This Guy Is Mapping London’s Drug Use with a Discarded Baggie Map
What do you do with your leftover drug paraphernalia? Unless you’re one of those ambitious stoner hoarders who insists on keeping stems for pots of weed tea you’ll never brew, chances are you throw everything away. And if you’re homeless—or someone who enjoys getting high around strangers, or in parks—it’s likely you chuck your empty baggies on the floor or into a bush, kindly leaving them for 10-year-olds to bring into school and use as props in stories about their fictional weekend exploits.
Since January of this year, photographer Dan Giannopoulos has been taking photos of all the discarded baggies he finds throughout south-east London. He’s also been jotting down their geographic coordinates with the aim of eventually mapping out all the bags he’s found and working out whether any patterns emerge. I had a quick chat with Dan about his project.
A map we made out of the baggie coordinates that Dan has gathered so far (Click to enlarge)
VICE: Hey Dan. So far, what has the project taught you about Londoners’ drug use?
Dan Giannopoulos: I’ve been working on it since about January this year, and I haven’t had a chance to map everything fully yet, so at the moment it’s isolated to south-east London. But I tend to find more bags in more of the working-class areas I’ve been to—the kind of areas that have a reputation for drug use. But then I’ve had bags show up in places like Blackheath, which is quite a posh area. It’s quite random at the moment, but I was going to carry on working on it for a year or so and map any patterns that show up.
Is there a variation of drugs between those areas?
It tends to be more weed around the well-to-do areas.
Patrick Keiller Has Been Filming London’s Slow Collapse Since the 1990s
The Tory-led coalition government’s dismantling of Britain’s public services isn’t anything new. During the last stint of socially destructive Conservative rule, architecture lecturer, artist, and cinematographer Patrick Keiller made two seminal films—London (1994) and Robinson in Space(1997)—that pointed out the negative impact that government can have on the British landscape.
VICE: What did you want to achieve by making your last four films?
Patrick Keiller: The three Robinson films [London, Robinson in Space, and Robinson in Ruins] are all attempts to address a “problem” by exploring a landscape with a cine-camera. In Robinson in Space, for example, an initial assumption that the UK’s social and economic ills are the result of it being a backward, flawed capitalism gradually gave way to the realization that, on the contrary, these problems are the result of the economy’s successful operation in the interests of the people who own it.
In Robinson in Ruins, on the other hand, the “problem” is capitalism itself, prompted by Fredric Jameson writing, famously, “It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imaginations.” The film arrived at its final destination in autumn, 2008 during the immediate fallout from the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Montevetro, Battersea, London, 1999. From The Dilapidated Dwelling (2000)
London includes several shots of the Elephant and Castle neighborhood, which is in the news again because the Heygate Estate public housing project is in the process of being torn down. How do you feel about that?
The Elephant is unusual in that it’s the end of an underground line but very near the center of the city, so there are always a lot of people at the bus stops, as you see in the film. It was the hub of the South London tram network. I was intrigued that the shopping center had never been very successful commercially.
The pictures of the Elephant in London are mostly of the shopping center and some nearby 1960s single-story GLC prefabs that were about to be cleared away when we were photographing the film. An elderly couple had lived in one of them since 1965. As the film relates, “After 27 years in the house, where they had brought up all their children, they were reluctant to leave and had been offered nothing with comparable amenities; but as their neighbors disappeared one by one, the house was increasingly vulnerable and they no longer felt able to leave it for more than a couple of days.”
I Went Looking for Love at Tinder’s Launch Party
Tinder’s popularity rises with the increasing number of lonely people in the world. Largely capitalizing on the solitude of the city-dwelling 20-somethings who form the majority of the app’s users, it has reduced the human romantic experience down to its most basic level. Your iPhone flashes up a picture of a stranger’s face. Put your thumb on it and swipe left if you don’t want to have sex with them; swipe right if you do. If you’re the kind of puritanical moralist who has issues with that, then fuck you. When you’re little more than a faceless urban speck, wedged in that sticky interim period between formal education and a living wage, techno-dogging offers a welcome distraction.
