THE SMELL OF burning plastic drifted a mile east from Rye Lane. Peckham had just spawned its own crop of rioters to add to what was flickering across London like stirred embers.
I set off at 8pm to see and hear what was going on. The park end of Rye Lane was sealed by riot police:
A devious route by backstreets and alleyways emerged not far south of the train station. The Lane was empty of traffic. A crowd of people had formed under the railway bridge, their excited voices echoing.
The Iceland frozen food store had had its windows smashed in and a knot of girls and young women milled around outside. Now and then one would dart into the unlit and dank-looking shop interior, egged on by her companions, while another would emerge clutching a carrier bag bulging with stolen food. Signs in what was left of the windows read £1! £2!
A larger group of all ages had adopted the role of spectators and formed a ragged line a few yards in front of the shop. I joined them and made this recording:
Some politely affected looks of shock, others were openly enthusiastic. The atmosphere there and nearby was strangely nonchalant in the riot’s afterglow. A few other shop windows had been stoved in by energetically-hurled street furniture and the rest had their steel shutters down. Further along Rye Lane a fire engine sprayed water inside a building. The smouldering interior boiled it into dirty steam.
The police stood silently, bulked out in their flameproof overalls, knowing the real action had moved on.