A knuckle-duster seized at the girl gang fight organised on Periscope (Image: MetTaskforce, via)
There's a certain age at which there is nothing as thrilling as the threat of a fight. I would gauge it at: 14. That age where you're being pulled in either direction by the two hurtling trains of childhood and boiling pubescence, one foot on each carriage, your body destined to be split in half and tossed onto the rails of early adulthood. When your limbs grow and splinter overnight. When you have the body hair of a five-year-old and the full-sized, all-at-once anger of a twice-divorced man.
It's something you can sense on the air at school: that Something Is Going to Go Down Today. That when the bell rings and kids in scruffy coats and scuffed bags file out of class in the direction of the nearest Spar, some screech of it will peel through the air – "Fight!" – and then a chant arises, softly at first, "Fight! Fight! Fight!" and everyone spins around, panicking, thinking: 'Where? Where is the fight?'.
Quickly, you all make it over to The Field, The Field being your school's particular gladiatorial arena, and you watch two kids from Year 9 who you've never actually seen before have a weak fistfight that mainly consists of pulling on each other's collars a lot and trying to trip each other over, but instead just grating their Clarks down each other's shins before someone gets exactly one good hit in and they both break away, pink and angry in the face, both on the verge of tears.
Ah, halcyon days. Glory days.
I had started to fear that kids these days were eschewing good old-fashioned scrapping. This youth crop is so contactless, so clean cut. Studies repeatedly suggest they don't drink. The only substance they really do is the odd honk of NOS. They think vapes are cooler than cigarettes. If they want to hurt someone, they do it with a particularly vicious Facebook status, or they unfollow them on Instagram, or they leak their nudes on Twitter. Can you ever really be bothered to punch someone in the face when bitching about them on WhatsApp is just as satisfying? Will teenage beef die a death from a thousand social media cuts?
No, it will not. I am happy to report that beef is still well and truly alive. Beef is happening on our streets in a way that makes my heart sing, in a way that gives me hope. Press the button and make the call. Beef is coming:
The above is a Periscope announcement by, as best I can tell, three girls all talking over each other on a plain red screen, announcing beef, interacting with the few Periscope watchers who have hopped on the chat, a logistical beef leap that has seen a lot of pearl-clutching in certain quarters – "Kids Are Using Video Apps to Plan Fights! Popular Video App 'Periscope' Results In Seven Sisters Brawl" – but is actually an amazing, creative way of getting done the dirty and admin-heavy work of organising a ruck.
Also, sidenote: the above works as possibly the greatest spoken word poem of our times, just the words "beef" and "guys" repeated until they have no meaning at all. I mean, read the transcript below and imagine it repeated verbatim by a dude with a haircut and a Breton jumper; they'd make him poet laureate; they'd have him perform it at the Albert Hall:
"Hey, guys. Link up, yeah? [pron. like Gollum swallowing a fish or similar] Beef. Beef, beef. Beef beef beef. Beef coming, guys. BEEF. There's a link up today, um, Seven Sisters, uhm. The whole – there's a link up? Seven Sisters. There's loads of beef. Yeah, there's this girl, yeah, that comes, yeah, and stole something, yeah? And so there's going to, like: be beef. There. And like: I'm– I'm going to go there. Hi Jeffrey: there's beef. [Extremely audible sound of someone who does not close their mouth very often breathing through their mouth]. [Softly:] There's beef, guys. Oh, you guys are not interested in the beef. Useless. Useless cows. [Someone inhales as if to have a coughing fit – the kind you only have when you smoke a cigarette the first ten times, before you really know how to smoke yet, before it gets elegant – but does not then go on to cough] THERE'S BEEF IN SEVEN SISTERS. Beef. When I mean beef, there's beef. There's beef in Seven Sisters, guys. Due to be bang. Alright. Let me not waste my time on you guys. You guys don't understand the word beef."
What I am getting from this is there is beef, in Seven Sisters, because there is this girl, yeah, and she stole something, yeah. And this did result in beef: as the Standard reports, on Sunday, dozens of police officers had to break up a clash between two girl gangs, with at least three arrests and a knuckle duster being seized.
What's interesting about this particular techno-beef is that the fight itself was also streamed live on Periscope – although there's no video available to embed – with many of the commenters reportedly praising the "10/10 connection" of whoever was holding up the iPhone and rinsing their 4G at the time.
This is fighting evolved, in my eyes – people scrapping, of course, with rudimentary weapons and a near-artful lack of athleticism – but also with observers, tucked up at home and in a loose circle around the primary beef site, just bathing in the beef, wallowing in it. There is nothing like watching people get fucking hit, so blessings be to Periscope and girl gangs for allowing us to do just that.
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