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The making of The Riots: In Their Own Words

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Nicola Cutcher Nicola Cutcher | 14:11 UK time, Friday, 13 July 2012

The riots across England in August 2011 should need no introduction. Following the police shooting of Mark Duggan, a peaceful protest in Tottenham developed into explosive violent disorder.

Over five days trouble spread across the country with people looting, setting fire to property and attacking the police.

Actor Youssef Beruain playing a rioter

Actor Youssef Beruain playing a rioter

Five people died and over 2,500 shops and businesses were damaged. To date 1,290 rioters have been sent to jail.

After those shocking days the media erupted with politicians and commentators discussing what had happened and why.

But nobody was hearing from the people directly involved in the disorder to find out what they had to say about their behaviour. Why had they acted like they did? Were they sorry or would they do it again?

One reason for this silence is that those who had been caught were mainly in custody. Those who hadn't been caught didn't want to appear on camera for fear of public judgement, reprisals or arrest.

There was no government inquiry into the causes and consequences of the unrest. Into this void stepped Reading The Riots.

Conducted by the London School of Economics and The Guardian, this social research project interviewed 270 people who were involved in the disorder.

The interviews were conducted anonymously to allow those involved to speak more freely.

The BBC didn't get involved until after the interviews were completed, so the production team played no role in the decision to grant anonymity to those the researchers spoke to.

As a TV production team, we were faced with the decision whether to use this important and illuminating piece of work, even though it granted anonymity to criminals.

In our view it was justified because of the insights it provides into why and how the riots had happened. Even we, the programme makers, were never to know the true identities of the people featured in the research and subsequently, The Riots: In Their Own Words.

As the assistant producer I worked with my colleagues to think about how the research could be brought to life on television and accessed by a wider audience.

The original interviews had been recorded as audio files and this led us to approach the dramatist Alecky Blythe.

Actor Youssef Beruain and Acky Blythe

Youssef and Alecky Blythe

Alecky creates plays from real interviews - mixing journalism with drama to create what is called verbatim theatre.

She uses a performance style called recorded delivery, requiring actors to wear earphones.

The cast don't learn any lines. Instead they listen to the recording and talk a few seconds behind, mimicking the tone and pace of delivery so that they capture the essence of the person and the intention of the words as they were first spoken.

The result is a very naturalistic and believable performance.

We were excited about the potential of this delivery for television because we felt it would give veracity to our dramatisation.

Working with Alecky, we selected 11 interviews to recreate extracts of. Hopefully viewers would experience the original interviews in a manner as true-to-life as possible, while we could maintain the anonymity of the interviewees.

The dialogue is startlingly candid and confiding because neither the interviewer or interviewee are presenting themselves to the public, but engaging in a conversation protected by anonymity for the purposes of social research.

Whilst we are able to listen in to these accounts to garner fresh insights, viewers may feel frustrated or even angry because the tone of the interviews is very different to what we might expect from BBC TV: as journalists we challenge our interviewees and ask them to justify their words, but we can't here.

Similarly we can't elucidate what our characters say or ask them to explain references that they make.

Some speak in a street vernacular that is likely to be unfamiliar to many BBC Two viewers and some of the nuances and context of what they talk about are in danger of being lost.

To balance viewpoints over the two-part series, episode two features testimony from police officers who were on the frontline during the riots and offers a very different perspective upon what happened on those nights.

Alecky's method presented a new challenge to us in translating this technique from stage to screen.

Actor Calum Callaghan wearing an earpiece

Actor Calum Callaghan wearing an earpiece

On stage the headphones can be visible and accepted as a stylistic device. On screen we wanted naturalism so camera, sound and make up all worked together to ensure the earpieces were invisible at all times.

Each actor was given one tiny earpiece that could be disguised by hair and make up and one larger earpiece that would be hidden by the camera angle.

Many of the actors thrived using the technique and if anything, the challenge will be reminding the audience that they are watching actors and not documentary footage.

The actor Calum Callaghan said to me: "It felt fresh and was such an electric way of working. It's also surprising how informative someone's voice is - I could imagine how he would sit and what he'd be doing with his hands. You just let go and trust what you hear".

Nicola Cutcher is the assistant producer of The Riots: In Their Own Words.

The Riots: In Their Own Words was originally scheduled for Monday, 16 July but was postponed after a judge overseeing a riot-related trial in Birmingham issued a court order preventing it from being broadcast.

