were chewing up and spitting out the city buildings. Friends and family from other areas think it’s a rough place to live, and I try to explain that it’s the same as everywhere else. However, it struck me that they wouldn’t have cause to think anything else. My friends that live in Wales, Germany, even New Zealand were texting and tweeting “Are you all ok?” But even though none of my family and friends were in the City Centre, I was far from ok. I was safe, and well. But I-as well as many other Brummies – were shellshocked.
Sadly those that live outside of Birmingham only hear the negative. The national news will, quite rightly, cover events such as shootings, bomb scares, murders and events that we saw last week. Of course, people jump to conclusions, and almost stereotype the city. Whilst I watched the national news on Tuesday and Wednesday, I was unbelievably upset. What was happening to my city? Ironic to see stores that stocked electrical appliances, leisure clothes and mobile phones smashed up, yet the book stores remained untouched – we are a city of culture after all. I was upset to see the window of my favourite shop ever – Nostalgia and Comics – smashed, yet relieved that it hadn’t been completely ransacked. (Obviously these hooligans noticed Richer Sounds next door, and opted to get something to watch Superheroes on, as opposed to reading about them)
Thank goodness for Twitter and Sangat TV. There, I’ve said it. Whilst there were unconfirmed rumours that my hometown of Northfield had been smashed up by looters, three accounts that I was following, reassured me that everything was under control. Two of these were police, the other was @B31blog. Twitter also was used as a tool for the clean up, and by day clicking on the #birminghamriots hashtag, you were informed of the clean-up (10am Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, meeting at the bull who hadn’t been decapitated) Had I been home, I would’ve been there, armed with rubber gloves, dustpan and brush. This was encouraging. My fiance said “This could be a good thing that comes out of a bad situation”. He was right – everyone pulling together and working to clean up, as well as assisting and supporting police, was amazing to see. Had I just watched the National news, I’d have been hysterical, as I wouldn’t have known about the clean up, the comradery, the optimism. Then of course it was Twitter that informed me on Sangat TV, which was showing actually what was happening in Birmingham, instead of showing looped footage like the national news.
We came home on Thursday and it was a relief. However, whilst the windows are fixed, and the shops are restocked, and everyone continues with their daily business, I feel a sense of determination. Yesterday, there was a peace rally, following the murders of brothers Haroon and Shazad Ali Jahan and their friend, Abdul Musavir. It was peaceful, it was well policed, and it didn’t turn into another riot. That is dignified, that is determination – that is Birmingham.
I was impressed to see that my hometown of Northfield has been (as always) well policed, and that the accounts I’d followed had indeed been accurate and truthful. Northfield gets a lot of stick – and sometimes admittedly, I will hold my hands up as being guilty of this. But everything was in order. My father delivers milk to houses in this area, and when he spotted a gang of adolescents, he did not need to phone the police – they were arriving and dispersing the gangs. When he spoke to customers in the area when collecting money, they were blissfully unaware of it. I take my hat of to West Midlands Police, they have done a fantastic job during these difficult times.
So I suppose the “moral” of this blog is don’t underestimate the power of social media. The pen (or in this case, typing fingers) are mightier than the sword (or the brick that gets lobbed through windows) And for those of you who were of the opinion that Birmingham is a city that’s on the brink of destruction – come and see for yourselves, we are not all like these vicious, spoiled youngsters, who have been appeased by technology and media so that those responsible for them can continue with their lives uninterrupted. Also don’t assume all those from council estates are mindless yobs. I am proud to say I was brought up in a council house in Northfield, and even though my parents struggled, I learned that you don’t get everything you want in your life, you have to work hard, and most importantly, have aspirations. The looters and rioters may have a nice new shiny pair of trainers, and the latest smartphone. But they don’t have aspirations. Perhaps that is the saddest thing of all.
Birmingham – this week you have amazed me. The resilience and steely determination that has been displayed has left me astounded. I started off the week being ashamed of you. Now I couldn’t be prouder to be a Brummie.