ON Saturday July 7, 2001 Bradford was shaken by a night of riots that were said to be the worst in mainland Britain for 20 years.

More than 300 police officers were injured in the disturbance, which caused millions of pounds worth of damage.

The riots, which were mainly in the Manningham and Whetley Hill areas, but also flared up in other parts of the city, were sparked by heightened tension between some members of Bradford’s Asian communities and the Anti-Nazi League against far right groups which had descended on the city. Two people were stabbed and three seriously injured after a protest march against the National Front turned violent.

The rioting, between July 7 and 9, brought unrest and devastation to Bradford and left people fearing for their lives. On July 7 more than 300 offences were committed over eight hours. Manningham Ward Labour Club was firebombed, trapping 23 people inside. The terrified group spent more than an hour in the cellar below the burning club. Julia Smith, licensee of The Bradford Arms in Manningham, was asleep at the pub when it was attacked. “It was absolutely petrifying. We thought we were going to die,” she told the T&A.

St Philip’s Church at Girlington was attacked, with fires lit inside and stones hurled at the Rev Tony Tooby’s car. Arthur Midgley, owner of Arthur’s Bar in Manningham said he was warned, as bricks began flying through windows, that he had five minutes to leave. He and his wife grabbed their pets before youths entered, looted the bar and flat and set it alight.

Among the businesses attacked that night was Lister Park BMW dealership, which suffered £5.5million of damage and never returned to its Oak Lane site. It was the second time in six years - it was also attacked in the 1995 Bradford riots - that the dealership had been burned out in disturbances. But boss Jack Tordoff stressed the company’s commitment to Bradford: “I am sure that people who caused the riots regret it and we have all learned lessons. We want Bradford to be a successful city and we want to go from strength to strength here.” The business relocated to Sticker Lane.

Following the riots the city’s most senior officer Detective Chief Superintendent Max McLean said: “There must be no hiding place for these people.” His words came as dramatic front pages in the T&A displayed CCTV images of those suspected to have taken part in the riots. A hundred faces appeared on subsequent front pages, leading to some giving themselves up. Other suspects were targeted by police in raids. DCS McLean said there was an “overwhelming” response from T&A readers. In all, 200 people were jailed.

Amid the 20th anniversary of the riots, several figures in Bradford have given their views on whether or not things have changed.

Dr Manawar Jan-Khan of Manningham Residents’ Association said that on the 20th anniversary of the riots” we should not allow upcoming generations to forget that day when the far right “challenged our legitimacy and British citizenry to exist in our own country of birth, as the police stood by and ignored our pleas for action.”

He said: “Many of us did not wish to repeat the experiences of our parents, nor would we allow far-right foot soldiers to shout abuse on our doorsteps. More importantly, they, like me, wished to defend their status as British citizens the equal of their opponents. At that time as a community we were united in this belief and that of the failure of institutions and Bradford’s political establishment to protect us. Our aim was to face our racist critics and emphasise that we were not going anywhere as British Bradfordian people. The diversity of youth with us on the streets that day; black, brown and white, demonstrated our collective embrace of the future while the BNP clung to their outdated past.

“Twenty years on, I wonder if anything has really changed in the local authority psyche that appears to remain in a state of perplexed ambivalence if not denial of race issues so recently re-emphasised by Black Lives Matter as a global grass roots response to systematic injustices.”

In the weeks after the riots, much effort was made by communities to heal wounds. A ‘Mums’ Army’ of Muslim women sought to bring cohesion to Manningham, Heaton and Girlington. At a meeting at Manningham’s Millan Centre, women condemned the violence and called on parents to take firm action. They started street patrols. One mum said: “We are part of this society. We have to tell our children to respect their elders, black, white or Asian, and the mother is the main person who can do this.”

Elizabeth Hellmich still runs the Safe Areas For Everyone (SAFE) project set up after the riots. She said relations between people of different cultural backgrounds have improved: “Immediately afterwards people were talking to people they’d never have spoken to previously, many from different cultures became friends. It’s still the case that communities are mixing far more than they did. That has definitely improved.”

But, she adds, what is lacking is Government and in turn local authority funding for youth facilities: “There is nowhere near enough directed towards that, and policing needs to be stepped up so young people know they’re safe out and about.”

Visiting Bradford two months after the riots, Prince Charles pledged to help re-build bridges, after meeting young adults and members of Business in the Community, who gave him candid views on the city’s needs. The following years saw various projects aimed at strengthening community relations. Bradford Vision created an action plan aimed at uniting the district, which came out of Lord Ouseley’s report.

The Very Revd, Jerry Lepine, Dean of Bradford Cathedral, said: “I arrived in Bradford 12 years after the riots. They were clearly still a powerful memory. I know my predecessor Dr David Ison worked really hard to deepen relationships between faiths. The cathedral continues to work with faith communities across the city and we have a particularly strong connection with schools.

“Today Bradford is in a very different place. It is more secure in itself and is building on its strengths. We know how to work and stand together in responding appropriately to challenging moments. Indeed, I believe that this city has good experience to share with others.”