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40 years ago today

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  • 40 years ago today

    I have been reminded by an envelope though my door today exactly what I was doing on Sat 11th April 1981. I had cycled to the British Film Collectors Convention (no chance of buying a projector that year) and had a good day. In those days it ran until about 7pm.

    On my way home I was stopped by the police and told that I could not continue along Atlantic Road, Brixton, but would have to take a diversion. At the time it was a minimal one and I soon found my way back to my street. I was only later that I found out that the first Brixton Riots, which lead to many buildings being burnt to the ground had broken out just ahead of me. Thank goodness I hadn't been much earlier. The envelope contained details of events to protest against the sort of activity thought to have started this and to campaign for changes to conditions for minorities that will prevent it happening again.

    Here are pictures I took the day after.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Scary times Brian. The cars actually look older but I suppose as you say 40 years ago. The only way property would be touched over here would be for a share of an insurance claim from the happy owner. Did they ever rebuild Brixton or was it left that way?


    • #3
      Well people around there tended either not to have new cars or not leave them on the streets in case of damage or theft if they did. A lot has been rebuilt, though the pub was it never took off and has been converted to flats. It is now part of a Covid "Low traffic area so the air is better and more cyclists. The health centre built soon after has been derelict and awaiting demolition for years. Further down the area was being demolished anyway for new houses and an adventure playground. It was heavily squatted just before this and I feel that some of those assisted the council by setting the fires. Several businesses that had barred on racial grounds (mainly pubs) got torched. I feel it was more than racial though. There was a long public inquiry afterwards.


      • #4
        Mike - as a very young Investigator in 1982, I did a lot of work in and around the Brixton area and never had any problems working in that area. It was all down to the approach you took with the local community. The Police used and abused the 'SUS' laws at this time which eventually pushed the large black community too far and inevitably led to a predictable backlash and increased tensions between the two factions.

        The riots in 1981 were not just confined to Brixton, they were also happening in St Paul's in Bristol and Toxteth in Liverpool and other areas at the same time. The origins of the riots weren't racially motivated, rather they lay in the disillusionment of the youth (amongst others) in those areas that were typically suffering from increasingly high levels of unemployment and lack of investment in the areas - which was a deliberate policy of the government of the time to, in effect, abandon these communities.

        Regarding the 'rebuilding of Brixton' - the area itself was one of the very first to benefit from the so called 'regeneration' of the poorer areas of London - which is mainly a result of the property-boom of the mid 1990's where foreign money poured into the city centre which had the ripple effect of raising property prices in the adjoining areas such as Brixton at the time (and more recently Hackney etc) and the attraction by the younger, professional, generation and their obsession to live as close to the city centre as possible - that could be perceived by others as a quasi 'status symbol'.


        • #5
          Yes, at present the perceived threat is "Gentrification" with expensive flats being built in Brixton that local people cannot afford. Often they are planned as high rise blocks in the wrong place changing the look and feel of the place.

          Of course in the late 1800's and early 1900's it was a very gentrified place with two theatres and many actors etc living there in large houses. Also London's (at least) first purpose built department store and easy transport to the West End by train.


          • #6
            Absolutely Brian - it was very well known for its theatres and resident actors!

            The department store was presumably 'Morleys' which was (only a couple of years ago) and probably still is trading today - in another life, it was one of my customers 🙂


            • #7
              The store was the Bon Marche later a John Lewis store but they closed it because they thought it was too small for the late 1970' and there was no room to expand it. The Building is still there but divided into multiple shops and other enterprises.


              • #8
                Ah, forgot about Bon Marche Brian!

                I presume Morley's is still there??


                • #9
                  Yes it is still there but some concessions in it now so not really the same, nut if that's what it takes to keep it viable all the better


                  • #10
                    Well Brian that's a good way of merging the old with the new so that it can evolve and continue to trade 🙂