The trial has ended and the first programme will now be shown on Monday, 13 August at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC HD.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    The reason there will be no public enquiry is the results will show government, police and communities at fault.

  • Comment number 2.

    I understand that the riots are an important social issue and that you are probably not in charge of the scheduling. Do we really need to be brought back to earth with such a bump the night after everyone has been feeling buoyed up by the Olympic effect ? Could it not have waited until after the Paralympic Games to get back to real life?

  • Comment number 3.

    Jack Sparrow, you're so wrong it's untrue.
    It's a shame that the BBC went over the top with the naturalistic theme of the show, how they used actors mimicking the real interviews (somewhat) was good, but adding in things such as drug usage was just damaging to teenagers, which, if every teenager had been involved in the riots, would be great. But there are millions of teenagers who weren't involved, and, thanks to the riots (which lead to this), the damaging stereotype, which was partially a reason for the riots, has only got worse.

    Also, some of the people interviewed were so dumb it's amazing. What was that man thinking when he said "it's like a story to tell your grand kids - like world war 2"!? And how that women encouraged attacking the police. I'd rather not have this show, and give them some intelligence instead.

  • Comment number 4.

    Having just watched this programme (regrettably so) I can't help but question the timing of it. The day after the conclusion of the greatest show on earth. A time when every Londoner couldn't be happier or prouder to be part of this city. When the riots of last year couldn't be further from most peoples minds. The BBC think this would be a good moment to remind us all of it and rid us all the good feeling the Olympics has left?

    I'm not suggesting last summer is something that needs to be forgotten or that lessons still don't need to be learned. i just don't think today was the time to do so.

    And the less said about the portrayal of some of the people in this programme the better!

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree the police tactics were definatly partly to blame, a water canon & bulldozer could have instantly stopped the riots.

    I also think media coverage showing people getting away with 42" LED tv's made it irresistible to the freeloaders and others.

    Prison is not enough to sort these people out, hard labour & REAL discipline army style. Why should we pay up to £60,000 a year to house these convicts. Put them to work and pay their debt to society!

    Phew... I'm done.

  • Comment number 6.

    We're these thugs paid for their interviews? I can not believe that 1 of them was not only proud to tell his grand kids of his involvement, he actually compared it to the horrors our brave heros had to go through during WW1 and WW2.

    I feel a small amount of blame towards the government. But only because they have allowed such a society where thugs can do as they like and be protected by idiotic human rights laws. They should have no rights.

    An that's coming from someone who's stupid brother served time for this.

    Give more powers to the police. That's what I say.

  • Comment number 7.

    I just finished watching the first series of The making of the Riots: In their own words. I found the programme frustrating because throughout the programme we heard often how middle class people were involved in the riots, however the programme focused on the black characters mainly. The key issue for me was why were the producers showing most of the black males smoking weed and the real riot footage mainly focusing on black males looting too. This isn't going to show anything but just incite further racial tension across the country. I would like answers to why the programme was produced this way? I read that the producers interviewed 250 rioters and therefore why were these people chosen?

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh yeah, another thing, rubber bullets, water cannons and everything else should of been used. After the first day, if the news showed the police using rubber bullets, the riots would of stopped instantly.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    This docu-DRAMA portrayed (incorrectly) that the rioters were created and caused by "gang" members, apart from the token middle class woman, who apparently was a school governor. This program was irresponsible in its portrayal, as some viewers may believe that this is a factual account of what happened in the London riots, when really, it's the program makers perspective and opinion on what they want you to believe. The riots were a mixture of people, class, gender, race, etc etc. Don't push all of the blame on the people from underprivileged background, because it is a false account.

  • Comment number 11.

    I watched the programme this evening--the words self discipline were non existent. Two wrongs never make a right.--The thoughts of these criminals to me were abhorent being born during the war. To hear an aggrieved mother declaring war on the police-wanting black people to fight the police but not break the law in other directions is naive in the extreme. Police officers black or white have families as well--if this was in china many of the rioters would now have "been disappeared" --bring back some old fashioned disciplines-- I grew up with rationing shortages, smog, no central heating refrigerators cars ice inside the windows--childhood friends with rickets etc. Yes every one should be part of society--the true culprits are the succesive politicians and short term popularity to win the next election. Politicians make the laws not the police,politicians withold the money and spend it in ways not benefitting our home communities. Suddenly it is "politic" because of the success of the Olympics to talk about the legacy. Why were school playing fields sold off-why subjects such as music sport and religion sidelined--the answer of course money----the real answer--stupidity! The riots were the tip of the iceberg--do not think this has gone away. Our society today is sick--unemployment--too much health and safety rubbish-too much interference from Brussels--too much something for nothing attitudes--banking fiascos---above all a lack of firm leadership in old fashioned morality and self disciplines and reliance. Do not give people money--food vouchers-utility vouchers etc are far better, and would save in the long term. I could say more-much more-but I would lose credibility!

