Shaun of the Dead: Witness Reports

By Sophie Mayer and Lady Vervaine


Three years after the tragedy that struck London, we return to the much-documented epicentre of the epidemic to speak with local residents and workers about how that fatal weekend altered their lives.

Film location officer, London Borough of Haringey:

“Some lads called up the office, said they were local boys making a low-budget film, and wanting to use some locations round and about, maybe get some locals in as extras. That’s exactly the kind of community arts we try to encourage here in Haringey, being a Liberal Democrat council and all. I offered to show them some choice sites – we get lots of films and telly made around here, there’s some lovely Grade I listed buildings and of course Ally Pally – and get their traffic blocking sorted.

“That won’t be necessary, they said, they’d sort the crowd control themselves. Then they started laughing, and I thought to myself, You’ve been had, mate, it’s a prank. Thought nothing more of it until – well, I was enjoying my generous allocation of holiday, and I caught BBC 24 in a local bar. Horrible. Those – things – running amok through the streets of Hornsey. I could just hear my mate from the tourist office moaning about it. And then, there he was – on telly, moaning, with bits falling off his brain.

“Funny thing is, after it was all over, I got back to the office and the phone was ringing off the hook. I tell you, a bit of telly does wonders for your cred. We’ve been non-stop here ever since.”


Shop assistant, Weston Park Off-Licence:

“Yeah yeah, blad, I was right in it. Nah, shut up, it was me and my posse what saw them off. That was mad times, yknow. At first, we was like, ohh, theyz well baked, theyz caned, man, coz we get all them in here, like, spesh on a Saturday morning, for they smokes and they Jaffa cakes. But then my mate Jameel, he’s like, oh fuck man, theyz gone Resident Evil, now they be wanting they brains.

“So we was all, fuck, right? But Jameel, he knows his shit from Xbox, so, like, we barricaded the door with 40 cases of Strongbow and lived on Pringles and fruit gums til the telly says it’s OK to go outside. Wez a bit mashed, like, but wez still got brains. Not like them poor fucks at that Londis four doors down. Theyz got hit, man. Jameel’s bruv Darren shot it on his phone and sent it to Jameel. We was well laughing at that.

“But, like, not the bit where the camera went skronk. Cos that was Darren getting brain-munched. Respect, Darren. He was, like, one of them journalists in a war zone, innit?”


Literary agent, resident, Nelson Road:

“Well, one can’t help but wonder, can one? If they will sell alcopops to underage children at that off-licence – yes, it was in the Gazette, dear – can one really express surprise if the little monsters get somewhat out of control on sugar?

“No, of course we weren’t here. It was a weekend, if I remember correctly, so we were at our cottage in Hampshire. It was a bit frustrating when we returned on Monday to discover that the cleaner had been, well, part of an unfortunate incident.

“Still, she’s just as punctual as ever, and will clean for absolutely hours! So the upshot was – tragic, of course, the loss of life – but our lives go on. We have donated extensively to the rehabilitation support fund set up by that nice young chap who made the documentary about it. So fortunate that he happened to be in the area with equipment to hand. Our residents are so very creative.”


Yoga therapist/t’ai chi dietician, Hornsey Vale Community Centre:

“Unaligned chakras! That’s the root cause. Blocked chi and too much hormone-fed meat. It’s hard to fathom why that kind of behaviour goes on in Hornsey: we have more yoga classes and farmers’ markets than anywhere east of Primrose Hill.

“Just for instance, I was leading a t’ai chi workout/raw foods breakfast in Stationers’ Park that morning, round the corner from the epicentre – and those poor people were only too glad to join in and find their flows. Dozens of them came stumbling in, barely able to stand they were so run-down by the commuter rat race. Amazing how people are drawn to the sanctuary they need. I think the raw foods were a particular draw.  

“Was I afraid? Goddess no, I’ve seen many people acting out in my work as a yoga therapist. I assign them one of the harder asanas and some alternate-nostril breathing, and after a few minutes, it’s lovely inner calm all round. Did it work for them? I like not to think of them as failures, so much as in an ongoing client-therapist relationship.”

All persons interviewed here are fictional, and any resemblance to any person, either living or undead, is co-incidental.

Images: Darren F. Thanks to Jameel K. for permission to use these camera phone images.

David Waterson, the real Film Location Officer, can be contacted on 020 8489 6903, for assistance with locations in Haringey. His office also has information about the London Borough Film Fund Challenge, with grants of £2,500 available to short filmmakers from the area.