Home North London London riots: Battersea shopkeeper reflects on the riots

London riots: Battersea shopkeeper reflects on the riots

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On this week ten years ago, images of destruction and devastation spread like wildfire across London.

Problems began in Tottenham, north London, following a peaceful protest over the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan on August 6.

Civil unrest ensued for five nights in the UK, which saw businesses and homes wrecked.

Clapham Junction was one of the epicentres of the 2011 riots.

Chaos at Clapham Junction in August, 2011

One particular scene, of a party shop on Lavender Hill that was looted and set alight, will still be burned into the memory of many Wandsworth residents.

Despite losing almost hundreds of thousands of pounds, the shop is now back up and running and celebrating 45-years of trading in Clapham.

The Wandsworth Times spoke to Duncan Mundell, 73, owner of the Party Superstore – now Party and Celebrate – to find out more about that “nightmare” day.

August 8

When the riots kicked off, Mr Mundell said he closed the shop up early and let staff go home.

He was sat at home watching images of the devastation on the news when he received a phone call from a friend, who was in tears, informing him that his shop was on fire.

Mr Mundell and his wife jumped in the car and watched as his shop burned and the firefighters attended the blaze.

Wandsworth Times: Battersea Party Superstore in flamesBattersea Party Superstore in flames

“I stood opposite and watched it. There were people still upstairs in the flats above still trying to get out. That was terrible.”

“The shop was completely destroyed. That was it.”

Mr Mundell lost up to £500,000 worth of stock including masks, costumes, balloons, while the residential flats above were left gutted.

Wandsworth Times: The Party Superstore was completely guttedThe Party Superstore was completely gutted

The aftermath

Despite the chaos, Mr Mundell said he was “fairly fortunate” in the end.

His neighbour in the shop next door offered him retail space, as did Debenhams on Lavender Hill.

The owner of the department store even cut Mr Mundell a special deal, as his daughter was distraught that her favourite shop had burned down.

However, Mr Mundell’s business was not at the forefront of his concerns.

His charity, Heal Kids, which was set up to help disabled children in Myanmar, took a massive hit.

“I had 4000 children depending on me at the time. Tens of thousands of pounds each year were going from the business to fund the project – to build schools, and clinics.”

“It was all very sad we lost the business, and the staff were out of work, but there was no money to help all the children,” said Mr Mundell.

Wandsworth Times: Mr Mundell asked for donations to his charity while the shop's doors were closedMr Mundell asked for donations to his charity while the shop’s doors were closed

The shopkeeper received some support from the public and managed to keep the charity running.

And, almost two years to the day, Party Superstore had its grand reopening in August 2013.

“It took a while as it was totally gutted to shell. It took months and months just to clear all the stuff out. We had to do so many structural and building reports.”

“But I built that business up over 30 years, and we were known in the area. It’s not that easy just to open up your business somewhere else and find new clients.”

Today

Despite the devastation caused to his shop, Mr Mundell said he bears no ill will to the arsonist.

He watched the CCTV footage of the exact moment the person set the fire.

“You could see him wandering around the shop and then he went up to a row of products and took a lighter out of his pocket and lit it. He threw it onto the stock, watched it set fire and walked out of the shop.”

Wandsworth Times: Battersea Superstore reopened two years laterBattersea Superstore reopened two years later

But after several false arrests, the suspect was never found.

“It wouldn’t have done me any good if they caught the person.”

“It hurt at the time it cost me a lot of money – I was underinsured, so I lost £100,000.”

Now, ten years later the Party Superstore still stands in Battersea, back from the ashes.

Party Superstore – 268 Lavender Hill, London SW11 1LJ

https://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/19490508.london-riots-battersea-shopkeeper-reflects-riots/