  • Comment number 12.

    Can't believe you gave these people a platform to try and 'justify' their actions. I expected more from the BBC.

    These people look to blame everyone for their actions apart from themselves.

    The interviewers didint ask any tough questions like do they want murderers, paedos, rapists and thieves on the street amoungst their families?

    There is no way that the police can do their job without offending people along the way or they would never catch anyone. The police work their bottoms off doing rubbish hours away from their families to try and keep us all safe. They deal with unspeakable things on a daily basis.

    What have any of the rioters ever done except complain. We have a country without bias where equal opportunity is what we stand for. What more do these people want? When will people be grateful for our safe, loving society and stop being angry about their own failures.

    The BBC are wrong to show this programme at all - let alone after such a happy olympic period. Shame on you!!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    @giorgia, over 50% of the rioters were black. Less than 30% were white.

    The chances of a black person being centre of the show are obviously greater, or should that be ignored?

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    It angers me that the individuals interviewed have not been brought to justice. And, to that middle class, middle aged, wine swilling mother who thought the riots fabulously exciting and thought it such a good idea to go and join the riots with her daughter and watch the police get brutally attacked, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF! You came across as the most idiotic of them all.

  • Comment number 16.

    I take the points that people made about the timing so soon after the Olympics maybe leaving it a week or so would have been better. The programme was well made. I agree with Giorgia it focused slighty too much on black rioters where it was all social groups at it, that in itself would have made interesting TV or would that aid in further shattering the left and liberal reason that it was all down to student grants, unemployment and poverty. What was clear from this programme was that for some education has been a failure.(even though billions has been spent on it) and no matter what class or social group you think you belong to; the something for nothing society, no fear of social shame and destroying your community for personal gain is the thread that binds them all. They are out of step with modern Britain and unless they turn their lives around by admitting their wrongs by coming to terms with it and accepting punishment for what they done their social outcasting will increase. I am looking foreward to part 2 as I hope your programme has aloud Police officers to speak very frankly

  • Comment number 17.

    What a poor attempt of acting as rioters, why oh why would you disgrace such a great Olympic week with this fictional tale of of what the riot would have said and acted like. There are so many people who would and could tell you of there real experience but yet you have young actors smoking drugs and is what you really saw.........really. I hope you get actors to act as police so you give a balanced programme. What a disgrace look for a new career as this one isn't working for you.

  • Comment number 18.

    Having just watched tonight's show I am completely disgusted by the way BBC2 showed the apparent perspectives of the rioters. Firstly I think that if your going to air a show on such a sensitive topic at least tell the full story. Tonight's show was absolute nonsense all it did was portray black people both young and old in a negative light making them (the black community) look ignorant and unintelligent. I believe that a wider selection and a better cross section of the black community should of been selected as opposed to those who were seemingly pleased that the riots took place and the damage that was caused as a result. Also the show concentrated on predominantly black people taking part in the riots, However i distinctly recall their being a large number of individuals from other ethnicities such as Jewish, Asian, Turkish as well as Caucasian. I feel the show was edited in order to depict the black community as the main perpetrators of the wanton destruction that took place. One of my reasons for suggesting this is the way the young Caucasian girl was portrayed in a remorseful manner but each of the black people featured were depicted in a stereotypical way suggesting that all black people dress as thugs, smoke and do not care about society or the impact that there actions had. This is simply not true and I am highly offended that the BRITISH BROADCASTING CHANNEL would willingly air such a biased and in my opinion racist perspective on a show that was supposedly intended to portray a range of opinions across those involved and effected by the riots, and although actors were used i was shocked to see that all but two actors playing these roles were black and were acting in an embarrassing and stereotypically negative manner. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    This programme was outrageously stereo typical and had no depth or credibility due to the heavily loaded acting. It was the most overtly racist TV programme i have ever seen and reminded me of Brass tacks more than Horizon for sure. The rucksack of weed scene, as he said" they stop and search us for nothing" was awful. Are you suggesting someone did this during research ? Tipped out a hundred bags of weed ? i very much doubt it. The BBC is capable of much more analytical and durable work than this. The timing of it was shocking too, just one day after the Olympics joy. Everyone knows that the system and successive governments have caused the riots (more than anything). The riots were genuine outrage at our governments lack of preparation for Globalisation going back to the 60s. To try to pin it on one race, as this programme clearly did, is propaganda extraordinairre. Most people see it from both perspectives POLICE and RIOTERS. This programme had one agenda. PEACE believe in the future 2012

