Seemingly coming from nowhere, the streets of London were lit by fires and wrecked by multiple rioting during the second week of August 2011, just eleven months before the Olympic games are due to start in the city. Ostensibly started by a police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in North London, bearing the hallmarks of an extra-judicial killing, and further complicated by a series of media blunders and cover-ups by the Met as well as the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the riots did not bear the typical signs of political protest. While politicians and commentators were at a loss to know how to react, and academics kept silent, the riots multiplied, and started to spread to other cities in England. After a week of looting and burning, and the arrest and prosecutions of over 1200 people for related offences, a semblance of order has returned to the streets. The silence which followed these events was broken by a Guardian-sponsored large-scale research project.

Questions still remain. Was this a disaster waiting to happen? Could it happen again? What does it tell us of the police and its communal concept?

But more than anything, what does it say about the crisis of capitalism, and its corrosive effects on society and its moral values?


London is Burning: Painful conversations

45 minutes, 16:9 aspect ratio, Copyright 2012, by Haim Bresheeth

London is Burning: Painful conversation is a documentary film by Haim Bresheeth, made during the months following the riots, and completed in May 2012. It features a number of key activists and social theorists, in conversation about this painful social events during the summer of 2011.

The project has a number of other forms, the main other one being a 20 screen version which is 25 minutes long, but can only be seen at the Matrix East Research Lab (MERL) at the University of East London.

The film will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray shortly. To arrange a projection or invite the filmmaker, write to

London is Burning: the film