The Fluctuating Figures of London Knife Crime

As of May 4 2019, 28 people have been fatally stabbed in the city of London this year, as a result of an ongoing knife crime epidemic in the capital. In 2018, the number of homicides reached 135, which averaged out at more than one murder every three days – whilst it is currently averaging at one killing every four days (we are 122 days into the year), levels are still extremely high.

Over the seven years that the spreadsheet details, there was a seven percent increase in knife crimes recorded by the Metropolitan Police from 2011 to 2018 – 13,341 reports in 2011, and 14,695 in 2018. However, the number decreased dramatically from its current statistic in 2015, reaching a stable 9680 then slowly increasing back up to 12,061 in 2017 and reaching its highest number of the data set last year.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan controversially said in March 2019 that he has ‘done as much as he is allowed to do’ to tackle knife crime, and has been criticised online by the public and other politicians, who have said he is not doing enough. In April 2018, the Mayor launched Violent Crime Taskforce, a command of 300 polices officers that are dedicated to focus on the worst affected areas of knife crime, including Westminster, Newham and Lambeth. According to City Hall data, since its launch 13 months ago, the VCTF has seized 731 knives and arrested almost 4000 suspects.

Analysing the data set that I used to create my infographic, it is clear to see that Southwark is consistently the most common out of the 32 boroughs in London where one can be affected by knife crime; records show that there were 860 knife-related crimes reported to the police in the borough in 2018. This is just a 2% increase from the 842 affected by blades in the previous years analysis.

One thing visible from the data set is that between 2017 and 2018, the worst increases of knife crime in London boroughs came from Sutton (increase of 77%), Camden (+73%), and Havering (+69%). An article published in local newspaper The Camden Journal in February 2019, four months after the spreadsheets were published online by Parliament, revealed that local businesses in the area have began paying for private police protection due to the ‘dwindling number of officers in the area’. The number of police officers fell from 887 in 2010 to 631 in 2017, totalling a 256 strong loss in just seven years.

Since Theresa May became home secretary in 2010, and throughout her time as the British Prime Minister, the number of police officers on UK soil has fallen 21,500 nationwide. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that the Metropolitan Police Force are struggling to cope with the workload that the criminals of London are giving them.

Read the accompanying data set here.

Michelle Obama Inspires the Southbank

Michelle Obama in conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche in London. Image taken by Craig Fergus

Michelle Obama’s highly-anticipated talk at the Royal Festival Hall took place on Monday evening (December 3), and was branded ‘outstanding’ by attendees.

The former First Lady stopped by the Southbank Centre to converse with Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in-front of 2700 lucky ticket holders, 300 of which were local schoolchildren.

Topics discussed throughout the evening included growing up as a black woman in Chicago, her husband Barack’s White House campaign, and how to accept yourself. It was in support of her new memoir ‘Becoming‘, which is now the best selling book of 2018.

Esther Godwins, an employment lawyer from London, expressed her gratitude to the venue for organising the appearance. She said, ‘I queued from 5:30AM in hopes of grabbing a seat, and it was absolutely worth it. Michelle Obama embodies inspiration, and has achieved what so many women dream of doing – the impossible’.

Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed, who works for the Church of England, said that the night left her feeling ‘connected’ to Michelle, as they have ‘faced similar struggles growing up as black women in the same era’.

Also in attendance was the Duchess of Sussex, who met with Mrs. Obama after the event to discuss girls education. Whilst the event was not live-streamed, clips of the ninety minute spectacle can be found online.

Black Cab Protest on London Bridge

Cab protest, as seen from Monument station. Image via mightybarnski/Twitter

‘Cabbies’ in central London have been slammed after wreaking havoc on the roads surrounding London Bridge on Monday night (November 26), as the ongoing war between licensed taxi drivers and Transport for London (TfL) raged on. Drivers are protesting their right to operate on a nearby street.

The first of five wide-scale protests lasted three hours, from 4-7PM, and took place across the entirety of London Bridge, causing huge traffic jams and long delays around the area; this comes from TfL’s proposal of banning any black cabs from entering the bus lanes in Tooley Street, which is situated near the Shard.

Ben Plowden, the director of strategy and network development for TfL, said in a statement to the London Evening Standard newspaper that the reasoning behind their pledge is that they want to improve conditions for the people ‘walking and cycling around the area’.

Five consecutive days of non-stop traffic jams on London Bridge is ‘extremely annoying’ for those who commute via the bridge, like sales assistant Megan Wingfield, who lives near Borough Station and uses the number 48 bus to get to her workplace in Liverpool Street. She said that it she can ‘understand the cab drivers frustration’ at feeling like their voices aren’t being heard, but it is ‘extremely childish that they aren’t considering the impact their daily protests are having on London’s emergency services’.

