In the summer of 1981, 40 British cities were rocked by rioting. Toxteth, Liverpool was the most violent.
On a hot summer evening in the L8 area of Liverpool, the arrest of Leroy Cooper, a young, black man, ignites a social uprising within an over-policed and under-valued community. The nights that follow are filled with violence, rioting and destruction - a brutal social clash that was dubbed ‘The Toxteth Riots’ by the media and would damage the city for decades.
Britain, 1981. Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister and tensions are rising in communities around the country.
Sin Bin of the City attempts to unravel the events of that fateful summer and cut through the noise to the voices of the community at the centre of the conflict. Through extensive archive research and personal testimony, the film details the feelings of the L8 community: their perceived oppression by a racist police force and isolation from their own city, the events of the so-called riots and the attempts of the Tory government to gloss over a city in managed decline.
The events of 1981 are still taboo today, but this film will shed new light on unheard voices and ask what, if anything, has changed in a community that is still seen by many today as the ‘Sin Bin of the City’.
THE VOICES OF SIN BIN OF THE CITY
Wally Brown Wally Brown was Chair of the Community Relations Council at the time of the disturbances in 1981. He acted as a mediator between the police and the local community during the aftermath of the riots. Wally still sees the L8 community as being largely invisible in Liverpool compared to Brixton, London and Moss Side, Manchester - two inner-city black communities that also rioted in 1981, but have since prospered into vibrant communities.
Delroy Burris At the time of the disturbances, Delroy Burris was a member of a voluntary organisation that dealt with race relations. Along with Wally Brown, he was present in many meetings with government officials and local councillors, including Margaret Thatcher. Delroy recalls racism from local white gangs who would beat him and his friends regularly. Today, he believes race relations have improved between the police and the black community, but worries Liverpool’s young Somali and Yemeni populations are now experiencing similar problems.
X1 This interviewee wishes to remain anonymous. X1 was a young man when the disturbances broke out. He was one of the many who felt police discrimination on the streets and witnessed the riots from a close proximity. X1 used his community influence to try and get community-led projects off the ground. He tirelessly battled with local government but felt working with central government, and Michael Heseltine in particular, led to the black community at least being heard. Today, X1 believes Liverpool 8 is lacking in community-run institutions and visibility in the employment and education systems.
X2 This interviewee wishes to remain anonymous. X2 was a teenager in 1981 and recalls witnessing the disturbances from his bedroom window. It was common for him to hear stories of his older brothers getting stopped and searched by police and saw many family members discriminated against simply because of their skin colour and L8 postcode. In his adult years, X2 moved away from Liverpool and joined the police force, doing something no black resident from Liverpool 8 would ever consider - a decision which weighed heavy on his conscience. Today, he believes overt racism has been stamped out of the police force but underground racism is still very much a problem across society and its institutions.
John Lamb John Lamb has lived in Liverpool his whole life. Now retired, during the 1980s, he worked alongside Michael Heseltine in the Merseyside Task Force - a civil service body established by the Tory government in the wake of the L8 uprising. John recalls what it was like living in Liverpool under Margaret Thatcher’s rule and how it didn’t take her long to start installing her right-wing mantra in the city. He was shocked at how much passion and enthusiasm Heseltine had for Liverpool, given that many thought he was a typical Conservative politician.