  • Comment number 20.

    Congragulations to the BBC... If it was your absolute mission to increase racial tension across the country and the world as we know it then I'm sure you've been successful. HIPPOCRITES doesn't even begin to describe the makers of this show and the BBC the same advocates of the Olympics, "inspire a nation", instead try adopting the phrases "corrupting a nation" or "disheartening the youth". Your Biasm and one-sided journalism is second to none. When I watched live coverage of the riots I saw people of all ages, nationalities and genders and NOT JUST YOUNG BLACK MAILS. You should be disgusted with yourselves.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree to an extent that timing wasn't great, and at times it was starting to feel a bit sensationalist/inflammatory, but as for the comments above about the acting, it's worth reviewing the original blog above about the method the actors were instructed to act... "The cast don't learn any lines. Instead they listen to the recording and talk a few seconds behind, mimicking the tone and pace of delivery so that they capture the essence of the person and the intention of the words as they were first spoken." So there is little room for massive interpretation or misrepresentation.

    Of course there could well still be some bias from the selection of interviews and vignettes, and the bit with the guys with lots of bags of cannabis seemed a bit sensational, but overall these are real things that people said, shocking though it is in places.

    Equally, the original blog above explains why the questions aren't standard investigative journalism... that the interviews were all completed by independent researchers as part of another project, before the BBC were ever involved.

    I think overall a well made piece of television and I'll be interested to see the second installment.

  • Comment number 23.



    WHEN YOU SUFFER FROM DEPRESSION AS YOUNG PEOPLE DO, AND THERE UNWARE OF IT!....THERES NOBODY AROUND TO DIAGNOSE/LISTEN TO THEIR CONDTION!... DEALING WITH IT IS HOW YOU SETTLE IT, AND THATS WERE IT BEGINS...(if your not aware or in control of this condition, this can turn out worst)... the fact thAT many young people TODAY are depressed which will go un-noticed and untreated is just disgracful. I wouldnt consider just putting leaflets in clincs, but how about introducing that as a small project to a secondary school (having a health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else trustworthy to help identify/solve conditions.


    (~#..as far as im concerned if i handed in a CV for a sales assistant role with experience in this and they dont get back to me, yet i see the same role advertising 1month later, thats giving me enough to believe the system has got serious issues.

    WHEN YOU SEE THE STRUGGLE YOUR MUM GOES THROUGH (AND EVERYONE MAY RELATE)COMPLAINING ABOUT BILLS, YOU WANT TO HELP, YOU WANT TO DO SOMTHING WITH YOUSELF...' Then the next day your standing behind 25 people in the post office/bank/shopping centre wondering why there's only 2cashiers...?



    i COULD GO ON FOR-EVER...BUT I DO KNOW THE GOVERMENT ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY ABOUT IT........WHICH IS NO EXCUSE FOR BURNING BUILDINGS, ABUSING VICTIMS OR DAMAGING OTHERS PROPERTY AS IN SOME CASES IT GOT WAY OUT OF HAND. But i believe looting and riots was done for some type of attention (control) and it was a opportunity to take, as you dont get much opportunities elsewere.

    You seem to spend more and more every year on tfl, hmrevenue think its ok to be messing up your taxcodes, how comes PPI was so secretive (daylight robbery)..... then they want to charge you half of what you slaved your back-side at work for (for letting you know) uni fee's going up, (hear this one: if u change your course at uni you got to pay 3times the tution) ...now i have to think? Are they seriously trying to help?

    so forgive them for taking stuff without paying, i can gurantee it wasnt to offend any other person apart from actions of police and the governmernt.



  • Comment number 24.

