As the England riots appear to be winding down, much of the news coverage is revolving around the political issues underpinning the unrest, but one of the most lasting consequences of the week's events may be felt in London's arts.
The most extensive of these attacks on the arts was the destruction of a SonyDADC warehouse that contained the stock of PIAS, the UK's largest distributor of independent music. Sub Pop, Warp and the Beggars Group (which includes 4AD, Matador and XL) saw much of their UK stock destroyed, along with dozens of smaller labels that may not be as tightly ensured as the larger companies.
Spencer Hickman of Rough Trade East was quoted in NME, saying, "There’s maybe a hundred labels affected. We’ve got no idea how much stock they’ve got elsewhere. I’m convinced that some labels will go under."
Pias was also the UK's largest independent home entertainment distributor, which means major independent film companies such as BFI will need to quickly replenish their DVD stock to meet demand. The Guardian quotes David Wilkinson, CEO of distributor Guerilla films, who said, "Most of the people in the independent film world have been hit." Wilkinson continued: "Companies larger than mine will have cashflow problems. I have spoken to friends who say they may have to lay off people, because DVDs keep the business going".
In addition to the warehouse fire, a number of arts venues have been damaged or forced to cancel events due to the riots. A number of major theatres closed their doors, although the West End remained untouched, according to the Telegraph. In another article, the Telegraph reported that the Cultural Olympiad, a series of public festivities that will lead up to London's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, would have to cancel several of its events.
Not even smaller galleries have been spared. According to the Independent, a celebrity tattoo artist Louis Molloy's debut gallery show was damaged in attacks, and This Is London reports that a window was smashed in Peckham's New Gallery.
The riots, which were initially motivated by accusations of police brutality, may have lost focus in broadening demonstrations to address a wider range of social issues. The damage to small businesses and local arts venues has been widely decried; Scroobius Pip, half of London hip-hop duo with beatmaker dan le sac, was quoted in Paste Magazine, with a tweet that may summarize the views of many in London's art scene. “This is Britain punching itself in the face. Repeatedly.”
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