Salford riots: ‘We need to show a better way’

Richard Goulding reports on the community’s response to the riots in Salford

October 13, 2011
4 min read

A lot of people are still nervous in Salford. And angry. Some older residents who live in the tower blocks and tightly-packed terraces surrounding Salford Precinct, where the riots finally flared after three nights of national unrest, remain frightened of collecting their pensions from the shops.

Four weeks on from the riots, a community committee meeting at the nearby Emmanuel church opens up its speakers’ panel of ‘service providers’ – police, the council and so on – to questions from the floor. Up for discussion is the extension of a dispersal order enabling police to break up groups of more than two youths if thought to be anti-social and the creation for ten weeks of a football space near the precinct.

Some in attendance are not happy. For one thing, the zone covered by the dispersal order does not go far enough for their liking. ‘We had hundreds running riot through the streets, not even wearing balaclavas,’ says one woman.

Operational practicalities won’t allow it, replies the man from Greater Manchester Police, explaining that ‘the problem with expanding a dispersal area is: where do you stop? Usually you’re against the order,’ he adds. ‘Now you want us to extend it.’

One panel member praises how effectively different public agencies have worked together in the aftermath of the riots, and wins unanimous applause from the room. But after the meeting some criticise the reliance on ad hoc remedies to cure public ills. ‘We don’t need ten-week projects for the youths. We’ve had them for years. What we need in Salford is continuity of services,’ says Anne Cosgrave, former chair of the Nursery Street Tenants and Residents Association.

Her point is echoed by a member of Salford’s youth service. ‘When you’re working with young people . . . it takes time to build up that relationship of trust.’ Funding for longer-term provision is increasingly thin on the ground and decisions over where to place it are often dictated by the council hierarchy.

Salford’s neighbourhood forums provide one of the few mechanisms through which communities may set their own priorities. The forums allow residents to allocate small pots of funding through devolved budgets – though despite the government’s talk of ‘local empowerment’ much of their funding has been axed. Through them communities can take some small steps to deal collectively with issues such as directing provision for their young as an alternative to punitive measures.

The youth service worker notes how, prior to the riots, in one inner-city community ‘the residents . . . decided that they didn’t want a dispersal order. That said a lot to me about how they felt about their young people – it is quite a close community in that particular area.’

The forums’ inclusive nature should not be overstated. Divisions between young and old remain and few under the age of 20 attend their meetings. Thirty per cent of young people are out of work in Manchester and Salford, and troubling divides within communities can result. ‘When there isn’t work you don’t get crossover with young people and adults,’ explains the youth service worker. ‘If they have no inter-generational relationships, then that’s a problem. We need to be doing things where older and younger people are meeting together.’

Working class communities have come under extraordinary stresses over the past 30 years. Alan Turner, a youth worker who works with young offenders in Manchester, points out how ‘you see some great examples’ of communal action to improve areas, such as the creation of community gardens in streets protected by alley gates. But too often ‘it fades out once the money isn’t there. Residents are meant to run it themselves but it’s trying to mend the bits of society that have been smashed to smithereens.’

Worries about gaining a criminal record can seem remote for those who never expect to have a job. Turner says the people who participated in the riots ‘didn’t think of the consequences for themselves because they don’t see a future life. It’s not just services that have been taken away, but aspiration.’

Though few could ‘articulate why they got involved if asked off the cuff’, Turner cautions against denouncing their motives as ‘mindless criminality’, pointing out that what may seem like careless nihilism is often a survival mechanism. ‘Some are in criminal life and gangs, and they went to show they’re not afraid to other gangs. Some were inquisitive, and went to see what was going on and got sucked in. We need to show a better way.’


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry


4