However, I was still a little surprised when my friend forwarded me this invitation to an official Tinder “Launch Party” in London, England:
Why was this party occurring over a year after the app’s actual launch? Maybe the launch was going to serve as an inaugural huzzah for a sort of Tinder elite, a pool of the most right-swiped people in Britain. Maybe the people who run Tinder just want to renew the hype around it after a couple of months of the media talking it to death. Could it perhaps be an orgy? Obviously I had nothing better to do that evening, so I went down to take a look and find out what Tinder’s finest really thought of Jack, 24, Peckham.
Anonymous Failed to Bring Down the British Government with Fireworks
Last night was fireworks night, which meant that members of Anonymous descended upon London once again to take part in their global Million Mask March. The event invited everyone to a “tea party,” the purpose of which was “to remind this world what it has forgotten, that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than just words.” Other Anonymous bugbears included the mainstreammedia blackout and the whitewashing of world issues—legitimate, if fairly nebulous, concerns.
I didn’t know of any other tea parties where everyone wears masks and remains nameless, unless it’s the kind where you end up covered in a bunch of semen, so I decided to go and check it out.
According to the plan, Trafalgar Square was the launchpad for a march bound for Westminster, where everyone would shout at Parliament. Rather than going home when they got cold, the idea was that everyone would stay for an entire day. At least, that seemed to be the idea from the Facebook call out, which said, “NOTE: This will be a 24 hour event, please be prepared to peacefully assemble for up to 24hrs.” (Spoiler: This didn’t happen.)
Amid the throng, I was a little disappointed when I asked Jerry here what he hoped the march would achieve. “Nothing,” he replied. “It needs a lot more people. That’s why I go around with the billboard. Most people don’t understand what’s going on in the world.” His friend Mindy butted in. “We want to make a loud noise,” she said. “We want change—genuine change!”
Already it seemed clear that the marchers were operating at cross-purposes.
What It Means to Be a Slut in 2013
Tonight is Slut Night in London – follow the VICE live blog, hosted by Bertie Brandes, here.
Now that I’m feigning adulthood, I truly thought the word slut was behind me. If I wake up next to someone different than the person I remember making out with the night before in some bar’s bathroom, I’m OK with it. It’s my decision and I’ve managed to surround myself with people who happen to be OK with it, too, so that the remnant guilt doesn’t make me feel hungover for days afterward. Yet, I find that the word slut is thrown around more carelessly than ever these days. Member of the European Parliament Godfrey Bloom called a room full of women “sluts” recently (earning him a booting from UK Independence Party), UK tabloids still think it’s OK to use it in their headlines, and I’m pretty sure I overheard my neighbor call her dog a slut the other day.
It’s 2013 and though some people are still using the term to shame one another, other, much better people, are attempting to address this, be it with hashtags, neologisms, or simply by running around London half naked.
Still, the word is as slippery as a used condom. Everyone has a different conception of what constitutes a slut these days, which makes it really hard to know when to be offended. To save confusion, here’s a brief guide to what certain breeds of people mean when they use the word slut in 2013.
WHEN ELDERLY RACISTS CALL YOU A SLUT
Etymologically, slut comes from the word slattern, meaning “untidy” or “unclean.” This is what old people usually in the UK mean when they call you a slut. To use it in a sentence: “I find cigarette butts in my dishwasher ‘cause I live with a bunch of sluts,” or, “I have the detritus of a Domino’s Pizza crust in my belly button because I’m a filthy slut.” This is basically what Godfrey Bloom says he meant when he called a bunch of women sluts at that UK Independence Party (UKIP) conference, after they admitted—in mocking reference to a previous speech he’d made about the slobs who pass for women these days—that they didn’t “clean behind the fridge.” So it’s still misogynistic, but in a different way. Fair enough, Godfrey, but I’m keeping that pizza crust there just in case I get hungry later.
WHEN TEENAGER GIRLS CALL YOU A SLUT
If there’s one thing I learned by attending an all-girls’ school, it’s that everyone’s a slut, to the point where the word becomes virtually redundant. The head teacher’s a slut. Your best friend’s a slut. The school cat that belongs to the caretaker is a slut. Whether or not you actually gave a guy a blowjob on the ferry ride back from that tenth-grade trip to France, you will get called a slut by any teenage girl who is insecure about her appearance and ability to navigate another human body, which is, oh, all of them, ever. You will also probably call another girl a slut at some point, because she was allowed to wear Steve Madden heels and a Victoria’s Secret thong and your mom wouldn’t let you have those, because she thought dressing you like that would make you look too slutty.
