Islington People: Writer on why Britain is not broken
In a week when rampaging mobs plunged the nation into despair, Highbury resident Henry Hemming published a book with the tagline “why Britain is not broken”.
Together was published on August 4 – two days before riots in Tottenham triggered copycat violence across the country.
It reveals how the internet has helped small groups, from knitting circles to five-a-side teams, to flourish – and how they can “achieve big things”.
Against a backdrop of the darkest excesses of what groups are capable of, it might seem like unfortunate timing.
But despite the gloom gripping the country, the author stands by the picture he paints.
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Henry, 31, of Lucerne Road, Highbury, said: “The book looks at why people come together in the first place. It could be shared interests like reading or bingo – or the fact that your neighbourhood is under attack.
“You see it with all the people who came together to clear up their areas in the aftermath of looting. Events like this will often bring people together and cause them to form groups.
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“I don’t see the looters as being the majority. The emphasis should be a lot more on the people coming out to clean their neighbourhoods and streets – that to me is evidence that Britain is not broken.”
Together documents a revival of small clubs, from beekeepers to historical re-enactors and women’s institutes, and claims there has been a nationwide surge largely driven by the internet.
But it also examines the power of group psychology, offering some explanation for the chaos witnessed even in Islington.
“There’s a whole chapter about ‘group polarisation’,” he said, “and how it’s very easy for groups to egg each other on and do things even more extreme than they would on their own.
“Most of the time it’s benign – such as the book group I spoke to that dresses up according to what they’re reading. But it can also help you understand a lot of the rioting.
“In an unfortunate way, the book has become very topical.”