On the morning of Sunday 7th February, onlookers gazed on to Lambeth Bridge in Central London as a red double decker bus exploded, the roof peeled back and blast of black smoke billowed into the air. Many witnesses feared it was a terrorist attack.
It quickly emerged thanks to the prompt response on social media that blast in fact was part of filming for the new Jackie Chan movie ‘The Foreigner’. Lambeth Bridge was in fact closed for the filming, and there was a sign that stated the road was closed, though it mentioned nothing about a blast. Some residents and businesses did receive letters saying that the road would be closed and that controlled explosions would be taking place between 9am and 10am as part of the production. The letters mentioned nothing about a red double decker exploding.
Despite letters being sent it quickly became apparent that many residents, onlookers and tourists were blissfully unaware what was about to happen. The initial reaction was fear, panic and confusion.
Anders Jones, 28, who lives overlooking the bridge told me “I woke up Sunday around 9am and heard a massive blast, so I shot up out of bed and looked through the curtains to see the wreckage of the bus”. “My immediate reaction was obviously along the lines of WTF, but then I saw the road closure barriers, lots of people in yellow jackets and a camera crew”. “So I pretty rapidly figured out it was for filming”. “When shooting James Bond Spectre last year along the river we received multiple letters from the production team detailing what exactly what would be happening, I am disappointed not to be notified about such a large explosion (lots of debris flying around too in the high winds) just 50m from my flat”. When I asked Anders whether he thought the explosion of the red double decker bus was a bit disrespectful he voiced how “a recreation of a double decker bus with the roof torn off after an explosion is a bit too close to the events of the 7/7 bombings for my liking”.
Many families of victims of the 7/7 bombings have voiced their concerns online stating the events were insensitive. Even the National Police Air Service expressed their initial fears after observing the explosion from above. It seems even the people who knew the explosion was for filming purposes were at unease by the image of the exploding red bus which is still fresh in the minds of many.
The current level of terrorism threat in the UK is currently ‘severe’ which means that an attack is highly likely. With the recent attacks by ISIS on Paris and threats to the rest of Europe, there is no doubt why people are so apprehensive about terrorism. Especially in Central London, the heart of the UK. It is clear attempts were made by the production team to contact business owners and residents in the area but these attempts were not good enough. Reactions would suggest that many did not receive written warning. Even the sign on Lambeth Bridge only stated that the road was closed. The communication with passers by and tourists in the area miserably failed, if that is that any attempt was even made. It is down to the fast response by Twitter accounts such as @SE1 that residents quickly learned what was going on.
It is the images of the exploding bus which are the main area for concern in the series of events. The 7/7 bombings are something most people have sensitive memories of. Especially in the heart of London where so many people had family and friends caught up in the attacks. The image of the exploding bus is an iconic symbol. For the makers of Jackie Chan to film such scenes on a bridge in Central London is highly insensitive. Is there no other bridge in the UK or in fact in the world that the scene could have been filmed on? It could have even been edited with CGI to be placed on that exact bridge. The images of the wreckage were so similar to that of the bus wreckage on Tavistock Square.
As a viewer of the news online the first thing that caught my attention was the video of the bus exploding, not the text surrounding it. My initial reactions were fear that it had been a terrorist attack, I immediately connected the images to those of the 7/7 bombings. For me to make this connections and assumptions from the images would suggest to me that it was even worse for those who observed it in person. The decision to film these scenes on Lambeth Bridge was a bad idea in itself. The poor communication is what made a bad idea even worse. The production team failed the public miserably and the council should have also been more active in making sure the correct measures and precautions were acted upon.