FEATURE: Kintsukuroi: London’s Forming Cracks and the Future for Musicians






London’s Forming Cracks and the Future for Musicians


THE past couple of weeks have seen news reports…


ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash

filled with violent scenes and doom-laden prophecies from the streets of London. There have been over fifty murders in London this year already. Although we have lived through years, fairly recently, with a higher number of deaths; there seem to be a very real problems unfolding. A lot of the murders are knife-related and, aside from some random and isolated killings; a lot of them seem to be either gang-related or about territory. Some commentators, including Cressida Dick, have looked at social media and the way that has led to the issue. Many are going onto social media and urging these killings; sending insults and pushing people to go out and commit murder. Looking at a report by Sky News - and Metropolitan Police commissioner Dick has backed away from assumptions the rise in deaths on the streets of London constitute a crisis:

The head of the capital's police force told Sky News she is "really concerned" about recent deaths and admitted London has experienced a "bad three months" in terms of murders.

But, Commissioner Dick expressed her hope Scotland Yard would soon reduce the bloodshed as she confirmed 300 extra officers a day will be deployed in London over the weekend.

Since the turn of the year, Sky News has identified 51 people who are suspected to have been deliberately killed in the capital amid a spate of stabbings and shootings, with two teenagers left injured in the latest knife attack at the Whitgift Shopping Centre in Croydon on Friday evening”.


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There has been a sharp rise in deaths the past few weeks. Maybe news of killings is spurring would-be perpetrators to follow suit and settle debates in the same way. Although there are more dangerous parts of the world – and knife/gun killings are nothing new – there is distinct cancer that needs curing. Why young people have access to guns and why they are driven to such random and senseless murders. I have written about London and how it is a Mecca for many aspiring musicians. Many people move here to succeed and progress their careers. It is a packed and busy time for music; there is little room for error and, if you want to go all the way, you need proximity to great venues, labels and stations – so your music does not have to travel too far. There have always been problems in the capital but now, as we move into spring; we are all waiting for sun and warm weather – excited to see things improve and take advantage of the conditions. Instead of having an optimistic outlook; many are worried about the spate of deaths and what this signals. Many I know are moving to London and, understandably, are hoping to stay there long-term. Of course, the chances of dying in a stabbing or shooting are very slim – it is unlikely someone will be randomly targeted by a stranger.


We are all subject to the randomness of life and the dangers around us – there is no way we can protect everyone from everything. I have side-stepped a definite move to London for a more pragmatic and safer aim of Manchester. That is not compelled, in whole, because of the growing violence and struggles there. It is, for many musicians, putting them off and creating nerves. London is at the leading edge of British music and needs to send the message to the world (the city) is a safe place and is improving. We know issues around rising rents and Brexit; other problems that are putting a lot of people off of London. We hope the killings will desist and things will return to ‘normal’ before too long. What worries me is the fact there is a lot putting musicians off of London. All of the biggest labels and venues are here; it is the busiest city in the U.K. and, as such, need to retain its reputation as being a creative and great place for musicians. The fact there are murders happening does not detract from London’s multicultural people and the options open for musicians. If many, who are thinking about relocating, see what is happening on the news; one has to ask whether they will avoid London or delay their move.


I have changed my plans and cannot lie that, in some way, the rise in violence has put me off. I am not saying where I wanted to move to (around Brixton) would be any worse than it has been the past few years. There are so many great things about London but, if you balance it against other cities; how ideal and sustainable is a comfortable life there? It is clear there are cracks in the city that need gilded repair and some expert treatment. The city is like an ornate and treasured jug. It is proud and beautiful; it has a place and purpose but, right now, there are value-decreasing cracks forming at the bottom. The only way London can keep its crown as the go-to location for musicians hoping to make a go of their career is to address a lot of the problems it is facing. Gentrification and rent hikes are putting enough people off already: unabated street violence is another fault we can do without right now. I wonder whether, in combating the reasons behind the violence in the capital; we can bring music in to help give these disaffected young people direction and place. I know their motives for murder are more complicated and personal than simple boredom and disaffection. There is a frustration building in the boroughs; a sense they (the young) are not being listened to and represented.


IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

The Prime Minister, so far, has been an absent leader and theoretical tackler regarding the new cases of gun and knife-related deaths. One would hope the P.M. takes a more direct and passionate approach to finding out why so many young lives are being snubbed out; how we can all resolve to fix the problems and discover the reasons why people are turning to murder. Mayor Sadiq Khan has been attacked and blamed for the rise in attacks this year – many have come out and queried why politicians are being so passive. Tottenham M.P. David Lammy, when speaking to The Guardian, highlighted how the war on drugs has failed; how much black lives DO matter – and why Sadiq Khan has been relatively silent about the problems:

Sadiq and I have a good relationship,” he says, but the only reason he can think of to explain why Khan didn’t call is also his greatest fear: “I think it’s that we’ve come to normalise it. We think of gun and knife crime among teenagers as normal. And it is not.”

To Lammy, the rise in London murders feels ominously different to previous surges of violence. “I am more worried about this spike because the profile of the people getting caught up in it is younger. The callousness of shooting into a crowd outside a cinema, shooting at young women, the normalisation – never mind the ramping up by social media – all of that makes me alarmed and worried. I am pretty confident that we’re not going to get over this problem unless there is a proper political consensus. This is not going to self-correct”.


I am not suggesting arts and participation in music is going to be a magical cure to a deeper issue – it is a surface solution. I am not trying to tackle the issue by avoiding the problem: my point is that there are ways we can communicate and negotiate with those who are killing others by actual discussion and progression. Ignoring the problem and casting blame is not a solution; highlighting social media’s role and not doing anything about it is appalling and incredibly unhelpful. I feel a more cooperative and personal approach to the problems would help ease the burden and conflicts happening on the streets. Giving young people an outlet and a productive channel is a good and practical first step. Beyond this; we need to look at reasons why London’s youth feel they have to go out and kill others. There is a rising drug epidemic – cocaine use and trade are on the increase – and there is a sense of disaffection and alienation. With homogenisation and the changes happening in London; a lot of its settled and native residents feel they are being pushed to the boundaries. London is a wonderful city but, if we continue to negate discussion and shirk responsibility, the problem will only worsen. The violence we see on the news will put many people off moving to London; there is that inherent strain on the music industry – fewer people will want to come to the capital – and that will only get worse.


We need to make London a place people want to come to; where musicians feel safe and they feel they have a voice. Politicians are being accused of conscientious objection and remaining silent. Rather than hold meetings and get out into the affected communities; they are standing behind desks and making false promises. Let’s all resolve to discover what is behind the rise in knife and gun crime; how we, as people of the U.K., can work together and stem the tide. London is at the beating heart of the isles and, as such, should be a shining and golden example of what Britain is about. If people look at the news and what is happening here right now; they will be put off and reluctant to spend time here. Musicians pine for that London life but, the more murders we see reported; are ones already based here going to move and take their talents to other parts?! I am hearing of some emigrating; others, who planned on coming, are going elsewhere. There are definite problems and they will not be fixed with words and a wait-and-see policy. I am genuinely worried London is starting to lose its way a bit and that, in the long-run, will have a huge impact on the music industry. If we can apply some logical thinking and proactive policies; that can help redress the problems coming from the streets and make the young populous feel heard and understood. We do not want people avoiding London and feeling it is an unsafe place to be. If all that fails then, well; I guess…


THERE’S always Manchester!