A final decision on Tooley Street’s taxi-ban is expected to be made in January. In the meantime, local bus routes will continue to avoid London Bridge during rush-hour until Friday (November 30), when the protests are expected to end. More information about this and travel updates can be found here.

 

Ice Skating @ Winter Wonderland – Review

Winter Wonderland’s ice rink in Hyde Park. Image taken by Craig Fergus

Several things come to ones mind when they think of London at Christmas – overzealous shoppers reigning over Oxford Street, Love Actually, and of course, Winter Wonderland.

One thing Hyde Park’s winter extravaganza boasts is the ‘UK’s largest open-air ice rink‘. It may be the biggest, but it certainly lacks the charisma needed for it to be the best. Although its expansive grounds are full of thrill-seekers at any given time, the skating experience itself leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, the ice is unusually watery for a supposed premium rink, and makes it a lot easier for visitors to slip up (and get soaking in the meantime)!

No phones are allowed on the ice rink; the only pictures able to capture the memory of a fun (and rather pricey) family day out are the ones taken by a professional photographer at a further expense. The allure of Winter Wonderland’s skating experience falls short the moment a guest steps on it – from afar, it appears white (as standard), but the closer you get you discover the sad reality that it’s a musky-grey colour, and a slushy slip-and-slide that’s littered with frozen leaves and centered around a Victorian bandstand that never seems to have band members present.

Worlds away from the luxurious ice-y opportunities of Somerset House or the Natural History Museum, ‘overused’ springs to mind when you think of Winter Wonderland’s ice rink; it is open twelve hours every day of the week, there’s never enough time for the rink to re-cooperate after a battering by enthusiastic children and adults alike.

Plus, it’s located in an odd location of the theme park, with the only sights of Hyde Park to see are the LED’s from bigger, better attractions through twigs and bushes that lurk over the ice rink – not exactly giving it a ‘festive feel’.

Admission is free to Winter Wonderland, however if you get through security and expect any form of ‘freebie’ on the other side, you’ll certainly be shocked. Of course, if you have the money to spare on all the attractions, then do as you please. But if your budget is tighter and you’re planning on only visiting one experience in Hyde Park, turn away from the ice rink – great fun can be found in areas like Backyard Cinema, the Magical Ice Kingdom and the Giant Wheel.

However, if you’re still intent on getting that ‘skating in Hyde Park’ Christmas experience, Winter Wonderland is open from 10AM-10PM everyday besides December 25 until January 6 2019. During peak time, an adult ticket is £14.50 for fifty minutes on ice, whereas early or late skates are a subtle £9.50 a head. Concessions are available for students, children and over-sixties. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at hydeparkwinterwonderland.com .

Florence + the Machine, Live in London – Review

Florence Welch performing ‘Cosmic Love’ in London. Image taken by Craig Fergus

Hot off the heels of her critically acclaimed fourth album ‘High as Hope’, indie pop icons Florence and the Machine are currently in the midst of a sold out worldwide tour.

‘This is my hometown!’ Florence Welch triumphantly exclaimed to the 3000 strong crowd at the capitals Royal Festival Hall. This wasn’t the songbirds first performance at the iconic venue, and it certainly won’t be her last.

Florence opened the show with ‘June’, a relatively slow song which did little to boost spectators spirits, but all was forgiven within the opening bars of her second track ‘Hunger‘, as the crowd began to warm up for what turned out to be a spectacular show.

As Welch ran through her repertoire of classics (particular crowd-pleasers included ‘Between Two Lungs’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over), many bystanders on the floor were disheartened to realise how little energy the majority of her audience had, almost as if they’d been forced to attend her concert. One woman even shouted ‘lighten up!’ to a group of Londoners that remained immobile during ‘Ship to Wreck’, one of the bands most dance-inspired tracks.

When the groups main set was drawing to a close, Florence knew exactly what to do to ensure her band went out with a bang. She must have asked herself, ‘what can I do to really get the crowd moving?’.

Her answer? Get in it.

Mid-way through ‘Delilah‘, Florence spontaneously jumped off stage barefoot (as always) and proceeded to run to the back of the venue and greet attendees by jumping from the sound desk into the audience, dancing with and embracing her fans as if they were old friends. Bold moves like this set Florence aside from other pop forces like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, who wouldn’t dare pull such exciting stunts in a non-controlled environment.

