2001: ‘Riots’, or violent urban protests, in four northern English cities

The so-called northern ‘riots’ in 2001 were, in my view, a turning point in British society. For the first time, British Muslims (the protagonists were mainly, but by no means exclusively, Muslims) engaged in violent protest against racists and discriminatory policing in forms that were reminiscent of the ‘riots’ led by British African and Caribbean youth in the 1970s and 80s. The initial reaction by Labour councils and the Labour government was to launch enquiries and write reports. The policy that emerged was ‘community cohesion’. A flawed policy and piffling in its results, but relatively benign. But soon afterwards we saw a rising barrage of criticism of the multicultural policy that Britain had pioneered since the 1960s. The crescendo of complaint – ‘we are sleepwalking into segregation’ was the summary statement – continued right into the Coalition government, with David Cameron’s claim (in 2011) that Muslims had to learn to accept ‘British values’. (My book chapter about multiculturalism and my advocacy of ‘critical multiculturalism’ is available here.)


This paper (linked below) was written soon after the 2001 protests, heightened by the effects of the 7/7 atrocities that came soon after and increased the tempo of anti-Muslim discourse worldwide. I’ve never been much good at translating papers into journal articles so it has sat in my files for many years. Since the mis-use of Bourdieu’s concept of social capital has increased since it was first invoked in talk of community cohesion, the paper is a useful corrective to that mis-use. Since the ‘northern riots’, and the subsequent reports, have never been fully analysed the paper might have some historical relevance.

Farrar, Max (2003) ‘Community, Social Capital and Identification in the Multi-ethnic Inner City: Reflections on the violent urban protest in the north of the UK in 2001’. Paper delivered to the Communities Conference, Trinity and All Saints College, University of Leeds,18-20 September 2003 – – – downloadable here   CommunitiesPaperTASC2003



Diverse communities and the question of cohesion

Ages ago I was asked to write a chapter on diversity for a book on the Yorkshire and Humberside region put together by colleagues at Leeds Metropolitan University. I got tremendous help from Professor John Stillwell (Geography, Leeds University) who produced statistical maps for me at the drop of a hat. The chapter contains lots of useful information about the spread of ethnic groups across Yorkshire, along with some analysis of the ‘community cohesion’ trope that emerged in British public life after the violent urban protest in four northern cities in 2001. It was published in A Collection of Essays on Place, Skills and Governance in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region edited by Devins, D, Long, P and Koutsoukos, S (Leeds Metropolitan University, 2010).

It can be downloaded here

Diverse Communities Cohesion (2010) Max Farrar Final2

Chapeltown: where is it and what does it do? (7 June 2014)

Fiona Gell is the driving force behind the marvellous Big BookEnd festival of authors and books in Leeds and when she asked me to contribute a talk I jumped at the offer. I’m giving this talk on Saturday 7th June 2014 at the Leeds Central Library (2.30pm). Fiona’s an assiduous organiser and brilliant user of social media (I’m learning some of her tricks), so I had to write a blog and Tweet and all that stuff. Now I’ve been asked to make an event page on the dreaded Facebook, so here it is . There’s even an EventBrite thingy so you can book a ticket if you want to. And if you get really excited I think you can invite your friends too. It’s 12 years since the book was published and this is only the second time I’ve been asked to talk about it, so I’m very pleased to get the invitation. Check out the whole festival here – it’s full of wonderful events.

And then I prepared and delivered the talk. The room (in the city library) was full, the questions were stimulating and the feedback was good. You can see the slides here. Plus some photos, courtesy of Isobel_innitphotography.

Fiona Gell introducing my Big BookEnd Festival talk on Chapeltown