The Thatcher Crisis Years

An era of protest and fury

1981 riots

2021 will be the fourtieth anniversary of the 1981 riots and the tenth anniverary of the 2011 riots so what lessons have been learned?

Southall 1981 riot

The 1981 Southall riot saw a clash between the Oi! skinhead subculture and local Asian youth in a district of London that was part of a summer of riots

Anti Tory art from the early 1980s

April 17, 2017

The early 1980s witnessed a very productive output of anti Tory art from the Left and the labour movement. Go as far as to say it was a golden age of political satire in various formats: TV, theatre, film, pop music, paintings and postcards.

Hatred of Thatcher got the creative juices flowing! It seems like there was nothing better than a society deeply polarised and unsettled to produce top drama, plays, movies, songs and images. 1980s anti Tory art hasn’t been fully appreciated in my humble opinion – it’s about time there was an exhibition at the Royal Academy!

Personally, I think it’s no exaggeration to say you could compare 1980s anti Tory art to the explosion of creativity after the 1917 Russian revolution or the output of artists during the Weimar Republic. It had a distinctive look and feel. Plus there was that figure of hatred for it all to be focussed on – Maggie!

DISCOVER: New technology in 1983

When it came to music, bands fell over each other to stick the boot into the Tories. In 1985, several groups and artists took to the road to sing against Maggie. Red Wedge comprised such talents as Paul Weller, Billy Bragg and Jimmy Sommerville. I went to a Red Wedge gig in Liverpool at the Royal Court around the time the miners strike came to a sad end.

Below we have ska popsters The Beat singing their anti-Thatcher song ‘Stand Down Margaret’. I interviewed the late Ranking Roger at his home ten years back when I was working on the biography of Neville Staple.

He told me that they got in some trouble for singing a political song on a mainstream TV show. They might even have been denied airplay as a result. But he still thought it was worth it.

The 1981 riots presented the news media of the time with a huge challenge covering live events around the country that sprang up at a moment’s notice