    @11 hannydra. I think your comments are very credible and show a balanced view on this EXTREMELY WORRYING matter.

    @22 willonthehill. The producers claim their technique as VERBATIM THEATRE. Verbatim means as is, or perfect reproduction. Yet their methods are INTERPRETIVE and allow far too much interpretation by the actors. The OLYMPICS were verbatim theatre, in the real world. Come on surely you must think the weed and chip eating was derogatory. Where were the white middle class rioters in the interviews ? Not one? really ? just the poor lad with mental issues was it ?

    @20 I agree mate. That programme just divided us further and should be declared as a mistake by the new BBC chief. Im up for free speech, but not twisted propaganda with cruel timing.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ tashan. I hear you pain and understand the misery of applying for jobs and not hearing back from them. Or like one actor said " buying suit and shoes and not hearing back" - not even a phone call. The BBC would do well to do a REAL DOCUMENTARY about how "Recruitment departments have turned all HR - ie the concept of HUMANS as RESOURCES, not INDIVIDUALS". You just gotta keep believing my friend. Keep trying, keep smiling and don't let them rob your self respect. Don't let them turn you to crime. The whole system needs criminals to justify and begin the social pecking order nonsense. I respect you, if that makes any difference 80)

  • Comment number 26.

    I cannot understand why so many viewers believe this show is 'inciting racism'. Did we watch the same show? The sample of people interviewed was a true reflection of those involved. Young, old, black, white and aisan. With this mix of interview subjects, I can only assume that those of you who believe this was aimed at black males are speaking of the actual riot footage. Unfortunately the producers cannot change this, the black males were there, rioting. It was their choice and they should not be defended. The shows producers did a good job. The actors were great and their portrayal of these thugs was accurate. I am a secondary school teacher and unfortunately many of our pupils talk in this way and believe the world owes them something.
    The comment made by Youssef about hitting the shops who hadn't given him a job disgusted me. These kids think they can breeze through school, not turning up, disrupting lessons, fighting, vandalising, being abusive to staff and not putting the slightest bit of effort in. Then they wonder why they aren't being considered for jobs? Don't they know that teachers write references for them? That their poor attendance and exclusion history goes with them along with their awful results?
    I'm afraid that in most cases they have no one to blame but themselves. It's not right to blame the government, although I whole heartedly disagree with the way they are running this country, it has not made me into a criminal.
    Those of you who speak of broken, neglectful homes? This is not a 'working class' epidemic. Abusive relationships, divorce, alcoholism, death and drug abuse affect all classes. The difference is that some people don't blame their background, they just man up and get on with their lives. The buck stops with you, you make your own life, it's your choice.
    This comment shouldn't pass without a quick nod to 'MILP' (Mother I'd Like to Punch).
    This ridiculous woman should be ashamed. Society needs people who think they are 'a bit mad'; 'kooky'; 'worldly' and very VERY middle class like it needs a hole in the head. Your daughter should be embarrassed and she is right, you are a bad mum. Stop doing things to show off to your friends!

  • Comment number 27.

    Wow, yet another lost opportunity to show how young people REALLY feel.

    We have abandoned our young and shown them very little about real life. We have abandoned them and left them to their own devices and in exchange we have chosen drugs, alcohol, luxury foods and other escapes.

    If the programme makers bothered to ask intelligent questions I guarantee we would have seen some top notch intelligent answers.

    When you interview young angry people you usually get whats on the surface and it isn't a representation of the deeper human. It isn't what they 'feel'. Anyone who is a parent will know this, they rant and throw stones and verbally abuse you and after they let off steam they talk about how they really feel. We are pussy's to them, we forgot how to be the boss and now they have no respect for us.

    The people you should fear the most are not the people throwing bricks but the people who you voted for. They have all of you in the palm of their hands making you dance whenever they like and feeding thoughts and opinions.

    When people see injustices being dished out on our own doorsteps to our own people surely the obvious thing to do is to get up and and say something, but our voices remain silent and our actions passive. This is how we 'teach' our young to behave. People don't say anything or put their neck on the line because they are too self interested and are scared of losing their job, their status, of being 'struck off', pushed out of their exclusive cliques, abandoned, blacklisted, hungry, unable to pay the mortgage, and all the other 'things' that give them their sense of security and identity and status. I'm all right jack.

    Trainers, electronic gadgets, are depressing quick fixes to a paranoia that is within these young people. A paranoia which is just like yours.

