Riots in Oldham

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I was initially held on an acute mental health ward in Stockport which is about 15 miles from Oldham. I have lived in Oldham my whole life. It is a small town with a population of about 200,000; it is part of Greater Manchester and has a sizeable population of Asians.

Historically, Oldham was famous for its cotton industry due to which a lot of workers came there from South Asia. Oldham is also known due to the riots that took place in 2001. It is still quite segregated as Bangladeshis live in certain areas and Pakistanis in other areas. White people live in different areas to Asians.

There has been a lot of work carried out in Oldham to bring the different communities together. The situation is much better now although it is still one of the most deprived towns in the country.

The Glodwick riots

Oldham made international news when riots engulfed Glodwick, a small area of Oldham.  I remember the night when my local area became a war-zone. More than a hundred young Asian men fought pitched battles with the police, throwing rocks, bricks and burning cars. Some even threw petrol bombs.

I was a student at college at the time, studying A-levels in English, Computing and Media studies. On the night of the riot, there was a rumour that a pregnant Asian lady had been attacked by a gang of white racists. A huge group of young men gathered together, the protest quickly became a whole-scale riot.

A lot of young men were arrested and imprisoned for many years due to rioting. There had been genuine concerns that far-right groups were planning to come to Oldham. My family were in Bangladesh at the time and found out what was happening on the news. They worriedly contacted me to get an update.

“I learned how good people can sometimes get carried away in the heat of the moment and do something wrong.”

I witnessed the riots first hand but my sisters wouldn’t allow me to go back out that night after I went to give them a report. The following morning the roads were covered with stones and bricks and there were burnt out cars on the road. Two pubs in the area were damaged too.  The roar of helicopters and sirens and more than a hundred angry young men shouting aggressively is seared in my memory.

From the riots I learned how good people can sometimes get carried away in the heat of the moment and do something wrong. A lot of the rioters had never broken a law before the riots but ended up in prison for up to five years for throwing stones.

Many people I know ended up in prison and Oldham’s reputation was spoiled. It became hard to get a job once the employer found out that you were from Glodwick. The actions of a minority forever tarnished the community’s reputation. Just like a minority of terrorists who claim to be following Islam and carry out acts of terror which have no link to orthodox Islam.

 Have you experienced something that is traumatic but memorable? Please comment and share.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. This is a very interesting article about race relations and multicultural Britain. I remember the 2011 riots more than the 2001 riots.

    I recommend this documentary which, though a little outdated, is another interesting take on segregation and funding of youth groups which does not encourage integration and tolerance across communities. I could not believe how much money was spent on the murals on the sides of buildings. I am not against art per se but they could have at least handed the paint brushes to the local community!

    https://www.channel4.com/programmes/ghetto-britain-30-years-of-race/on-demand/41820-001

    Thank you for writing and encouraging discussion.

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  2. I think these things occur when people start thinking it’s finally getting better. But as viruses are, they always spark and ignite suddenly. A person’s nature can’t be changed easily…I think terrorists were made because of the calling of them as being involved in acts of terror. Cause and effect.

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