It was July 1981 when the Liverpool 8 Uprising – or ‘Toxteth Riots’ as it became known – began. Following the typically aggressive and heavy-handed arrest of Leroy Cooper on Friday 3 July, anger erupted on the streets of one of Liverpool’s most deprived areas in one of the most voracious displays of collective rage seen in the 1980s. Such was the force of the insurrection that the Conservative Government at the time was forced to seriously rethink both their policing and urban planning strategies. But what were the wider undercurrents that lead to these nine nights of rebellion? And to what extent have the ‘new’ policing and urban planning strategies come to mirror their predecessors? Continue reading
All riots and urban insurgencies have far deeper roots than newspaper headlines afford them, and those in Liverpool 8 stretch further into history (and geography) than most. There is first the singular history of Liverpool itself, and what the city’s leading historian, John Belchem‚ pro-vice chancellor of the university, calls the “exceptionalism” that marks Liverpool out from the rest of Britain, stitching its narrative to the Atlantic Ocean more than that of the land on which Liverpool turns its back. This identity is precious to the sage of Liverpool and most immediately recognisable voice of the city’s people, Jimmy McGovern, known for his work on Brookside, Cracker, Hillsborough, The Street and the rest. “When you are a port city,” says McGovern, “you look out, not back inland over your shoulder. Only when you are at sea are you looking towards the land, as my own family did when they came here from County Fermanagh; probably heading for America but presumably alighting with a certain fecklessness: ‘This’ll do.’ And in Toxteth, you have the Harlem of Europe. When we had the capital of culture here in 2008, the slogan was ‘The World In One City’, but that was only really true of Liverpool 8: black people called Riley and Williams, Irish women bearing children to West African sailors, and all of them, in some way, children of the sea.”
There is some ambiguity as to the origin of the name. One theory is that the etymology is “Toki’s landing-place”. However, Toxteth is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, and at this time, it appears as “Stochestede”, i.e. ”the stockaded or enclosed place”, from the Anglo-Saxon stocc ”stake” and Anglo-Saxon stede ”place” (found in many English placenames, usually spelled stead).