1981 Shelton Riots

The showing this week of the biopic on the life of Mrs Thatcher will now doubt present her achievements in a rosy glow. Anyone living through that period who was on the left and politically active will almost certainly have a different view.

A seminal moment locally occurred on the weekend of the 11th ““12th July 1981 when the riots came to Shelton.

Rather like the events of last August the disturbances were born out of resentment and an intense disenchantment with the failure of authority. Like 2011 unemployment amongst the young was climbing and the consequences of Tory Chancellor’s Geoffrey Howe budgets of 1980-1 was to rapidly increase the jobless total. It is calculated that over 2 million jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector in the early years of the decade.

The riots began in Toxteth and spread as did the events of last summer to other major cities quickly. The list is a roll call of the great urban centres as Manchester, Leeds and London followed Liverpool. I was living in London at the time and can clearly recall walking over Greenwich Park and seeing the flames and hearing the disorder in Lewisham.

That weekend the troubles came to Shelton.

A party held at 45 Ashford St began to get too noisy and depending on whose side you believe the police responded or exacerbated the situation. One person in the house said that the police released dogs and batoned many of the party goers in a very heavy handed approach.

Predictably views were divided.

The chairman of the Police Authority a Labour Councillor called Harry Brown from Norton defended the police actions some community activists felt that there was an over-reaction. It was not racial as people at the house included black and white. Among the arrested were people from a wide area including parts of Abbey Hulton and it was the first time that Randolph Conteh’s name became known to a wider public.

The disturbances did not achieve much and rather like last summer authority were able to label those involved in the disturbances as hooligans and overlook the core issues of wasted lives and unemployment.

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