photo credit: John Akomfrah: Handsworth Riots - Twenty Summers On
© Pogus Caesar / OOM Gallery Archive 1985
Arguing that 'there are no stories in the riots, only the ghosts of other stories', the film summons up some of these ghosts with early footage of hopeful migrants arriving in the 1950s cutting backwards and forwards to later experiences of racism - including harrassment on the streets of Handsworth and the death of Cynthia Jarrett following a police raid on her home in Tottenham (which sparked the Broadwater farm riots).
There's some interesting historical footage of Birmingham, including a 1937 Labour Day procession, Malcolm X on a visit to the city in the 1960s and the 1977 anti-National Front demonstrations in Handsworth. The soundtrack is similarly eclectic, ranging from Lord Kitchener to Mark Stewart and the Maffia's take on Jerusalem, alongside Trevor Mathison's brooding soundscape composed especially for the film. No inclusion of Steel Pulse's classic Handsworth Revolution though -maybe at the time it just seemed too obvious.
The film lasts about an hour and is being shown on continuous loop until May just off the main entrance hall at Tate.