Augustus Casely-Hayford: We all need to change our ways

I would love to see the Tebbit cricket test re-applied today to his white Chingford kin

Share

I still find it difficult not to keep benchmarking my summers against 1976. My great memory of that summer was Ladbroke Grove, in west London, on the evening of the Notting Hill Carnival riot. I stood on a porch and watched pink paraffin Molotov cocktails tumble out of the air and decant burning streams of kerosene down the road toward the police lines. Every time a bottle burst on the road, a cheer would go up. It was in a strange way very beautiful.

I watched for what felt like a long time. I was just about to become a teenager and I was mesmerised with both fear and excitement. But, I felt it made a kind of sense. The riot may have been spontaneous, but the anger was borne out of years of building resentment. The local population were simply tired of being scared and marginalised. The silo walls of multicultural London were smouldering; it would not be contained.

The following week in the final Test match of one of the greatest West Indian tours, Michael Holding single-handedly destroyed England with a devastating display of imperious bowling. I didn't know how it would change, but I knew this bit of the world could never be quite the same.

Thirty years on, so much has changed. The Notting Hill Carnival "Europe's biggest street party", has become almost mainstream. The surrounding area is now the home of bankers, shadow cabinet ministers and fleets of Chelsea Tractors. And the big cricket series of the summer - before the very un-cricket unravelling of the final Test and perhaps cricket itself - gave us the boys' own dream debuts of two Englishmen, Monty Panesar and Sajid Mahmood, who devastated the Pakistani batting with hypnotically wily bowling.

To have a Sikh and a Muslim as the twin spearheads of an English victory in Britain's most conservative sport is wonderful. I would love to see the Norman Tebbit cricket test re-applied today to his white Chingford kin. I think they, as much as anyone, must have begun to be aware that the underpinning narrative and values of contemporary Britain have subtly, but profoundly, altered.

It is increasingly untenable to see the culture of minorities as the constantly shifting beach-line and the traditional mainstream as Britain's bedrock and hinterland. The idea of a stable mainstream founded upon a fixed core set of ideals and beliefs against which everything else is measured and accommodated, must be seen as an old-fashioned comforting delusion. I hope we now accept that our society is and always has been much more complex.

Embracing, not just accommodating, that complexity has to be part of our future - we almost have no choice. Diversity, at least the kind of cultural diversity policy that grounds all of those action plans we are writing, is never going to solve the problem. That way of engaging with societal complexity has become deeply damaged. We need to find a new infrastructure, an integrated mechanism for thinking about how demographic changes alter the way metropolitan Britons engage with the world around them. We have to begin to accept that generating formalised ways to accommodate "other" people and then not resourcing or embracing the complexity of that responsibility can actually exacerbate the problem.

If we are to convince young people that they can make a meaningful contribution to the soul of contemporary Britain, we might need to give up a little more of what we value. We cannot afford to give birth to another generation of alien-natives; young people who feel closer to cultures on the other side of earth than the one into which they are born. This is a generation that understandably is not going to be satisfied with defining their cultural practise within the margins.

We know that the loss of trust after the 7/7 tube bombings will take decades to play out and the ramifications of this year's airport chaos may change flying forever, but we will pay a price for not building upon the hard-fought years of pigeon-step gains that have made Panesar and Mahmood possible. Watching the cricketing world polarise into predictable camps underwritten by racial suspicion is deeply sad. But it is an analogue of a broader global paranoia. As a nation we have a history of building real possibility from fragile hope.

I hope to see you at the Notting Hill Carnival this bank holiday. I know after 30 years of carnivals it is a weekend which feels like it is owned by everyone, where even old blokes like me can feel comfortable. I will be the one dancing badly with the William Hague baseball hat - do come over to say hello.

The writer is the director of the Institute of International Visual Arts

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf