Newsletter August 2011
Within hours of the ending of the recent UK riots, hundreds of people rushed out to the streets of Hackney, Clapham and all across London with a sense of generosity and social responsibility at the forefront of their minds.
In the aftermath of the confusion and chaos, the RiotRescue.com website took its name and its philosophy from the Twitter #hashtags which had been trending about the London clean up operation. Twitter profiles such as #RiotCleanup were set up to inform people of the mass clean ups taking place across the city. This name was soon set up as a profile and had 50,000 followers in no time who were regularly kept informed of clean ups as well as other relevant information such as links to legal help regarding premises that have been affected.
RiotRescue.com is an expanded version of its Twitter predecessor and carries news of riot clean ups, information and updates from councils, a forum for skilled people to donate their time to get businesses back up and running, and even a blog for help in identifying and catching looters. The site received huge numbers of hits in the days after the riots with thousands of people stepping in to lend a hand all across London. Over 500 people contacted Croydon Council by 10am on the Tuesday following the riots to offer help.
One such person fortunate enough to receive such help was Siva Kandiah, a shopkeeper in Hackney for over 11 years. Mr Kandiah's shop was ransacked and he was left with only 27 pence to his name and no insurance for contents in his shop. Help from locals in the Hackney area, as well as the assistance of clean up squads, ensured that the shop was cleaned and funded to be reopened after over £17,000 was raised through public donations – some coming from as far away as New Zealand, demonstrating the power of the web for good.
Forums like RiotRescue.com have played and are still playing a big part in helping to restore the sense of community spirit across London and other affected cities. Although it is perhaps a little ironic that much of the good that has been carried out post riots has been done through the same medium that is blamed for accelerating the riots in the first place, the old mantra "don't shoot the messenger" really rings through in these circumstances. Although we can never be entirely sure when the next disaster will happen again, it is great to know that digital technology can be used as a tool to pull together the generosity that already exists in the hearts of Londoners and beyond.