12 Aug 2011

Looted barber inspires online generosity

An 89-year-old Tottenham barber whose shop was looted during the riots says he is overwhelmed by an online campaign that has raised more than £25,000 to help him back into business.

Aaron Biber, who has been operating “Gentlemen’s Hairdressing” for the last 40 years, said he would not have been able to reopen without the donations.

Though the tools of his trade had been taken home, the looters smashed his windows and stole hairdryers, cotton wool and even his kettle.

“I’m just in shock,” he said. “It’s all very overwhelming. I’ve worked all my life – no-one has ever had to give me money and I’ve never wanted it.

“My parents came here in the 1900s and they always had to work. They told me: ‘If you don’t work you don’t eat.’ Now I’m getting this money, people sending me cheques – it’s all very strange,” Mr Biber said.

He blamed the recent unrest in London on young people who have no work ethic. “They don’t want to go to work or learn a trade,” he said.

“All they want to do is run about with no responsibility. My father always told me work makes life sweeter but these lot don’t understand that.”

But despite his work ethic, Mr Biber said the death of his wife Dorothy last year had put things into perspective.

“I just want enough money for today – for me tomorrow never comes. With good health you are a millionaire. The only thing I really want is my wife back. She died last year and I just can’t get over it.”

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A website was set up after three advertising interns heard about the damage caused to Mr Biber’s shop.

“We were given a brief to create a project to let interns do good things, and our brief was ‘do something good, famously’,” said one of the interns, 23-year-old Bjorn Conradi.

“My girlfriend told me about this barber who had his shop broken into, and I decided to do something to help him. We wanted to show how social media can be used to do good things. A team of three of us worked on it, and we tried to keep it as simple as possible, as the story really tells itself.

“We’ve been really surprised, we only uploaded the site at 5.30pm on Wednesday, and we’d raised £15,000 within 24 hours, and it keeps rising.

“We don’t really know if he’ll need all the money, but we will work with Aaron to see how best we can use it to get the Tottenham community back on its feet.”

Mr Conradi hopes to work in social media when he completes his internship, and said: “I think I passed the assignment.”

To donate, go to: keepaaroncutting.blogspot.com