    We ride past our young on the train of ignorance and armchair opinion whilst the REAL rioters are demolishing our towns and cities, bankrupting all we worked for, disintegrating hundreds of positive community services, investing in machines that will do our future jobs and dangling the carrot of hope whilst actively encouraging activities that lead to more and more social deprivation.

    And to keep hold of the fruits of these pursuits they over discriminate so that we feel an inner urge to protect it, value it and tend to it as if it were our very own child, in the mean time our real, living children wonder where the hell WE are when they need us. So keep popping the pills of ignorance and dishing out the electronic devices to shut them up, keep putting the high grade skunk and cocaine and nonsense TV on their laps

    The reality of 'our' real lives does not taste good to you yet it is 'us' who are trying to live them. Always telling us what to do or what not to do but yet you are never there for us, never standing up for us. The only time you get up is when something is being taken from you. You want all things all ways

    What young people have to put up with is depressing and unjust. It seems to me that our economic structure has continually crippled families so much that we are almost completely broken. We are sick and tired of being lectured by these so called educated hypocrites.

    The leaders should stop promoting competition, money, over sexualised unintelligent boring and violent tv and start to help us promote well being, structure, consistency, life skills, parenting skills, respect between men and woman BEFORE the young leave schools

    The programme makers should be sacked and struck off.

  • Comment number 28.

    i am wondering about out doors footage on this programme.

    Part of it was original footage from CCTV some may be have been recorded by journalists and maybe also recorded by the public.
    but i have the impression that not all of it was original footage but recorded on Studios or made up with computers help.

    could some one clarify where the outdoor footage comes from?
    It is original riots material or it has been made up by the programme team?
    where the crowds images where taken from? which archives? where have they been recorded ?

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm only surprised there's not more riots to be honest. Life today is very cruel. Those with everything want it all to themselves.

  • Comment number 30.

    I think the BBC missed an opportunity here. There was a story to tell, but the use of actors was immediately off-putting. Silhouetted figures telling their own stories would have worked much better.
    Also running it as a two-parter is a mistake. The rioters' voices and the police voices should have been alternated. In addition, these accounts must have been selected from hundreds, so why on earth did they allow the inclusion of the woman saying she wanted to see the police 'battered', and 'a bloody good hiding' and loads more along those lines.
    I don't agree with censorship, but I am a Londoner, and was scared during those few days. There was one point when we felt like everything was falling apart, and my friends, black and white, wanted the protection of the police. I know the police have a lot of questions to answer over Duggan and many other issues. Allowing the advocating of this kind of hatred isn't that helpful though, is it?
    Quite frankly, this programme made most of the people involved look like total inarticulate idiots.

  • Comment number 31.

    Thank you all for your comments and feedback. I thought I'd try and answer a few of the questions that have been raised.
    There have been some comments about the timing of this programme coming the day after the Olympics closing ceremony. The film was scheduled for broadcast on the 16th July but the BBC received a court order at the last moment preventing the film from being shown until a riot-related trial had finished in Birmingham. This film is the first of two - the next episode on Monday 20th August focusses on the experience of police officers during the riots - and both films were intended to be shown before the Olympics. The BBC also wanted the films to go out as close as possible to the anniversary of the riots.

    @Georgia To answer your question about how the interviews were chosen - we selected and dramatised 11 interviews from the 270 conducted in the original research. It was very hard to choose a few to represent so many as every interview was different. When selecting interviews, we were trying to reflect the range of characters and opinions in the original research as broadly as possible but we were also looking for people who were memorable and distinctive characters who described their actions and feelings clearly. 
    In terms of the race of interviewees - the Reading the Riots research recorded the ethnicity of their interviewees as 47% Black, 26% White, 17% as Mixed/Other and 4.5% Asian with the remainder not self-declared. We tried to broadly reflect this when choosing 11 interviews from the 270 interviews conducted in the original research. In the final film there are 5 interviews with black interviewees out of 11 interviews. @StealthDiamond there were 6, not 2, interviews with non-black interviewees. There is the middle-aged white Mum in Tottenham who goes out with her daughter, the teenage girl in her kitchen, the boy in prison with mental health issues, an Eastern European man in prison, the Salford man sitting in a pub and the boy in an office chair who was glad to see everything on fire.

