The forgotten story of the London riots
"Cover your face! Cover your face!" a teenage girl ordered her friends, as she handed out scarves freshly looted from a clothes shop. Nearby, a boy in his mid-teens, hood pulled tight over his face, was commanding his friends through a loud speaker, rounding them up before their next assault.
It was Monday night. I was in Woolwich, south-east London. My hometown. Born there, schooled there, still live there.
When I arrived at around 20:45, I saw a burning car outside Woolwich Arsenal station. "It's a police car," a clearly frightened young woman told me as she speed-walked away from the scene. Teenagers raced past us, arms loaded with trainers and t-shirts - some of them stopping casually to sell their loot to punters outside a local pub.
They were coming from the direction of the high street, where I discovered around 300 young men and women - mostly school age - in a violent stand-off with not-very-many police officers. Shops, banks and betting shops all had their windows caved in and with the police pinned at one end of the town, the young men around me casually prised open shop shutters. Big cheers went up as they broke in, as score of looters swarmed like locusts, grabbing anything within reach.
By around midnight, the police finally took control, but not before dozens of shops were damaged. Two were gutted by fire, along with a pub which was also burned out. The railway station remained closed the next day, because the damage to nearby buildings was so bad.
On Tuesday morning, like many people, I devoured the news coverage about the riots. But the more I read, I saw a pattern emerging. Woolwich hardly got a mention. London's Evening Standard had a map of the riot hotspots, but it didn't even show my part of south-east London.
Similarly, on Wednesday the Daily Telegraph printed a map of mob violence, which pin-pointed the worst-hit areas such as Croydon, down to districts like Camberwell Green, where "15 rioters went unchallenged by police".
I wish Woolwich only had 15 people running riot. Instead there was 20 times that amount.
I wasn't the only one to notice, either. Greenwich Borough councillor, Nigel Fletcher, tweeted his exasperation, accusing Sky News of "airbrushing the Woolwich riots from history".
When I tell people I live in Woolwich, I'm often met with a mockney snigger of "Saaarf-eaast Landahn". Unlike Hackney, Ealing, Clapham, Camberwell and Camden, it's not very 'media luvvy'. So come Tuesday morning, newsrooms would have been buzzing with what happened in these more fashionable neighbourhoods. Perhaps Woolwich just wasn't cool enough to count.
Fortunately, 5 live is different - or at least, I think so. As I waited on the phone on Monday night, waiting for my turn to speak to Adil Ray, I heard people from all walks of life, from across London, getting the chance to tell the nation what they were witnessing. The BBC News channel, BBC World News and BBC Breakfast also wanted to speak to me.
As a journalist, I understand that it's impossible to cover every angle of a story. But it's been a wake-up call to have watched a town centre being wrecked and for it to largely go unnoticed. I felt what viewers, readers, and listeners feel when they say 'nobody is listening to us', and it got me wondering: where else in the country are big stories being ignored?
Richard Fenton-Smith is the series producer of 5 live Investigates