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Page last updated at 09:23 GMT, Monday, 25 October 2010 10:23 UK
Handsworth riots: How deep are the scars 25 years on?
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Pogus Caesar remembers Handsworth riots of 1985

It's a moment in time that left an indelible mark on the history of Birmingham.

The riots in Handsworth in 1985 saw some of the worst urban violence Britain had ever seen.

And local artist and photographer Pogus Caesar found himself caught up in the heart of the unfolding battles.

The images that Pogus took in 48 hours provided a startling and horrifying insight into naked anger and terrifying violence on inner city streets.

A dark, chaotic time

But those pictures lay hidden for 20 years - and he destroyed many of the negatives.

The Handsworth riots in 1985
Simmering tensions led to streets becoming an urban battleground

On BBC Inside Out West Midlands on Monday, 25 October, Pogus explains why he waited so long to reveal the photographs that graphically illustrate such a dark and chaotic period in Birmingham's history. "If you pass on your images to a newspaper, they have to sensationalise them. I would have had to live with that, and it's something I wouldn't have been proud of," Pogus reveals.

The Handsworth riots produced a massive media reaction, but Pogus was able to get where reporters could not. He was a local man who was trusted.

"When the pictures came to life, I was very pleased with what I had taken," he said.

Firebombs, violence, death

"It was an important way of showing not only the community but the wider public at large what we were kind of witnessing at that particular time."

Twenty five years on, Pogus reflects on the simmering tensions that created an urban battleground with violent clashes, looted shops, firebombed buildings, and the deaths of two people.

"The first thing that really hit me was the choking smoke," he remembers.

"There were bottles flying everywhere, there were stones, there were flames, there were cars being overturned.

The Handsworth riots in 1985
Violent clashes between rioters and the police lasted hours

"There were black people, Asian people, white people - a lot of people saw themselves in crisis."

A resilient community

But what of Handsworth in 2010? And what future does Pogus see for an area that still has a colourful mix of cultures?

"It is a resilient community, it's a community that's getting better and when I talk to people who live here they are trying to heal a lot of wounds.

"The scars of 1985 will never heal completely but people of Handsworth are strong, they are resilient.

"The candles are burning slowly but the flame is bright."

Inside Out West Midlands is on BBC1 at 7.30pm on Monday, 25 October.




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