Katy Evans, a student at Sheffield University who travelled to London just to attend Welch’s concert, said that the front-woman exceeded all her expectations and that it was one of the best live shows she had ever seen. She said, ‘Florence has a star quality that doesn’t exist in any other artist as big as her in modern music. Everyone refers to her as underrated, but considering she has sold out every UK show on this tour proves she must be doing something right!’.

Finishing the night with an encore of the 2012 mega-hit ‘Shake It Out‘, Florence and the Machine proved once again they have still got it – and they’re going to ‘have it’ for a very long time.

BFI IMAX’s Potential Closure – Reaction

Locals and film students alike were left seething on Wednesday morning (November 21) after it was revealed that Waterloo’s beloved BFI IMAX cinema is being considered for demolition… in order for another skyscraper to be built in its place on London’s Southbank.

Discussions took place on the afternoon at the Waterloo Action Centre, where the Waterloo Community Development Group, with Lambeth Council, updated their planning policy regarding eight suitable areas that skyscrapers can be built upon. According to Lambeth news blog SE1, areas that are considered ‘worthy’ for tall buildings to take their place include the IMAX, Becket House on Lambeth Palace Road and Elizabeth House.

A decision like this could make or break the livelihood of the BFI IMAX and its employees, which has stood proudly opposite Waterloo Station since it opened in May 1999.

Lambeth Council’s idea wouldn’t just affect the local community; film student at London Metropolitan University, Aidan Matthew, said that if the film institute was replaced with ‘yet another skyscraper’ in the borough, it would be like taking ‘one more thing’ from the creative youth of London.

Speaking to cinema-goers as they left the complex, many weren’t even aware that council bosses were contemplating closing down Britain’s largest cinema screen. Sharon Watson, who had just seen the new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film at the IMAX, raged, ‘why are they shutting down one of London’s best cinemas?’. ‘The more interesting places they continue closing in favour of flashy money-making offices, the less exciting central London is going to get’.

Whilst no plans are set in stone and the council aren’t likely to confirm their proposal for several months, the BFI IMAX is open for movie geeks to enjoy the best new films on the (very) big screen seven days a week – subject to showtimes.

Highbury Corner Magistrates Court – Visit

Stock image of Rochdale Magistrates Court, similar to Highbury Corners.

During my first visit to a Magistrates Court (Highbury Corner), I was particularly fascinated by the case of one twenty-five year old female who clearly had an extremely high opinion of herself.

She entered the court with an immediate attitude and swagger in her walk, hood up and all, which I found ironic considering she had only been recently released from prison after spending four years inside for GBH. The young lady about to spend another eight weeks for assaulting her mother twice in the space of two days.

Sat in the public gallery, I pondered, ‘what has she got to be proud of’?

The first offence, which occurred on Tuesday (November 13), consisted of the defendants mother asking her to stop leaving the door on latch, which caused the young female to flick a cigarette down her mother’s bra; the second was caused by her mother allegedly kicking the defendant in the back, causing the female in question to ‘spill’ tea all down her mother’s chest. Although the defendant pleaded guilty to both charges, it signified to me that some people – several not much older than myself – already seem to have given up on their lives.

For instance, when the magistrates were reading out her punishment, I noticed the female’s face didn’t express any emotion; it was as if she had already accepted that this was how she would live out her days, hopping in and out of a prison cell bed.

Overall, I found my visit to the Highbury Corner Magistrates Court to be very interesting and certainly eye-opening, and I look forward to the forthcoming trip to the Blackfriars Crown Court.

Southbank Visitors Flock to Festive Market

Overview of Southbank’s Winter Market from the steps of Embankment Bridge. Image taken by Craig Fergus

The opening of the Southbank’s Winter Market on Friday (November 9) proved to be a tremendous success, with hundreds gathering to celebrate the upcoming festive season along the River Thames.

Lined along the Southbank are dozens of stalls selling a range of goods, including vintage scarves and hand-crafted crockery; the market itself is a stone’s throw away from the Christmas Festival, which is sponsored by Swedish Cider company Rekorderlig and is home to the famous London Starflyer swing ride.

Sharon Donovan, who is visiting the capital with her husband Mark from Winchester, confesses that she feels London is the sole place in the country where Christmas is ‘done properly’. She said that being in the city during winter is like ‘living inside a romantic-comedy film’, and the way London goes over-the-top with street lights and decorations gives her a ‘true sense of Christmas’.

The Southbank Winter Market, just left of the Southbank Centre’s ‘Royal Festival Hall’, is open until January 6 2019 – entry to both the Christmas Festival and walk-through Winter Market is free, but visitors may be subject to bag searches prior to entry.

