An inquiry into the Handsworth and Lozells riots painted a grim picture of the area as one of the most deprived in the country.

Riddled with drug dealers and criminals, statistics recorded before the two-day nightmare, revealed the drastic scale of social and economic decline. It was only a matter of time before it sowed the seed for violent anarchy.

A quarter of a century later, the suburb has undergone extensive regeneration, with community groups, the police, Birmingham City Council and Government organisations like Urban Living, working together to make it a peaceful and pleasant place to live.

Various projects include CMAT, which helps budding musicians to develop their talent, and Mothers in Pain, a charity group that supports families that have become victims of gangland violence and which also encourages children away from that environment.

Handsworth also plays host to Europe’s biggest allotments in Oxhill Road. Not only is it appealing to green-fingered adults, but children too.

It’s a far cry from the race riots in 1985 and, indeed, the most recent troubles in 2005.

Bob Ramdhanie, operations director at CMAT, explained how the organisation has helped the people.

“We help to regenerate people through their souls and spirit,” he said. “Music is an effective vehicle for breaking down barriers.”

Another community project that has been attracting attention is Mothers In Pain, which is based in Grove Lane, Handsworth.

Set up by Thelma Perkins, after her son was shot and seriously injured in a gangland confrontation, she decided to do something about the growing violence within the community.

She has helped to support numerous families whose lives have been torn apart by knife and gun grime and has even placed four former gang members in jobs.

New businesses are not afraid to open their doors in Lozells Road, despite it being the area where most of the rioting took place.

Lupinder Jit, 43, opened his clothing shop Fuschia just three months ago in Francis Road, but the history of the vicinity didn’t put him off.

He said: “I knew about the riots in Lozells Road, but I recognised this as an area which had good business potential and there were opportunities here. For us business has been really good and we have built up a great customer base.

“Initially I was slightly concerned about the riots, but the area is nothing like it once was, and there has been a lot of investment into Lozells.”

Sector Inspector for the area Dannielle Corfield, of West Midlands Police, said there were still misconceptions about Lozells and Handsworth.

“They are great places to work. I wish I could sell tickets to visit the area. There is a great change and improvement. Figures show that there is a reduction in gun crime by 57 per cent. That is a big reduction over seven years and it shows how things are different here.

“We have a great community spirit and the improvements are all down to the relationships and partnerships between the police and the people. That is the real success here.”

Other statistics show a 13 per cent reduction in crime, and a 19 per cent slash in violent crime.

Although unemployment is still higher than anticipated, with about a third of the working age population in Lozells claiming benefits over the last four years, there are clear signs of improvement in the area.

Huge investment in housing has also helped to improve the suburbs.

Councillor Alan Rudge, who is in charge of community cohesion for Birmingham City Council, added: “I never think about what happened in 1985 because the area is so different now. The suburbs are exciting and cosmopolitan and full of energy.”

Adnan Saif, Urban Living’s chief executive, added: “Lozells and Handsworth are at the heart of a vibrant and super-diverse area.

“These neighbourhoods and their communities make a unique contribution to the cultural and economic life of the city.”

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Capturing the carnage and tackling the issues

The regeneration of Handsworth since the riots 25 years ago is the focus of a photographic exhibition.

The display Photographing Handsworth: Representing Handsworth 25 Years On, focuses on how the community has transformed following the terrifying attacks on September 9 and 10, 1985.

Alongside the work of established artists such as Pogus Caesar, Vanley Burke and George Hallett, the exhibition features the photographs of a group of year nine students at Holte Visual and Performing Arts College in Lozells, as well as the self portraits of visitors to Handsworth Library and shoppers on the Soho Road.

A discussion will then be hosted by the University of Birmingham on September 15 into what took place in Handsworth in 1985. It will be chaired by the respected academic Dr Robert Beckford, and feature a panel of academics, community leaders and artists.

The event will explore the context for the riots, some of the key issues of the period and the extent to which things have changed in the years since the unrest. This will take place in front of an audience who will have the opportunity to participate in the event during question-and-answer sessions.

Keiron Connell, who has put together the exhibition, said: “The events of 1985 represent a watershed moment not only in the post-war history of Birmingham but also of Britain more generally, and the university is taking an active role in researching what happened in collaboration with the local community.

“We believe it is important the city of Birmingham engages with the issues we are tackling and are keen for our events to reach as wider audience as possible.”

 * The exhibition will take place at Handsworth Library until September 14 and then move on to the University of Birmingham from September 22 to October 29.

>Handsworth Riots: 25 years on from a night of hell 
>Handsworth Riots 25 years on: The innocent brothers who died protecting their Post Office 
>Handsworth Riots 25 years on: The aftermath and decades of rebuilding 

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