This video came about as a splinter project of some work I’ve been doing at UCL, trying to understand the 2011 London riots from a mathematical perspective.
While we were looking into the data behind the events, it was hard not to notice the striking links between the areas of the city that most rioters came from and the deprivation of those communities. This link was not the focus of our academic project, but I felt it was important not to just leave it as a one-line comment in a journal article. So I tried to investigate further by speaking to charities, youth workers and young people across the capital.
Once the riots had died down, many were very quick to demonise the groups of young people involved, but after taking the time to speak to young people from the poorest areas of the city I heard stories that shocked, appalled and surprised me – even as a Londoner myself. Perhaps the riots were not the result of innate criminal instincts lying dormant in certain groups of society, but rather a manifestation of deeper underlying problems in our cities.
I thought the voices of these young people and the often desperate situations they face deserved to be heard, and so obtained some funding through UCL’s Focus on the Positive to make this film. It turned out to be harder than I thought to get young people to open up on film but I hope that, regardless, this short piece might offer some insight into another way of looking at things.
I should point out that the links to deprivation and government cuts discussed here are not the subject or focus of the Scientific Reports paper ‘A mathematical model of the London Riots and their policing‘. The work described in this video has not been peer reviewed and does not represent the views of UCL or the other authors.