Steve Anderson remembers the Toxteth riots

It was July 4, 1981, the day I got married. I got married in Gatley. St James’s Church, Gatley. And we had the reception in Alderley Edge, cherry centre all the way, because all the money crowd had come over from Liverpool and there wasn’t just my family, but lots of journo mates as well. And that was the night that Toxteth Riots started.

So, the night the Toxteth Riots started, most of the journalists in Liverpool were actually in a hotel in Alderley Edge, missing the story entirely. But, then the following day, the word had filtered through that Toxteth was burning, and John Toker in his wedding suit, the suit he wore to the wedding dashed across to the buckle, met the crew, the crew was allocated, Alan Almond was cameraman I seem to recall, I think Pete Connors was sound recorder. And they just shot the most amazing material. Throughout that take, the story just kept on happening in front of them, shops burning, petrol bombs, people attacking the police, police fighting back. I’m sorry, countries, because I was pretty far from Manchester that morning.

But what happened was that, not a frame of it got shown on the Granada report on the Monday, because they filmed more than 1,600ft of film. The union rule was, an ACCT rule was, if you shoot more than 1,600ft, that then is a two plus two crew, you’re not allowed to put any of it out. And so, I think they shot two and half thousand feet, but it was blacked, all the footage was blacked. And so Granada, as I recall, probably need to check it, but I recall put out cartoons that night, rather than put out a programme without the key material that Granada had gathered that weekend, on a point’s principle, they wanted a point about how ridiculous the union were being about this. And put out cartoons.

And that’s never been shown.

Eventually it was. I think, I mean, in fact I was halfway… I’d been making a World in Action in Toxteth, in the weeks leading up to my wedding. It was a story about street crime in Toxteth, about the number of old grannies that were being bopped over the head, and it was a way to look at what’s happening to you, and people, and the fact that nobody’s got any work, and what’s happening to society.

So, we’d already halfway shot a World in Action in Toxteth. And so it was then turned, while I was away, it was turned into a programme about and actually, I think the World in Action was allowed to use some of that footage. As I came back this was one day a programme, and I thought we’d be working on, well I knew it’d been overtaken by events, but David Taylor sort of made them in tune, very sharp programme, that we’d been filming in Toxteth, the weeks leading up to the riots.


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