    @gotthehump You make the point that you feel our programme stereotyped people. As @WillOnTheHill commented, and my blog above explains, the actors were performing whilst listening to the original interviews and repeated what they heard word for word. Alecky Blythe was very strict, when directing these performances, to ensure that the actors replicated what they heard faithfully and did not embellish the text or delivery in any way. So this was how the real interviewees spoke. 
    We also tried to recreate the setting and context of the real interviews as faithfully as possible. The original recordings give you lots of clues - for example, you can hear when people are smoking or eating - and then we got the exact details from the researchers who conducted the interviews. So the boy who was ill in bed was indeed eating pizza and chips and he did tip over a hundred bags of weed out of his backpack at that moment in the interview - that's why the interviewer reacts with such surprise. We didn't invent these details as that would be irresponsible, inaccurate and totally inappropriate but we also didn't shy away from representing the reality for fear of how that might be interpreted.

    @whatusernameisnotalreadytaken The programme doesn't portray that the riots were created or caused by gang members. This would certainly be inaccurate as no credible research suggests that gangs played a significant organising role. In fact, one of the things that I found most surprising whilst researching the programme was how many of the rioters described the riots as 'peaceful' and a time when they felt happy and safe, precisely because usual gang hostilities (such as the postcode war) were suspended during the riots. For people interested in reading more on this theme, I recommend this article analysing the Reading the Riots research findings:

    @hypocrites I heed your point that "when you interview young angry people you usually get what's on the surface and it isn't a representation of the deeper human". The National Centre for Social Research noted this problem in their own report in the riots. I recommend reading pages 11 and 12 of their report:

    @haringenho All of the archive footage is real archive from the riots - we have not invented any of it. Our archive researcher gathered material from all the media organisations, CCTV and lots of user-generated content that people had taken on their own cameras and mobile phones and was sent in to media organisations or posted on Youtube and other video-sharing websites.

    There are links to further research under 'Related Links' on our programme page if you are interested in deeper analysis:

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm not best impressed with this 'dramatisation' of rioters interviews. I does nothing to tackle the underlying issues and simply trashes the interviewed. The BBC have managed to produce a program barely worthy of Sky or 5. The young black actor playing the 'weed dealer' could hardly have rolled his eyes or pouted his lips more. WE'VE BEEN 'BAMBOOZLED'.

  • Comment number 33.

    @ Nicola Cutcher

    Thank you for your partial reply to my comments. I love the fact that we have free speech and grown up debate in this country, so to get your reply was very encouraging.

    On the weed man... who actually counted over a hundred bags of weed ? i doubt the researcher did because that would be illegal no ?
    On the stereo-typing... were the 3 black men in the car part of the research too ? i didn't see a researcher in the car. There was some subliminal messages there for sure.
    On the stereo-typing... you say yourself that 6 white people were included but i say again... where were the white, MIDDLE CLASS london rioters in your show ? Just vague talk of a straw hat and flip flops from my recollections. Almost endearing eh ? I remember the first court cases and there were many employed white people involved.
    On the "production values"... First you claim that "actors did not EMBELISH in ANY WAY". That's impossible because "hearing noises" and interpretation were at play here. Of course EMBELLISHMENTS occured. These people were actors ! it was NOT VERBATIM.
    On the "production vales"...you say you did not invent DETAILS "as that would be irresponsible, inaccurate and totally inappropriate". I would suggest that EMBELLISHMENTS are DETAILS and therefore your totally inappropriate programme has been exposed. Here we see, what people on the street see as INSTITUTIONAL RACISM (but class is at work here too).
    I hope this helps your understanding of much angst caused by BBC vis a vis "race and class in our society".

    My friend and i won a competition at the BBC last year to make TV programmes... We entered 6 ideas- from XENOPHILE NATION (exploring positive race relations to build hope) to MUSICpeople ( encouraging musicianship and exploring BANDCRAFT...possibly leading to a JAM via the TV across the NATION). Guess what idea won us our 3 weeks work placement ?

    I end with a note of LOVE. It is hard, nay impossible, for you to make everyone happy ALL THE TIME. But please understand your power and value it. Multi-cultural Britain can be the most amazing place if we build like our forefathers and respect like our mums. Thanks alot for your reply tho. We are all in this together should me an what it says. PEACE believe in the future 2012.

  • Comment number 34.

