Nick Dobson on his talk ‘London: A City in Turmoil’

Posted on April 5, 2016 in News, tagged with Events, Nick Dobson, Riots, Ten Days

Illustration for Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge (1841) by Phiz

Illustration for Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge (1841) by Phiz

If you mention the words “Riot” and “London” in the same sentence, you will most likely think of our capital’s recent history. After all, it is less than five years since the “England Riots” of 2011 started in North London, and many of us will remember the Brixton Riots of 1981 and 1995 and the Broadwater Farm Riot that resulted in the death of PC Keith Blakelock, the first police officer to be killed in a riot in Britain since 1833. However, unrest has been present in London for the best part of 1000 years. It has simmered beneath a superficially tranquil surface, breaking out into full riot on regular occasions to prove that, far from being the beacon of law and order we sometimes complacently believe it to be, London has been and continues to be a city in turmoil.

Throughout this April, I will be speaking about London’s long history of riots as part of this year’s Cityread London. I will be presenting my talk in libraries from Surbiton to Sidcup and from Norbury to Muswell Hill. 16 performances in total plus other London-related talks and even a quiz, all part of this wonderful annual celebration of literature in London.

Without giving too much away, ‘London: a City in Turmoil’ will look at riots going right back to the Massacre of the Jews at the Coronation of Richard I in 1189. We will trace common themes and causes in London’s riots through the ages, comparing modern football hooligan-inspired riots with their medieval equivalent: a riot started at a 1221 wrestling match between the citizens of London and those of Westminster. We will discover that the riots of the past, such as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and the Gordon Riots of 1780, have much in common with say the Brixton Riots of 1981. We will also uncover new trends in rioting seen in the capital’s latest major unrest. In all of this, we will hear the words from contemporary or near contemporary sources both official and, often more interestingly, non-official.

Like most of Nick’s talks, ‘London: a City in Turmoil’ is fully illustrated and uncovers some fascinating insights into London’s violent history. This is one of over 40 talks he offers on subjects ranging from Dickens to Gilbert and Sullivan and World War I to Horticulture, many of which have been inspired by Cityread London. If you would like full details (including prices), please email Nick at