Urban Brawl

Here I am at Harborn Hall in Birmingham, the VSO training centre.

Im about to go for a run in 10 minutes with one of the four other volunteers in my class but first I want to say a little about the fight I mentioned in the last entry, while its still fresh in mind. I dont want to focus on the fight because the party was in all respects wonderful, but the fight downstairs was so unexpected that I feel there must be a lesson there for me if I could work out what it is.

For those who were not there, Sunda evening was my leaving party at The Urban Bar in Whitechapel. We did a lot of swing dancing, of course, but there was a great party atmosphere; people from 7irene, my former employer, were there too and all was very friendly. The party started for me, when I arrived and found most people in the room sporting orange sleeveless T-shirts, goatee beards, pearl earrings and even latex bald-head wigs, most disturbing of all, perhaps, were the “marksquerade” masks with my face on but with the eyes cut out. Fede put them up on the internet somewhere I have heard since, and people downloaded them, printed them in colour and stuck them on card and mounted sticks on the bottom like carnival masks. Suddenly everyone in the room was me and it was a little eerie! You guys are wonderful!

Also wonderful were all the guest DJs, my leaving Jam and the Umpa-Lumpa Shim-Sham. If you didn’t experience any of these, well, its just a damn shame!

So we were all upstairs in our favourite swing dancing venue, the part had been going great all night, most people had gone but there was still dancing. Denise and I walked downstairs behind Ollie and Helen. The first thing I noticed was blobs of somethingn I took to be popcorn — it looked like someone had fallen over in a cinema and spilled their popcorn and coke — but it turned out to be foamy suds of beer that had sprayed all round the room when, as far as I can tell, beer bottles had been used as projectiles. The window to the stairs was broken in a big spider-web crack. All the staff and drinkers down there were wired and still trying to metabolise their adrenaline. As we tiptoed through the broken glass and overturned furniture someone said “how could this happen down here when upstairs it was all harmony”. Of course whatever was going on upstairs had of effect at all on whatever happened below. I expect I will never know what caused it. As we left, the police arrived muttering into their walkie-talkies “nobody broke their neck at the Urban Bar” or possibly “nobody break their neck getting to the Urban Bar”, either way it was business as usual for them. But the contrast between that brawl and Urban Swing is so extreme it has left a big question in my head about why people who are out enjoying themselves can choose to allow themselves to get into that kind of situation.