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The Summer Months. By Martin Friel.

It’s the same in any London borough in the summer months. Alfresco eating; seasonal music wafting through the open windows of the myriad bedsits and self-contained flats; beer gardens; tops off; smiles; shouts; whistling; fruit stands; the smells of summer permeating the air.

In this particular borough on this particular day a street party had been arranged - live music, muslin-clad women selling their wares, ramshackle, temporary bars, a flower-painted kid’s play area and various tents tending to various needs.

Twelve o’clock things kick off – kick off is a strong word as in reality the street party eases into existence. Mothers with children stroll through the stands admiring what is on offer, soothed by the easy reggae-tinged music – the stall handlers try not to betray their nervousness at the slow start.

Mid afternoon and the crowd begins to thicken, the average age of attendees increases as the hours pass. The music is getting louder, the stall handlers less nervous as the growing crowd spend the disposable income they have scraped together. People have saved up and are determined to enjoy themselves, putting the threat of Monday firmly to the back of their minds.

Drinks are passed around easily and readily – no-one is drinking too much but nor are people being inhibited. All is relaxed and good-natured – people are beginning to dance, laugh, shout as they embrace the growing atmosphere.

Early evening and the drink begins to take effect. The shouts get louder as does the laughter. The babies in the strollers have been strolled home. The traffic in the surrounding streets increases. Cars arrive full of the young and free, determined to have fun, music pouring out of the open windows. The sound system increases in volume – the nature has changed. It’s for the adults now but the mood is still good – people smiling, laughing, hugging, dancing, pushing against each other. Drinks are spilled but there’s always more to come. The summer weekends promise an endless joy. The people embrace it. This is their moment. The street belongs to them.

Late evening and the first changes appear. Two drunks are told to leave the area by the sombre-suited security man. Shouting, swearing and threats ensue. It’s a one off – bad apples. One hour later, a couple leave arguing, the man has the woman gripped firmly by the back of the neck, recalling past infidelities and transgressions. She argues her case but the grip gets stronger until she is nearly doubled over with the pressure. More cars arrive; more crowds spill out. The mood changes. People are aware of the growing tension. They feel the atmosphere darkening. The music gets louder; the dancing continues; the drink flows; the cars empty.

Around midnight. The shouts increase in volume. They sound increasingly aggressive but they are diluted by the music, muffled. A crowd gathers. The revellers pay no attention. They continue to dance, to drink, to gyrate. The shouts from the crowd increase, the invective grows stronger. A scream pierces the air and the crowd suddenly disperses. A young man lies exposed, alone on the ground, lifeless. Within minutes the sirens can be heard in the distance. The music continues; the crowd moves away and continues to dance. The cars continue to arrive and people continue to eat at the surrounding cafes and al fresco restaurants.

It’s the same in any London borough in the summer months.

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