‘Can’t Tek No More’

Franco Rosso’s film Babylon presented the lives of Black Londoners in a way few had done before. 

Beefy  (Trevor Laird), Spark (Brian Bovell) and Errol (David N. Haynes), c.1980. Collection Christophel © Diversity Music/Alamy.

In 1981 long-standing anger about racism, unemployment and social deprivation broke out into violent protests across many of Britain’s inner cities. It began in Brixton in April, when heavy handed police tactics provoked three days of rioting, and similar outbreaks followed across the country, in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool. The magnitude of the violence, the worst on mainland Britain since 1945, meant that Margaret Thatcher’s government could not dismiss this as wanton criminality. She had no option but to commission an official inquiry.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.