Disaffected communities, riots and policing: Manchester 1981 and 2011

Neil Wain (Greater Manchester Police, Manchester, UK)
Peter Joyce (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Publication date: 13 July 2012



The purpose of this paper is to analyse the disorders that occurred in Manchester in 1981 and 2011 with the aim of comparing the similarities and differences that have been put forward to explain why these events occurred. The paper further seeks to evaluate the tactics that might be used in future years to police disaffected communities.


The research for this paper is library‐based, making considerable use of primary sources that relate to events in 1981 and 2011. The objectives of this research are addressed by examining a number of key themes: the 1981 Moss Side riot: explanations for the 1981 Moss Side riot: the 2011 riots in Greater Manchester: explanations of the causes of the 2011 riots in Manchester: the future policing of disaffected communities in Manchester.


The research established that although there were many similarities in the events that occurred in 1981 and 2011, there were also important differences that reflect social, economic and cultural changes that have affected society since 1981. It also rejects the opinion that a more aggressive style of policing is the only way to police disaffected communities to prevent a repetition of events that took place in 2011.

Practical implications

The research suggests that the way forward for the policing of disaffected communities lies in an approach that seeks to engage hearts and minds rather than one that aims to quell dissent through coercive methods.


The paper presents an original comparison of events that took place in one area of Britain in 1981 and 2011. The interpretation of material relating to the causes of rioting and future policing policies is informed by both academic and practitioner perspectives.



Wain, N. and Joyce, P. (2012), "Disaffected communities, riots and policing: Manchester 1981 and 2011", Safer Communities, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 125-134. https://doi.org/10.1108/17578041211244030

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