‘The Burning Man’ Comes True



It’s the fiery season – a time of insurrection and flame. In ‘The Burning Man’, Bryant & May’s twelfth outing, London is on fire. Rioters are protesting against a banking scandal that has allowed a financier to make a fortune from insider trading. The book was based on the recent banking riots and suggested that the public was becoming more polarised by the investor-carrion now invading London to make private overseas fortunes without respecting communities or returning a penny to the streets they leech from.

So when a mob with burning torches marauded through the East End this week, vandalising shops and businesses in Brick Lane, it seemed as if the book had become more relevant – except there’s a difference.

Because the targets they picked were simply on their route, and the real villains, using secret funds to snatch property for portfolios, tearing down neighbourhoods in the process, remain invisible, locked behind computer screens. The protestors were hopelessly misguided, of course, for attacking ‘hipsters’ as the cause. They smashed up ‘Cereal Killer’, a peculiar little place that just sells breakfast cereal, and it didn’t help that its owners do fit the perfect image of Hoxton hipsters.


But insurrection is in the air, and according to the Shadow Cabinet ‘Marx is back on the agenda’. Thus legitimised, London will go through one of its characteristic hooligan phases. These steam-releasing fightbacks seem to work as a pressure valve on the city, and generally speaking, the police deal with them lightly. Walking through King’s Cross last night I saw a copper telling a very drunk man who was determined to sleep in the middle of the pavement, ‘Time to go home, I think.’

I hope the subjects tackled in the next Bryant & May books don’t come true, though!

6 comments on “‘The Burning Man’ Comes True”

  1. Mim says:

    I’m really opposed to so much of what is happening in our society – lack of social mobility, lack of decent housing, erosion of the NHS/social care – but I honestly don’t think destroying small businesses is going to do any good. I hope the rioters find an effective way to channel their energy, they could achieve so much.

  2. keith page says:

    Quite.Insanely wealthy Russians, Chinese etc seem largely to blame for London’s property problems in particular.However, I’m not sure I would like to have been one of the first to ‘gentrify’ a house in Notting Hill, for example.Iain Sinclair and Tim Moore both have their theories of London population movements.There is an entertaining account in ‘Do Not Pass Go’ by the latter.

  3. admin says:

    I enjoyed ‘Do Not Pass Go’ – better still is Tim Lott’s heartbreaking memoir of a suburban childhood, ‘The Scent of Dried Roses’, which is powerful and very moving.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    It’s all over the place. We had protest marches here two weeks ago as two story apartment buildings from the sixties are being bought up, the renters displaced and the buildings replaced with “luxury” and “top of the line” condo towers. We don’t need more luxury, we need more every day affordable rental apartments- flats, whatever.

  5. Wayne Mook says:

    In Manchester we have the Tory conference, a delegate was egged and a journo was spat on, for a demonstration there was little trouble. It looks like there is an undercurrent of dispute but it’s 5 years to the next election so it’s all a bit blowing in the wind.


  6. Helen Martin says:

    Too bad, Wayne. We’re still a week away from what has been the longest election campaign in our history. Up and down, around and around!

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