Michael Jackson: On The Wall @ National Portrait Gallery – Review

Welcome sign that greets visitors as they enter ‘Michael Jackson: On The Wall’

For twelve weeks only, London’s National Portrait Gallery has been transformed into a pop music haven, with the world premiere of a exciting new exhibition that showcases the life of superstar Michael Jackson through the most interesting format possible – art. I went down there to see why Timeout gave it a coveted five star review.

Everyone can remember where they were when they heard the news Michael Jackson died. I certainly do – it was a boiling hot day in June 2009, and it seemed for a split second, the world stopped turning.

Although it’s been almost ten years since the incomparable King of Pop’s sudden demise, the mark Michael Jackson left on art and pop culture continues to run stronger than ever. So much so that the National Portrait Gallery has unveiled a ground-breaking exhibition, in which dozens of versatile artists from around the globe have contributed their MJ-inspired creations, in order to produce a larger-than-life display.

Fourteen (yes, fourteen!) rooms consume ‘On The Wall’; each showcasing art based on a different era of Michael Jacksons career. Room highlights of the exhibition are found in the ‘King of Pop’ area and in the vast ‘Man in the Mirror’ landscape. You enter the latter through a narrow hole inside a large recreation of Jackson’s 1991 ‘Dangerous‘ album cover, as if you were opening the doors to ‘Michael Jackson Heaven’.

Sponsored by both Hugo Boss and Sony Music, ‘On The Wall’ has been certainly been produced with style in mind – once you enter the first hall, subtly titled ‘The Alphabet of Michael Jackson’, you are instantly immersed in the luxurious life that Jackson lived; it is clear that the exhibition is sponsored by Boss. 

Contributors for the exhibition include Isa Genzken, David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Kehinde Wiley, and of course, Andy Warhol. Warhol’s iconic ‘Michael Jackson 23‘ screen-prints are featured in the same room as several pieces of collectors items from his heyday, including MJ dolls, press cuttings from Rolling Stone and glove-shaped invitations from the time of Thrillers release.

Visitors were also swarmed around the three-metre-long Kehinde Wiley oil painting that depicts Michael Jackson as a Napoleon-type figure, riding into battle on a horse. This was the final artwork commissioned by Jackson prior to his death, and sadly, he never lived to see the completed piece.

One thing the tribute lacked was information – whilst the exhibition excelled in the art itself, several pieces (especially those in the centre of the room) were not accompanied with enough detail for visitors to full appreciate them. For instance, in the room ‘Which Mike Do You Want to Be Like?’, three microphones are positioned in the rooms centre, intended to represent the three major ‘Michaels’ of the eighties – Jackson, Tyson, and Jordan. However, looking at the art, an average visitor may struggle to find the information that is meant to go alongside the piece.

Leah Dickson, visiting from Brighton to see the art, couldn’t help but express her joy at seeing all the fascinating pieces. She said of the exhibition, ‘it’s as if MJ has been resurrected – I love that there are so many rooms to explore – it shows how much depth there was to Michael Jackson, and that he lives on through his music, art and fashion’.

Being one of the biggest selling artists of all time, and with a killer posthumous exhibition now under his belt, Michael Jackson’s star still shows no sign of burning out. After the exhibition runs its course in London, it will move to Paris’ Le Grand Palais beginning November 23. 

‘Michael Jackson: On The Wall’ runs until October 21, with tickets ranging from £5-23. More information on the exhibition can be found on the National Portrait Gallery’s website.

FLOTUS in Southwark – Mrs. Obama Set For Southbank Exclusive

Mrs. Obama speaking to children in Hawaii from the White House as part of NORAD’s annual Track Santa campaign on Dec. 24 2013. Image taken by Pete Souza

This afternoon it was announced that the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, will be appearing for a UK-exclusive, one night only at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. Mrs. Obama will be discussing her upcoming autobiography ‘Becoming’ (due for release November 13) with Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, best known for her book length essay ‘We Should All Be Feminists’.

On the evening of December 3, Mrs. Obama will be detailing intimate stories from her incredible life – including raising two daughters in the White House and First Lady duties – to a live audience of over 2500 people on London’s Southbank; it is already being described on social media as ‘London’s Event of the Year’!

If you are a member of the Southbank Centre, two tickets will be available to purchase from the venue’s website at 10AM on Wednesday November 7. If you are not a member, general sale will commence at the same time the following day (November 8). Ticket prices range from £30-125, and all tickets come with a copy of ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama.