Harriet Sergeant

Harriet Sergeant is a journalist and the author of Among the Hoods: My Years With a Teenage Gang.

How the culture war came for Kenwood Ladies’ Pond

‘Not another step!’ The large women in an old T shirt stretched across her bulging shoulders glared at my father. We were standing under a canopy of trees on Hampstead Heath in north London. Sunshine dappled through the leaves onto my face. I was 12 years old and clutched a wet and muddy costume. Through

The criminal gangs behind the rise in shoplifting

‘She was dressing half of Brixton at one time.’ A former plumber from south London is recalling the pretty, well-groomed shoplifter of his youth. Expensively dressed, her favourite place to target was Selfridges. ‘I don’t know how she did it but she got everything. You put in an order and she’d get it. Those days

The Iranian regime is at war with its own children

Twenty-two-year-old Hadis Najafi does not look like a foot soldier in a revolution. In the last film of Najafi alive, it is night and she’s walking down a road in Karaj, her home town, smiling and scrunching up her hair into a ponytail. She is young, blonde and on her way to a demonstration. Najafi

Music and murder

A young man in a grey tracksuit and silver mask looks straight at the camera. He is flanked by others in black anoraks, heads jabbed sideways, moving to the beat. The young man raises his hand and curls it into the shape of a gun. ‘Bang, bang, I made the street messy. Bang, bang and

Does aid help?

What a scandal for our times. Oxfam, that upholder of modern-day virtue, unassailable in its righteousness, buried for seven years that its aid workers exploited young girls. The men abused their power to have sex with desperate victims of the Haiti earthquake — the very people they were supposed to protect. Michelle Russell of the

Not refugees, not children

I was interviewing ten foster parents in west London for a report on children in care. Foster parents are in great demand, so I was startled to discover that only one of the sets of parents was looking after the sort of vulnerable children you imagine to be in the care system. The others were

Home is where the art is

The house in which I lived in Tokyo was built by my landlady, a former geisha. It stood on a plot of land given to her by her last lover. It was small, full of light and positioned to enjoy the large ginkgo tree in the garden next door. It was easily the best designed

How to spot a charity snake

How do we judge a charity? Very badly, it turns out. Until The Spectator revealed the full horror of Kids Company in July, not even the press had asked hard questions of the charity or its founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh. The subsequent political scrutiny showed our democratic process at its best. When Paul Flynn, a veteran

Mansion migrants

This election will see me up all night until the last results are in. It will have me knocking on doors, handing out leaflets and driving old ladies to the polling stations. All this is a first for me — and for the many others I find myself doing it with. Why does this election

Banned – and booming: the strange world of Chinese golf

I was in Shanghai interviewing a Chinese film director and an actor. We were discussing government censorship. How did anyone manage in China, I lamented. The two men burst out laughing. I had not understood at all. ‘Because everything is forbidden, everything is permitted. You are free to do anything,’ they assured me. Dan Washburn

Is there a way to live without economic growth? 

During Japan’s lost decade in the 1990s I found myself handing out rice balls to Tokyo’s homeless on the banks of the Sumida river. The former salary men — it was always men — slept in cardboard boxes the size of coffins. I peered into one. Its owner had neatly arranged his last few possessions.

Out on the town

In the middle of last summer’s riots, Mash, a member of a South London gang I have befriended, phoned me. He was standing outside a shop that was being looted. ‘It’s the funniest thing, Harry man,’ he declared. ‘This day I can go anywhere in London and there is no beef.’ Mash is usually confined

WEB EXCLUSIVE: These rioters are Tony Blair’s children

Nihilism and disorder have been fostered by the state On the third day of the London riots I received a telephone call from Mash, a member of a Brixton gang who I befriended three years ago. He was standing outside an electronics shop in Clapham, watching the looting. I could hear shouts, glass breaking but

Reverting to type

While I was living in Tokyo, a Japanese girl friend of mine fell in love with a British investment banker. After promising marriage, he abandoned her for an English wife from the counties. But my girl friend was no Madame Butterfly. She did not attempt suicide. She felt she had had a lucky escape. A

The lady from Shanghai

By the middle of the second world war, May-ling Soong was the world’s most powerful woman, at the centre of events in China’s history and its relationship with the USA. By the middle of the second world war, May-ling Soong was the world’s most powerful woman, at the centre of events in China’s history and

Three men and a singer

Ian Buruma’s latest book, The China Lover, is a fictionalised take on themes previously examined in his impressive body of non-fictional work. His views on Japan, its history, films and underworld as well as the role of the outsider, the relationship between East and West and much more are all unpacked here as we follow

No mean feat

Rows of black suits filled the China Airlines flight from Beijing to Paris in September 1984. The People’s Liberation Army had ordered its entire delegation of dancers and musicians to wear the same ill-fitting outfit. Only one 17-year-old dancer had disobeyed the order. For this, his first visit to Europe, Jin Xing had bought a

Much possessed by death

On the 25 November, 1970 after a failed coup d’état, the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima stuck a knife into his belly, then had his head cut off with his own sword. Twenty years later I enjoyed a brief flirtation with a member of Mishima’s private militia, the Tate no Kai or Shield Society. Matsumura, like