    Firstly, I agree with much of what hannydra wrote almost spot on apart from laying some of the blame at the Politician's door.
    Most of the people interviewed seem to have a reason for their actions or rather an excuse i.e. their mental health, they were drawn into the situation, peer pressure, curiosity etc. Excuses, excuses! I was told as a child that all actions have consequences, if you do something wrong, live with it.
    My son is a serving Police Officer and was called to work on the night of the riots, leaving his heavily pregnant wife alone at home and his whole family knew he was there with his colleagues doing the best that they could. A worrying time for all of us especially watching the situation unfold live on the TV. All of the officers on duty that night were there because it's their job to keep the public safe but their actions are controlled by their senior officers; they are told when to wear specific uniform so as not to incite riot or look threatening to the public, when to take action and how to behave on a certain day according to whether it's a march, protest or football match. The indiviuals just do their job as they are told, they don't have a choice. The Rioters however had a choice, they chose to "protest" they chose to loot, steal, cause criminal damage, attack Police Officers and they chose to cause criminal damage so they must live with the consequences regardless of their race or background. I just hope that the woman who commented that she was OK to see the Police getting attacked, never needs to rely on the help of a Police Officer as she clearly feels they deserve a good beating. She needs to spend a night in London and see what the Police see, the drunks, the druggies, the raped, the abused, the dead on the tracks of the railway and the elderly victims of crime.
    I look forward to the next episode to hear the side of the Police, but like one of the other bloggers commented, I feel that the Police should also be portrayed by Actors to protect their identity.
    Thank you BBC

  • Comment number 35.

    The second programme - police perspective - was much more befitting of the BBC in my opinion. During this programme you began to highlight the common denominator in all our woes -SHODDY GOVERNMENT. That commanders trying to deal with this situation on the ground have to be thinking in terms of the financial implications of overtime made me as livid as your embellished first programme. That David Cameron had the cheek to complain about "too few police" and "police tactics" from the safety of the House of Commons, whilst overseeing so many cuts to public services, should be your third programme in this series. Like i said before, most people see it from both Police and Rioters perspective. Well done to the brave police officers who defended the streets during those days and the Gold commander who refrained from rubber bullets. They all deserve our thanks and a medal. Come on Britain lets make things better now. We are all in this together, apart from Dave and his crew. PEACE believe in the future 2012.

  • Comment number 36.

    Finally the riots from the point of view from the Police. I have every sympathy for people who really feel disenfranchised and abandoned by people who should be there to help them but last nights programme made me feel sick. The Police ARE NOT miracle workers and did the very best that they could under terrifying circumstances. My partner is a policeman and we were on holiday at the time of the riots. Without hesitation he called in after watching Tottenham on fire on that first night and asked if he needed to come back on duty knowing full well what he was walking back into as a public order trained officer and how bad it was going to be. Sending someone off to work after gathering up their riotgear is absolutely terrifying. NO-ONE had the right to behave as they did towards the police and no-one should go to work in fear for their life. As for the comments that we are still on a high because of the Olympics and questioning whether the programme should have been shown - My answer is this: The Olympics were great but they aren't over yet and the police operation to ensure that everyone is safe and it goes well is on going and will be for a good while yet. Police leave is cancelled and has been since May. The aftermath of the Riots is on going and they are dealing with the Olympics as well. The police aren't perfect just like every other organisation but they do hold the line when everyone else wants to run the other way. They worked for hours with no idea of where and when they would be able to grab anything to eat, sleep or drink and then were expected to be back on shift at the normal time when it was all over - They are people too and deserve our respect and thanks.

  • Comment number 37.

    Watching the second installment from the perspective of the Police angered me more than the first instalment from the rioters' perspective. It angered me to see what horrific circumstances the Police had to work under - they were essentially dealing with animals. They were criticised for not employing the right tactics and taking too long to get the situation under control. Just imagine the reaction they would have received had they employed rubber bullets and water cannons. They were never going to win. What the programme did well to demonstate was how terrifying their position was. The Police deserved our thanks at the time, not our criticism.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hello, i am not surprised by this blatant misportrayal of the riots.

    at the end it suggests that no conclusion has been reached by the program; this does not suprise me either.
    The government uses the media to bend the truth and the police to enforce their truth.
    The progam was put together in order to demonise the young generation and distinguish the debate that the rioters felt needed raising.

    you are fuelling the fire....

    i wonder whether this will make it on to the page at all

  • Comment number 39.

    how long ???????????????



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