New book on Burnley Disturbances explores race and politics in the town and beyond

The infamous 'Burnley Disturbances' of 2001 are the subject of an in-depth new book by a former Burnley Council employee.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 3:55 pm

"On Burnley Road: Class, Race and Politics in a Northern English Town" is the work of Mike Makin-Waite, the council worker responsible for promoting good race relations following the disturbances which saw fighting and rioting between white and Asian youths on the weekend of June 23rd and 24th.

It looks at what was happening at Burnley Town Hall in the immediate aftermath of the trouble and how far right groups such as the British National Party sought to gain advantage of the febrile atmosphere, which they initially succeeded in when they gained their first borough council seats nationally in Burnley.

Not confined to looking at history, Mike's book also explores the contemporary influence that the disturbances, alongside those in other neighbouring northern towns that summer would act as a harbinger of the shift towards populism that he believes later resulted in Brexit and the election of Boris Johnson's government.

Mike Makin-Waite at the launch of his new book

Mike, an avowed Labour supporter, said: "In many ways what happened in Burnley was a pre-cursor to how British politics was going to be shaped in terms of the rise of UKIP, Farage, Brexit and Johnson's Conservative party."

Guest academic speakers addressed an audience in the Dr Iven suite at Turf Moor for the launch of Mike's book, with comments also made from the floor regarding the disturbances and what has happened since.

Many agreed that Burnley's disturbances were not purely motivated on racial grounds, commenting that deprivation, the need for scapegoats and even the hot weather had contributed to the flare-up.

Mike said: "The 9/11 terrorist atrocity later the same year changed the rhetoric and made such issues largely about Islam and religion. Post-2011 most of the organisations that were there because of the problems have disappeared. They deserve to be funded now. We've still got the same issues.

"The Red Wall has collapsed in the North, including Burnley, and we have seen the rise of populism. I think Labour took people for granted."