11 August 2011

Manchester Wombles

Riot Womble

I like this new nickname! This morning I joined people from around Manchester for the Riot Clean Up, it was really wonderful. The whole idea spoke to me as a Quaker. It was peaceful, proactive and didn’t set out to confront or condemn anyone. Granted some people did lay blame during their TV interviews, but for the most part it was a powerful statement of positive resilience. It was a brilliant expression of our anger at the riots, while also rising above petty violence to show the best of human nature.

Manchester Riot Clean Up

Ironically there wasn’t much left for us to clean, the council had worked tirelessly through the night with amazing results. Sleepy commuters may not have even noticed the damage. But none the less hundreds of people took to the streets with their brooms. We wandered down Market Street, along to the Printworks and then up into the Northern Quarter before we found some glass from a smashed window. There were occasional ripped gates & broken shutters, but most of the damaged windows were already boarded up and looked remarkably civilised.


At times it was simply comical. I joined a group of about 25 who walked nearly a mile to Great Ancoats Shopping Centre in the hopes of finding a broken window. When we found one shattered pain outside JD sports, there was a polite scuffle as people jostled for the privilege of sweeping it up. It was brilliant to watch so many people working together, making new friends and making a stand. I was even lucky enough to meet MrsThrifty who also came out to help. While there may have been a shortage of work to do, a crowd of hundreds marching through Manchester city centre made an impact. The brooms inspired cheers and smiles from complete strangers the whole day. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty good achievement for your average kitchen broom.