Author: Josh Allen

A6 sized book Black and white border, background and text saying that it is Handsworth Riots 1985, by Pogus Ceasar and edited by Craig Atkinson of Cafe Royal Books. Cover image is a black and white photograph of a small group of firefighters attempting to put out a fire that has been started in a car which has been turned on its side on a street of Victorian terraced houses

Review: Handsworth Riots 1985

Living in Birmingham and being interested in photography I have long been aware of the brilliant body of documentary photographic work produced by Pogus Caesar over the last four decades. However, it only through Kieran Connell’s excellent Black Handsworth which came out last year, that I became truly aware of his status as the premier visual chronicler of the 1985 riots which took place in that area of north west Birmingham. As such, when I found Café Royal Books were publishing Handsworth Riots 1985 a series of Caesar’s work documenting the event, I knew that I had to get a copy. Published almost 35 years to the day the riots began, the staple bound pamphlet in Café Royal’s trademark austere, black and white minimalism (resplendent in connotations of the best post-war British photo reportage publications) completely fulfilled my expectations.  On a primary level what the photos selected for the volume convey to the viewer a sense at once of what rioting in a mid-1980s inner Birmingham suburb looked like, and how the area looked in …

Activist Selly Oak: Public History and Community Activism in Birmingham

This article first appeared on History Workshop Online on 13/03/2019. It was commissioned by Dr. Rachel Moss during her History Workshop Online Editorial Fellowship. In January (2019’s) issue of Tribune the geographer David Harvey explores housing commodification’s corrosive impact upon society. Reflecting upon his childhood home in suburban Kent, he shows that his family’s “house was a use value — stolid in its ordinariness”. In political economy use value refers to an object or a structure’s practical value to the user, whilst exchange value refers to the object’s potential financial or barter value if it is sold or exchanged, meaning that when Harvey’s parents owned it, the house’s purpose was primarily to provide the family with shelter and somewhere to build their lives. Harvey contrasts this with the highly financialised place of housing in contemporary society, arguing that in “…the city of speculative gain: occupancy becomes unstable and ephemeral, social solidarities and neighbourhood commonalities disintegrate.” This trend has played out dramatically and with highly detrimental results in Birmingham’s Selly Oak area, as I discovered while working on a …