Wednesday 21 March 2018

London Riots: Battling Brenda the brave pensioner gets award

Leanne Rinne

A pensioner who helped defend a department store during the riots was awarded a golden broom today for her bravery.

Brenda, from Battersea, south London, who has asked not to be named in full for fear of reprisals, was saluted with brooms and cheered by members of staff at the Debenhams in Clapham Junction.

The store was one of several ransacked on August 8.

Staff and members of the community, including Brenda, worked hard to re-open it just three days later.

Brenda, who has been nicknamed 'Brave Brenda' by the local community, said: "I got off the bus at Clapham Junction to look at the shops and the riots were already brewing.

"There was a gang gathered on the road and some of them already had masks on.

"Shops were already shutting up and people were putting padlocks on.

"I told community police about a gang and I said to him, 'Can I help?'"

When the rioters attacked a newsstand outside the store, Brenda went into action.

She said: "One of them (the looters) picked up a newspaper stand and threw it onto the road. I picked them (the papers) up even though a bus could have come round the corner.

"You do not stop to think in these circumstances. I saw rioters smashing up windows."

The morning after, Brenda returned to Clapham Junction to help clear up the debris.

She said: "It was a great atmosphere. I met such lovely, lovely people, it was wonderful.

"The riots have invigorated the community spirit but let's not forget that people are still suffering."

Neil Roberts, manager of the Clapham Junction store, said the damage to the building was "horrendous".

"The ground floor was smashed. We had to get specialist people in just to deal with the glass and debris.

"But community spirit here has been unbelievable. There are so many more Brendas out there.

"We have had so many letters and emails of support and the staff were helping from day one.

"We had zero staff absence in the store throughout the three days we were closed."

During the days after the riots, members of the community wrote supportive messages on the wooden boards covering the smashed windows of the store.

There were hundreds of messages which included, 'We have taken Clapham back, 'The rioters won't stop our community' and 'Clapham, we love you. Get well soon'.

The boards have now been taken down but will be preserved for posterity at Wandsworth Museum and a local art gallery.

Mr Roberts added: "Humanity was at its lowest on the night of riots but it has been absolutely fantastic since then.

"Brenda epitomises the people of Battersea."

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