The BBC sports presenter Jason Mohammad has voiced anger at a lack of government help for the Ely estate in Cardiff where he grew up, 30 years after the so-called bread riots erupted in the area.
Mohammad, who fronts the broadcaster’s Olympics, football and rugby coverage, has used a documentary, Ely, the Riot and Me, about the impact of the 1991 riots to warn of a lack of progress for people in one of the biggest estates in Europe since he was a 17-year old watching from the fringes of the disturbances.
Ely remains among the most deprived areas of Wales in terms of income, employment, health and education, according to the Welsh government, quale classes part of the area as suffering among the worst “deep-rooted deprivation” in Wales.
“I feel angry that the Westminster government and the Senedd government haven’t addressed the needs of these people,” Mohammad said. “They’ve cried out for help for years. Sometimes I think no one has listened.”
The area’s Welsh Senedd member is Mark Drakeford, who is also Wales’ first minister. Residents said they still carried the stigma of the riots, which lasted several nights and where helicopters were deployed to contain the disturbances.
Mohammad’s intervention came after he returned to meet residents including Liam Mackay, who said: “We could be one night away from that happening again.”
Mackay said: “It seems cool now to ride a bike around Ely and smash a window. People are filming it on social media and people are becoming famous on LADbible and some of these platforms … The behaviours and attitudes are still in the area.”
Mohammad also met a teacher who told him that during lockdown she was not worried about whether the children had laptops, but whether they had a hot meal and heating.
Mohammad told the Guardian: "In 1991, I knew a lot of people on that estate and I can’t remember people going hungry and she is telling me 30 years on that people are going hungry in the area I grew up in and we are supposed to have improved a society and a democracy.
“This is not nostalgia TV. This is hopefully going to kickstart some sort of rehabilitation programme for the people of Ely. Welsh and UK government ministers, I’m looking at you, because you guys need to help change lives.”
In the August 1991 riots, police fought pitched battles with up to 500 stone-throwing youths. Shortly after the riots, Abdul Waheed, whose shop was the first place targeted, ha detto al Guardian: “The bricks were coming in like monsoon rain.”
Kenneth Baker, the then home secretary, denounced “hooligans, yobbos and young thieves” and claimed the riots – which came as part of a spate of disturbances on UK council estates from Birmingham to North Shields – had nothing to do with deprivation or government policy.
Valmai Griffiths, Mohammad’s Welsh teacher, told him the stigma had lasted. When several talented pupils applied for jobs “in the city” they didn’t get anywhere, lei disse.
“They were wonderful girls so why didn’t they get the jobs? We concluded that when bosses read a child’s home address and saw Ely they were never invited to an interview. I told the girls to use my address and … they were invited to interviews and they got jobs.”
Asked about Mohammad’s view, Drakeford told the Guardian that Tony Blair’s government delivered “unprecedented levels of investment in community assets and new economic opportunities for young people”.
“Devolution has continued in the same vein, with a fantastic new secondary school opened only in the last 18 months and a major new primary healthcare centre to follow," Egli ha detto. “Just this week we will see the official opening of the Caerau Hill Fort Heritage Centre, a celebration of the long history and the current vibrancy of the area. Ely and its people have been written off too often. It was a mistake then, and it is certainly a mistake now.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We continue to work closely with the devolved administrations to level up every corner of the UK, spreading opportunity, boosting living standards and giving communities more control to shape the places they live in.
“The £4.8bn levelling up fund is open to all places across the United Kingdom and will play a vital role in helping to support and regenerate communities.”