Reasons London Is the Worst Place Ever
Dictionary dude Samuel Johnson famously said that when a man tires of London, he’s tired of life. You might have heard a British cabbie who now lives in the suburbs relay that snippet to you. What the pocket-wisdom smartasses who quote that to you every time you complain about airborne death particles and ATMs that charge you three dollars to access your own money don’t realize, is that while Johnson was a clever guy, he spent his life afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome. Which means your man probably spent as much time spouting involuntary bullshit as he did snappy witticisms.
The thing is, most people in London are tired of life. You’ve only got to witness the queues in the Westfield multi-storey or the reaction to a crying baby on the tube to realize that this is a city that exists permanently at the end of its rope. People can live in London and be simultaneously tired of it, because—unlike in Mr Johnson’s time—London is no longer a few cobbled streets and a big old prison. It’s the last metropolis in a sinking country on a starving continent, an island within an island oozing out into the Home Counties like an unstoppable concrete oil spill.
I grew up in this city, as did my parents and my grandparents. It can be a great place to live, and, to be honest, I’m probably completely incapable of living anywhere else. There are plenty of reasons why one in ten people decide to make one of its 32 boroughs their home, but there are also plenty of reasons why people give up on life and move away to the middle-class hole that is Brighton.
Reasons like these.
Somewhere along the line, London’s publicans decided that they weren’t happy with their lot. They decided they weren’t just there to provide sanctuary to people whose home lives were so grim they’d rather pay more money to drink less alcohol in a dank room full of deranged cirrhosis sufferers. The landlords decided they wanted to educate their clientele. They wanted them to learn about artisan bar snacks and cask ales, to fill their nostrils with the smell of food they couldn’t afford and to watch them play children’s board games as they sipped their $7.50 Czech rainwater pints.
What Do Women Who Wear the Niqab Think of the Niqab Debate?
While Muslim women wearing niqabs in Britain might be a constant bugbear for EDL types, it’s generally not something the rest of the population are particularly concerned about. But once every couple of years, a “niqabi” demands the right to keep wearing the veil in a situation where other people think it shouldn’t be worn, so it becomes a Big Deal for a while and the media kick up a grand, preachy fuss until it all blows over.
The past week-and-a-bit has been one of those periods, thanks to two incidents. First, Birmingham Metropolitan College told a prospective student that it didn’t allow the wearing of niqabs on campus for security reasons, only to perform a hasty U-turn following a storm of national controversy. Then a judge at Blackfriars Crown Court ruled that Muslim women giving evidence must remove their veil. Before long, Nick Clegg was hinting at a ban on niqabs in the classroom and columnists were going into op-ed overdrive.
It’s a contentious debate, but whether it’s non-Muslims telling everyone that it’s fine to wear a niqab, Muslims telling everyone that it’s not fine to wear a niqab or non-Muslimscastigating their fellow non-Muslims for not castigating the niqab enough, it’s a debate that hasn’t had a lot of input from the women who actually wear the veil. With that in mind, we thought we’d talk to some of those women and find out their thoughts on the whole niqab debate.
Siama Ahmed, 35, a teacher and blogger from Oxfordshire.
VICE: What do make of the recent controversy surrounding the wearing of niqabs in Britain?
Siama Ahmed: My personal opinion about the recent [Blackfriars] court case is that it shouldn’t have been an issue. In Islamic law, if a judge asks you to remove your veil, you should remove it. And the judge correctly asked her to remove it. I can only assume that she is ignorant of the fact that she should have taken it off.
Do you wear you niqab all the time?
No. I have two small children and I don’t want them to feel the hostility of me wearing it from others. But if I’m in the Middle East I will wear it, or if I’m in a gathering where the majority of people present are Muslims – but only if people aren’t uncomfortable with me wearing it. So the main thing is I’m not making people feel uncomfortable. I think the bad of wearing it outweighs the good of wearing it [in everyday public life]. In the Middle East, it’s not normal for men and women to have eye contact. But in this culture, eye contact is important.
