Ten years after the London riots, has Tottenham changed?

Riot police on the streets in Tottenham, north London as trouble flared. Credit: PA

Ten years after riots in Tottenham which sparked violence across the capital and other parts of England, ITV News journalist and former Tottenham resident Courtney Carr re-visits the area to see what, if anything, has changed.

Ten years ago, I was a 13-year-old teenager in Tottenham. It was Saturday the 6 August 2011, and I was sat on a sofa, or a settee as my late mum would call it, watching TV with her.

It was late at night when my mother said to me: “Is there a game going on at the stadium?” We lived in a quiet, tucked-away crescent, roughly 10 minutes from Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium. We always heard the roar of fans whenever games were on.

“I don’t remember seeing fans, and would it be going on so late?” I replied. I had been out earlier that day, and as a local you would always know when there was a home game because the streets would usually be swarming with fans hours before kick-off. I could not remember seeing those swarms today – but I thought that I may have missed it. 

A fire rages at a building in Tottenham following riots in 2011. Credit: PA

“There must be a game,” my mum insisted.

I asked her to pause our show so I could hear, mainly because I struggled with my hearing, and sure enough there seemed to be a loud roar of people. But it did not sound like a game. This was different.

My mum received a text from a family member shortly after, telling us to turn to on Sky News. We gasped as we switched it over and saw Tottenham on fire. 

“Isn’t that Tottenham High Road?” I gasped.

We recognised landmark buildings, such as Allied carpets and The Union Point, which was built in 1930 – in flames. We lived on the upper floor of a maisonette flat, so if we peered hard out of our kitchen window, we could sometimes see signs of trouble. I ran to the kitchen, turning off all the lights so that no one could see me looking out, and saw a large rise of smoke. 

Tottenham local Mark Duggan had been shot by the police two days earlier, and he had sadly died from his injuries. There were, of course, a lot of locals that had their suspicions about the validity of the police’s version of events, especially because of their lack of response and support for Mark’s family.

File photo of mounted police on the streets in Tottenham, north London as fire burns around them during riots. Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA

That Saturday had begun with a peaceful protest by locals, including Mark Duggan’s family and friends from Broadwater Farm, to Tottenham Police Station. 

I recently spoke to Stafford Scott, who was the co-founder of the Broadwater Defence Campaign in 1985 – he was a part of that peaceful protest. He has also recently opened an exhibition called “War Inna Babylon,” which details mainly the Jamaican community's experience with police officers in Tottenham from the 1940s.

He said: “A group of about forty of us walked to Tottenham Police station, mainly young women with children. The police officers then came and pulled down the shutters – effectively sending a message to those that were out there, that they weren’t going to engage with the protest.

"It meant that there were unmanned police cars on the route that we were taking to go back to the estates. Some young people lost control and they attacked those police cars. The riots in Tottenham began.”

My mum and I watched in horror as that hijacking that Stafford spoke to me about, happened before our eyes. People of all ages and from all backgrounds were throwing bottles, smashing stores, looting, and robbing. We then heard helicopters hovering over our crescent because some rioters had found our small spot and used it as a hideout. Police officers ran into the crescent with dogs, as my mum asked me repeatedly if all the lights in the house were off. I was frightened.

Mark Duggan (top left) and Cynthia Jarrett (bottom left) died in Tottenham. Pictured right: a store which was burned down in the Tottenham riots in 2011. Credit: PA

The unrest continued over the next few days – buses were set on fire and shops continued to be looted. My mum would not let me go anywhere.

Soon after the riots, there came promises of “regeneration” and huge cash sums to help repair the damage and restore Tottenham. I lived there for another five years, and I only saw significant cash being pumped into Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium. We still had a limited police response to certain issues such as drug dealing, and youth clubs and local shops were closing at alarming rates. As a 13-year-old, I wrote for the local paper and noted that “Tottenham was never a brilliant place but no matter what happened, we still had a sense of community”.

I walked along the High Road a few days ago, for the first time in years. It had certainly changed – there were less local, authentic shops, and more mainstream outlets. I spoke to another local, Gina Moffat, who was was released from prison 12 years ago. With support from the local community and the Prince’s Trust, she was able to open a local business called the Bloomingscent café. She confirmed that Tottenham is not what it used to be.

Tottenham High Road after the 2011 riots. Credit: Max Nash / PA

She said: “I’m a Tottenham local – I have lived here all my life. I love Tottenham, I breathe Tottenham. I ended up in prison, but 12 years ago, I was released. 

"The riots took me by surprise – I started to panic because it was just by the café. It was spreading like wildfire. I was getting angry – why would you want to destroy your home?

"Tottenham has changed a lot because right now, it’s so expensive. Every day, it feels like we are losing what made Tottenham, Tottenham. A lot of the businesses are closing down and that is hard. I am going through a battle right now with myself and my businesses. Tottenham has lost a lot from the riots.” 

Courtney Carr

Tottenham has changed – it has more modern, high-rise flats, a larger tourist-attracting stadium and new shops. The physical damage to the high street is long gone. However, there is much work to be done between the local communities and the police. The regeneration of Tottenham also needs to be of benefit to all residents, and not just to some.