Society proves itself to be more big than broken

Acts of kindness replace acts of violence as a shaken, post-riotEngland picks itself up

A shaken country has begun to dust itself down, clear its head, and demonstrate what most of it is really made of. There had been, after those bad nights, much recrimination and odd flashes of remorse. But yesterday came a resolve from those very same streets to put at least some things right.

It was evident not in the continued verbal arms race between pundits to explain what, in the end, may be unexplainable, or in the squabbles between police and government over credit for the quiet since Wednesday, but in a thousand positive and collaborative acts which will hopefully prove greater and more enduring than the sum of last week's destruction.

Marches and vigils in north and south London reclaimed for the majority areas ambushed by the few; some businesses trashed on Monday were reopening, often with community help; appeals to revive small traders were overflowing with donations; and builders, garden centres, wholesalers, and IT firms were offering assistance free of charge. The job of catching those responsible was boosted in places such as Manchester, where the police were "inundated" with tip-offs from people responding to their "Shop a Looter" campaign. If a high number of arrests can ever be called a good thing – and in these circumstances it can – the total number of alleged rioters and looters detained is now more than 2,000.

And the dignity of relatives of the three men killed by a car during Birmingham's disturbances continued to shine. Yesterday, Abdullah Khan, uncle to brothers Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, who died alongside Haroon Jahan, asked for the family to be given justice, and said he had been "humbled" by support from the area and messages of condolence from people around the world.

There are still worries – victims unhappy at what they called neglect by authorities, and many concerned that the disturbances could return as swiftly as they receded – but also a beginning in repairing the scenes of the troubles, if not their underlying causes.

In Wood Green, north London, Smile Mehmet set up a table and red carpet outside his damaged jewellers shop and has been replacing watch batteries in the street. In Ealing, Brij Sehgal of Seba Electronics says people have been ringing up from as far away as Bristol offering to work for free, and Elizabeth Pilgrim, whose baby-clothes shop was badly hit, was hugely cheered by what she called "an amazing sense of community".

She said: "I've been overwhelmed by the amount of help – tradesmen offering their services for free, to suppliers asking if I need any stock and it would be free. I've had artists who are going to do a nice picture on the hoarding... I've had strangers saying they would donate money to pay my bills, passers-by trying to shove money in my hand. It's been incredible."

In Clapham, Duncan Mundell, whose Party Superstore was set alight, has been so moved by offers of support that he and some volunteers erected a 30ft-long banner by his premises last night thanking the community.

And from Croydon, at the family business whose large living and dining room furniture department was destroyed in a fire which symbolised Monday's disturbances, there was further heartening news. Reeves, whose bedroom department across the road survived, albeit with all its windows broken, has received thousands of emails of support from as far away as America, the local paper have given them free advertisements, and the store is now open, even if nearby roads are not. Maurice Reeves, the 80-year-old great-grandson of the business's founder, told The Independent on Sunday that a man who had read of the fire drove all the way from Nottingham to buy furniture. He spent more than £800, and Mr Reeves was so touched he offered him a 40 per cent discount. "He said he would only accept if I signed the wardrobe. So I will." He added: "I've seen a lot of good in the last few days."

The rebuilding of Reeves is one of the many causes that have attracted major support from online donors. An appeal to help restore Siva Kandiah's Clarence Convenience Store in Hackney after its destruction by rioters – Save Siva's Shop – has reached £13,291, and perhaps the most impressive response has been to the fund to help 89-year-old Tottenham barber Aaron Biber reopen his uninsured shop. More than £35,000 has been raised in just a few days, more than is needed. The excess is being given to others affected in that area.

It was here, last Saturday, that an English summer ignited, and yesterday it was also the destination of a march by 1,000 people. Some had contentious points to make ("Blame the Tories, not our kids" was one chant), but most seemed to see it as a chance for the communities to reconnect, make sure that the events of last week are not repeated, and ensure all cultures stay united. And the crowds that gathered on the pavements showed their appreciation with thumbs-up gestures and shouts of encouragement. One group even clapped to chants while seated at the bus stop. Passing cars honked their horns and groups from various shops and restaurants, mainly of Turkish or Kurdish origin, stood on their thresholds and watched with approving nods.

Haci Demir, 33, who works at a refugee workers cultural association in Stoke Newington and who helped organise the march, said: "Social inequality has left no future for the youth. There is a lot of anger among young people in this area. Turkish and Kurdish shop owners came out to protect their businesses, but that doesn't mean they do not have sympathy for the youths. The media presented them as fighting the young people and we want to show that this is not the case."

Samantha Dean, 19, from Dalston and unemployed, said: "We must make sure that young people like me stay connected to society. Nobody should be proud of the events of the week, but the root cause needs to be dealt with."

Janet Opoku-Agyemang, with daughter Leah, 9, said: "I feel sorry for the generation to come as hope is almost lost. Children should be given an opportunity at an early age, there is no point trying to intervene when they are 17. My daughter wants to repeat her year at school because she feels there are gaps in her knowledge. Unfortunately, she can't, and she is going to suffer for it."

North of Tottenham is Enfield, scene of last week's other great blaze, at the Sony DADC warehouse. Many small firms have been financially crippled by the fire, losing entire CD stocks. The centre was the major distribution point for independent labels, and stored recordings by companies such as XL and Domino, whose artists include Adele and the Arctic Monkeys. Yesterday, the BPI – which represents British music companies – said it is to create a fund of more than £100,000 for labels affected by the fire.

A week that began with such ugliness seems now to be showing that it can be, to use two separate diagnoses of the Prime Minister's, a society both broken and big at the same time.

Additional reporting: Francesca Infante, Samantha Brook, Jermaine Haughton, and Sanna Chu

The best of British: Heroes of the week

The bereaved father: Tariq Jahan

Mr Jahan's 21-year-old son, Haroon, was killed by a hit-and-run driver, along with Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31. The dignified bereaved father called on people to stay calm and "respect the memories of our sons".

The stoical shopkeeper: Graham Reeves

Mr Reeves, 52, was the Croydon-based furniture seller whose store, which survived the blitz, was burnt to the ground. His family vowed not to be defeated and to carry on the business at its remaining shop.

The officer: PC Gordon Murphy

PC Murphy fended off a mob of 50 youths who were trying to loot a retail park. Mobilised from Catford police station in south London, he and colleagues charged at the mob, despite being outnumbered.

The matriarch: Pauline Pearce

Now internationally famous as the walking-stick wielding grandmother, 45, who stood her ground as violence escalated around her in Hackney, east London, and berated a gang of looters vandalising a building.

The hero schoolboy: Iftikhar Ahmed, 15

The teenager carried his injured mother for a mile through the Birmingham riots, after she was set upon by a dozen thugs with baseball bats. As he did so, he was pelted with bottles by another gang of violent hooligans.

The good samaritan: Peter Firstbrook

Mr Firstbrook, 60, ignored the danger to himself and battled his way through the rioters to the injured Richard Mannington Bowes and dragged him away from a wheelie bin fire in an attempt to save his life.

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
News
Ethical matters: pupils during a philosophy lesson
educationTaunton School's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal