Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Oldham Riots

The Oldham Riots of May 2001 (see previous post) were the single most important historical event ever to have happened in my general vicinity. We live less than a mile away from Glodwick- where the action was fiercest - and lay awake listening to the police helicopter chug-chug-chugging in circles overhead.

I thought and still think the riots were a good thing. Riots usually are. Nothing highlights injustice and advances the argument for social change better than a bit of arson and stone throwing. Of course, everyone in authority pretended to be shocked and horrified and the supposed ringleaders got sent to jail, but nothing would ever be quite the same again. The hitherto docile British Asian community had announced it wasn't standing for any more shit. Point made, point taken. 

Here's a poem I wrote at the time .



I wake at three to a knock on the door

And lie there quaking. There’s no-one there.

Oh, you can tell- there’s no feel of a person,

No tremble of presence in the ether,

No human vibe. I must have been dreaming.

What I took as a flurry of taps

Was the rattling of the helicopter,

Sweeping in circles above the house,

Watching the trouble that’s happening in Glodwick

This second night.


                              Last night the nazis

Broke some windows and bashed up a car

With a Pakistani woman in it

And so the young men on the estate,

Pakistanis and Bangladeshis,

Took to the streets, attacked three pubs

Where the nazis were drinking (or so they believed)

And petrol-bombed and bricked the ranks

Of heavily armoured riot police

Till dawn. They’re sick of being dissed

And over-looked.


                             When my pulse has slowed

To something like normal I leave the bed

And go to the window and look about

And there’s the chopper behind the trees,

A tiny, brilliant constellation,

Wheeling, with its searchlight beaming,

Down through drifting cloud or smoke,

To where the fight for respect is happening

Up on the hill. But our street is empty,

Grey and eerie. If I squint down

At an angle I can see the space

In front of our door where there’s nobody stood.

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