Nine years ago, 29 year old Mark Duggan was shot dead by Police, sparking riots in Tottenham which spread across London and England. Many who were there that day have been interviewed by researchers. Below is an account of one Tottenham boy’s experience of the 6th August, 2011. It was submitted to the Portals of London project as evidence for the esoteric audio phenomenon known as the ‘eldritch broadcast’.
Mum said, ‘Good, go to the protest. Then come straight home.’ But of course I didn’t. Why would I? It was summer, we were riled up.
Later, mum said she knew it was in the air. She remembered ’85, Broadwater Farm. Maybe with hindsight the signs were there. Even the weather that weekend. Sticky. A storm brewing. The way they shot Mark Duggan just brought it all out. We hated the police because they hated us. We hated the government because they hated us.
Looting was everywhere. A lot of my friends got a lot of free stuff that night. Not me. I guess you could say I was there for the energy. For the being in control for one night in our lives. I was only thirteen but I knew from my brothers and sisters what society had in store for me.
Not that it felt political at the time. Looking back I can say, yes, it was anti-police, anti-government. Anger sparked it, for sure. But that gave way to a kind of elation. Did I set anything on fire? No. Did I steal anything? No. But did I get a buzz from seeing it happen around me? Like I say, the city was ours. For once.
It’s hard to pinpoint when it turned scary. At nightfall maybe. I was with two or three others, then the whole street just started running and we lost each other. It was chaos. Suddenly you notice the place is full of guys you don’t know. Smashed windows, looted shops. Flames and darkness. On the corner of Dowsett Road a whole building was on fire. I had one plan then: get home.
But somehow I find myself in the street, alone, in the middle of a face off between guys with bricks and two rows of riot police.
I panicked. Scrambled through a broken window into an empty shop. Crawled into the darkness at the back to wait out the madness outside. Pretty stupid really, given the burning building I’d seen.
But I was scared of the sounds outside. And crouched there, looking out, I saw something that terrified me. In silhouette, framed by broken glass, fire lighting up the building behind him: a single riot cop. Full gear, no face, no badge, nothing human about him, like something from a video game. And I thought, he could kill me now. Step through that window, kill this black kid, like nothing. And nothing would happen.
The cop moved away. But the fear stayed. It rooted me to the spot.
It’s funny now, when I think of the nature of what helped me through that fear. At any other time, I might have said it was pretty scary itself.
Here was my coping mechanism: I put in my headphones. My phone had an FM radio. I think I wanted to hear what the local stations were saying. Or maybe I just hoped they were playing music. At first I got nothing but interference, but even scrolling through the static was soothing.
Then I did hear something. It wasn’t clear at first. It was a voice, but I couldn’t tell what it was saying. There was a rhythm to it, the same thing said over and over. Not what I was looking for, but it was what I wanted – a distraction.
I started moving around the floor. I found the signal was clearer in one corner of the shop. I could hear the words then. I can’t explain how strange that voice was. More like many voices at once. Not all of them sounded human. What they were saying was: “The marsh… The wood… Machine… The dark.” Just that, over and over. “The marsh… The wood… Machine… The dark.” For hours.
The rhythm of it, I would say it was like a roll call. The Marsh. The Wood. Machine. The Dark. It was a creepy as hell but I just sat there listening. When I took my headphones out, the street was quiet and the sun was coming up. I found my way home, still dreading the police.
I remember the strange quiet of that trashed-out morning. Part of it was seeing the streets like that. Part of it was knowing that weird transmission was in the air. London sounds different to me now, after that night. Like that voice is everywhere in this city the whole time, if only you have the right device to hear it.
I’ve wandered up and down those streets with an FM radio since, in and out of shops, trying to find it again. I never have. But to this day I repeat it to myself when I’m anxious. When I’m lost. When I think of how little has changed these years since.
It’s like my little mantra. The marsh. The wood. Machine. The dark.
- Candidate: The Eldritch Broadcast
- Type: Audio phenonemon
- Status: Monitored
Images are from here. Used under Creative Commons.