Why do you personally wear it?
In an ideal world, if we didn’t have any Islamophobia, I would consider wearing it all the, time because it’s really special to me. Part of the problem is that this country is deprived of spirituality, so it’s hard to explain why wearing the niqab is important.
Na’ima Robert, 36, is a British convert to Islam, author and magazine editor.
How does the niqab affect your day-to-day life?
Na’ima Robert: As an author and magazine publisher, I haven’t found that the niqab has held me back. As an individual, I am outgoing, adventurous and ambitious – the niqab hasn’t changed that.
So people not being able to see your face hasn’t changed anything?
It changes the way some people respond to me, as they’re initially disconcerted by my face covering. But I just work extra hard on those ones and grin like mad so that they can see my eyes smiling. But it’s more one’s demeanour that puts people at ease, isn’t it? After all, there are people who are “normally” dressed whose body language or attitudes are intimidating. A person wearing a niqab doesn’t have the same advantage as someone whose face is visible, I admit that, but you could say that someone with tattoos or piercings or an unconventional haircut is similarly disadvantaged, couldn’t you?
I guess so. What do you think of the idea that it’s inappropriate to wear the niqab in some situations, like in court or if you’re teaching children?
As a teacher and as a Muslim, I would like to know that I am not disadvantaging my students in any way. If my covering my face is clearly doing that, I will do one of two things: reconsider my decision to cover, or reconsider my position. That being said, I have conducted workshops in schools with my face covered, but I made sure to let my personality shine through so that I could engage the kids. And I would find a way to “flash” the girls, if possible. But seriously, the question is this: who gets to decide when wearing the niqab is appropriate or not?
What do you think of Muslim women who don’t wear it?
I think they’re missing out! No, really, I don’t think anything of them—they are free to choose their path to God, you know? One thing I have learned over the years is to cultivate humility.
What do you think of those who are freaked out by not being able to see your face?
As a writer, it’s my job to empathise, so of course I get it. Look at the image of masks in our culture: Darth Vader, ninjas, robbers, those with something to hide—it’s all overwhelmingly negative. Add that to the fact that images of veiled Muslim women have been used to illustrate the alleged oppression of women in the Muslim world from the time of the Orientalists to today’s front pages. It’s hard, I tell you, for a niqabi out there.
We Need to Talk About London’s Club Drug Problem
Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones is the founder of London’s Club Drug Clinic, started in 2011, which aims to provide aid to people who have “begun to experience problems with their use of recreational drugs.” After they were overwhelmed with users of ketamine, cocaine, ecstasy, and legal substances who wanted help, a second clinic was opened earlier this year.
Unlike heroin and crack, for which many rehabilitation and counselling services exist, party drugs often aren’t associated with bad things like addiction, losing your job, losing your mind, and ruining your life. Owen hopes that in addition to helping individual users, his clinics will spread understanding of the dangers of these relatively new drugs through the medical world.
I gave Owen a call to find out what he’s discovered from treating people.
VICE: Has drug use changed much in the UK in the past ten to 15 years?
Owen Bowden-Jones: What we’ve seen are relatively major reductions in heroin and crack use and an increase in a new group of drugs called “club drugs”—things like ketamine, MDMA, and mephedrone.
I’m familiar with the category. What about the ways in which people take them?
Actually, we’re finding that quite a few of these people are beginning to inject their drugs, especially mephedrone and ketamine. So all of the very real dangers that we used to see with heroin injecting, we’re now beginning to see with these newer club drugs.
Oh, dear. What are the drugs that cause the most problems?
Here at the Club Drug Clinic, the four main drugs we’ve seen have been ketamine, GBL or GHB, crystal meth, and mephedrone. You can often determine the drug someone’s using [when they come in]. It seems to split along the lines of sexuality. We’re seeing a lot of gay men using crystal meth and GBL—for sex—while we’re seeing a lot of straight clubbers and students using ketamine and mephedrone. Interestingly, we’ve hardly seen anybody come into the clinic saying they’ve got a problem with MDMA or ecstasy—that just hasn’t happened.