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Film screening shows riot scars yet to heal

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THE £1 billion scheme to redevelop Croydon town centre must not leave behind areas most affected by the 2011 riots. That was the message from community group West Croydon Voice at the last public screening of a youth-led film about the disorder. Around 100 people turned out to watch Riot From Wrong at Fairfield Halls last Thursday night. The film, produced by a group of young people, featured alternative perspectives of the riots and looting that swept across the country, including interviews with community leaders, victims and some of those who took part. Following the screening, West Croydon Voice founder Bushra Ahmed told the audience that the borough was in danger of allowing a brand new shopping centre, approved last month by the council, to be built next to areas which have seen little of the investment promised two years ago. "There's no doubt Westfield will be great for the town but my worry, and the reason I wanted to bring people together and show this film, is about the people living around it," she said. "They are still going to face the same issues that caused the riots in the first place because very little has changed." Mrs Ahmed, whose family dry-cleaning business in London Road was destroyed, added: "After the riots an independent panel suggested things that should be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. "I don't know how many of them have been put in place. There was a recommendation to have a police station on London Road, which has not been followed through. To my mind, that's short-sighted. "I for one never want to see [the riots] happen again, but unless you do something about it, what's going to stop the anger from building up again?" West Croydon Voice represents riot victims who have yet to be fully compensated after losing their home or business. Charlene Munro, who lost everything she owned when her flat burnt down but received just £2,450, joined Mrs Ahmed on the post-film discussion panel, alongside members of Fully Focused Productions, the makers of Riot From Wrong. Director and co-founder Teddy Nygh said: "The fact that Bushra and Charlene had to come together and create an organisation like West Croydon Voice to campaign for their own compensation shows the position people are still in, even two and a half years down the line." The film, featuring interviews shot on the fourth day of the riots, aimed to give a voice to people the group felt had not been heard in the mainstream media. It focused on the underlying social causes and, for the most part, downplayed the criminality focused on by the authorities. "What you can see is that a lot of youths – a lot of people – are very angry," said Fidel Kenny, a member of Fully Focused. "There's a lot of underlying anger in a lot of communities about the way they are treated by the system, by the police and other organisations. "If they aren't towing the line, they get shut down. The mainstream media only want to hear what they want to hear. "We didn't set out to make a provocative film. We set out to make an open and honest film. If fingers were pointed, it's because that's how people felt." Among the audience were nearly a dozen Labour politicians, including Croydon North MP Steve Reed, but no one from the Conservative group. Vidhi Mohan, cabinet member for communities, said he had spoken at a regeneration conference in Canary Wharf that evening. Asked whether he felt someone from the party should have attended, he said it was not a "party political" event. Talk following the meeting was that senior figures within Town Hall had misgivings about the screening, with organisers put under pressure to drop Carol Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan, from the panel. The first 20 minutes of the film focused on the death of her nephew, whose shooting by police sparked the initial rioting in Tottenham. For legal reasons The Advertiser is unable to repeat large parts of what she said that evening due to an ongoing inquest into Mr Duggan's death, but the panel defended her involvement on the night. Teddy said: "When someone is killed in your family, there is no right and wrong. What is important is that you can express yourself and try and get through your journey. With the strength of 10,000 lions that is what Carole is doing." Fidel said: "We had a screening in which Michael Mansfield QC [representing the Duggan family at the inquest] sat on the panel but wouldn't answer any questions on the inquest because he was directly involved. "I tweet from the inquest. I don't think there's anything wrong in commenting on it. I don't think we're prejudging the outcome." Carole said she had attended the Fairfield screening, and others, to address the "smear campaign" waged against her family by the police and media. "The way the media described Mark initially, that wasn't Mark, it was not who he was," she said. "We know Mark better than anyone else.I will always fight for him because I know he is innocent." Researcher Suzanne Hyde, sitting in the audience, said: "It seems to me it's the people most hurt by the riots who are still talking about it. "For Carol Duggan to be here, with the hurt she must be feeling while the inquest going on is very moving." Before the screening Mr Reed raid out a personal message to West Croydon Voice from Labour leader Ed Miliband. Mr Reed added: "In the aftermath of the riots there was a big negative reaction to young people in general. "That was really wrong because the media tried to demonise young people and too many politicians jumped on the same bandwagon. They were calling on everyone to be locked up. "While you can't excuse criminal behaviour I do think we need to understand what it was we have been doing to our young people that led those things to happen. "That's why a screening of a film like this is important. "Having the opportunity to watch the film and discuss what happened is part of the healing, moving on and understanding what we all need to do to ensure our young people have more opportunities than they feel they have at the moment."

Film screening shows riot scars yet to heal


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