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Capturing the ‘broom army’

13 December 2011 

The nation was gripped by coverage of the English riots this summer, and one image came for many to symbolise the grass roots community clean-up effort.

Broom Army photo

The so-called ‘broom army’ photo was taken by College of Law alumnus Andrew Bayles (LPC, Guildford, 2002-3). We caught up with Andrew once the dust had settled to ask him about the experience, and about his life as an in-house lawyer for Fujitsu…

1. Tell us how you got involved in the riot clean-up…

I had been watching the riots live on the news and I was really shocked by the events that were unfolding in Clapham, less than 10 minutes from home. The next morning, I found out on Twitter that there was a clean-up operation in Clapham Junction and I decided to go down. It was great to be able to do something practical to help get things back to normal.

2. What was it like taking part on the day?

It was great! There was a really nice atmosphere and sense of community spirit, everyone was chatting as they got stuck in to the cleaning.

3. What’s the strongest memory/impression you’ll take away from the experience?

I vividly remember the shop owners on the Northcote Road coming out to give the helpers coffee and snacks – they were so grateful that people had come to clear up the mess. Their shopfronts had been destroyed during the night and there was shattered glass everywhere.

4. How did you come to take the ‘broom army’ photo?

I was standing in the crowd, ready to help clean up. The fire engines were putting out the remains of the blaze at the famous ‘Party Shop’ and people started cheering as the engines drove off. Everyone had brought a broom to sweep up the debris, and all of a sudden brooms were waving in the air and someone shouted for a Mexican wave. As I was standing near the back of the crowd I had a great view, so I took my iPhone out and started snapping away!

5. How did the photo become an internet sensation?

A few people on Twitter were asking to see what was going on. John Prescott was one of them and when he asked for photos of the clean up I sent him one saying ‘We’re ready’ in the header. He re-tweeted it to all of his followers, and then Piers Morgan tweeted the photo to his million-plus followers. It snowballed from there and when I got home I saw that Metro had run a story on my photo because it had 100,000 views within an hour.

6. What response did you get to the photo?

The response was really positive. I think people were happy to see such an uplifting image after all the devastation across the country. I had requests from many journalists to use the photo in the national press, several shops in Clapham Junction asked if they could put copies up in their  windows, and within a couple of days it was viewed about half a million times on Twitter.

7. Tell us about the We Love London Appeal you are supporting…

The We Love London Appeal is a fund that has been set up to help those who have been affected by the riots. They are giving donations to people who have been left homeless, and grants to businesses to help them get back on their feet. People have been really generous and the Appeal has so far raised over £50,000 via the We Love London Appeal JustGiving page .

8. Do you think there’s something about being a lawyer that gives you a strong sense of community/public service?

Absolutely, I think there is a sense of responsibility that comes with being a lawyer. The best parts of my career have always been when I was helping others, which is one of the most rewarding parts of the profession.

9. Tell us a bit about your career to-date as a solicitor…

I trained at a national firm in Guildford and qualified into its Company/Commercial department. After a year or so, I decided to move to the City and joined the corporate team of a medium-sized firm in Holborn. There I worked on both corporate and employment matters before being attracted in-house.

10. What do you enjoy most about your current role as an in-house lawyer at Fujitsu?

Fujitsu is a global company with a rich history and culture and it works alongside many of the top businesses in the world. I get the opportunity to work across a wide range of disciplines, from customer-facing commercial transactions (public and private) and internal procurement to litigation and employment. I also work within a great team and there is a good support structure across the whole of the Legal function.

11. What are the challenges?

You have to gain an understanding of the organisation and business goals very quickly. Our role on the Legal team is to facilitate the business rather than creating any obstacles. It’s vital to get an understanding of how the business functions and also to develop strong relationships on the cross-functional teams you work with.

12. What would be your advice to aspiring in-house lawyers?

I would recommend trying to get as rounded a training as possible, as the more versatile you are, the better. I would also recommend spending some time in private practice before moving in-house.

13.  What are your strongest and fondest memories of studying at The College of Law?

I loved the Guildford campus. It was a great place to study and the teaching staff were incredible. I am still in touch with a couple of my tutors, and many friends from The College of Law.

Has this article inspired you to consider life as an in-house lawyer? Find out about this and other legal career routes by reading the resource book for StEP 1 of our online careers programme.


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