The new geographies of racism: Plymouth

The new geographies of racism: Plymouth

Press Release

Written by: IRR News Team

Research published today by the Institute of Race Relations investigates how geographies of racism throughout the UK are changing in a wider climate of economic austerity, shifting patterns of migration and settlement and against the backdrop of new forms of racism exacerbated by national policies.

The IRR’s first investigation, part of an ongoing examination of the changing characteristics of racial violence throughout the UK, is based on detailed research into the history and political economy of Plymouth. It draws on interviews with key individuals working on issues relating to racism and racial equality in the city and is supplemented by statistical data and information.

According to the report’s author, Dr Jon Burnett, ‘This research emphasises the ways in which specific patterns of racism are becoming entrenched in smaller cities within the UK. It shows how forms of racism fostered by national policies and practices are re-interpreted and manifested through the prism of specific local contexts. As these new geographies of racism emerge, there needs to be an emergence of new anti-racist strategies which both understand and adapt to these local realities.’

The research highlights how, within Plymouth:

  • Historically, there has been a comparatively small BME population. However, the demography of the city has changed significantly over the last decade. Certain communities have been left isolated and vulnerable to racist attacks. There have been vicious attacks against asylum seekers, students from BME communities, Gypsies and Travellers and workers within particular sectors such as catering and mini-cabbing.
  • The decline of the dockyards has devastated the local economy and underpinned persistent inequalities within the city. Particular wards are classed as some of the poorest areas in the country and the current economic climate, as well as the political responses to this, has the potential to entrench these inequalities further.
  • There is an intrinsic, historical, naval infrastructure and despite the decline of the dockyards the city still has active naval and military barracks. Far-right groups have attempted to mobilise locally by capitalising on the issues raised by the war-footing which the UK has been on over recent years.
  • There has been a lack of local and national political will to address the causes and manifestations of racist attacks, with a commitment to projects aimed at fostering community cohesion diverting focus away from racial violence. At the same time, the current economic climate has forced certain key agencies providing support services to close.
  • The official response to racism has historically been one of denial and the severity of racial violence has, in the past, consequently been downplayed.
Notes to editors

1) Dr Jon Burnett is a researcher at the Institute of Race Relations working on a three year project on racial violence in the UK.

2) This briefing on Plymouth is the first of three investigations into areas which have experienced increased levels of racist attacks over recent years. These investigations will explore new geographies of racism which are emerging within the UK and will culminate in a report, drawing together findings from each of the areas, in a report later this year. This project developed from a briefing paper published by the IRR in 2010 entitled Racial violence: the buried issue (download here).

Read the IRR’s research, The new geographies of racism: Plymouth here (pdf file, 198kb).

For further information please call the IRR on 020 7837 0041 or 07753 741 129 or email:

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The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

2 thoughts on “The new geographies of racism: Plymouth

  1. I am from NorthStaffs, the City of Stoke on Trent, I am looking for the comparative study of Plymouth and Stoke . I have the Stoke paper but looking for the Plymouth account. Where can I get it? I am in lockdown right now in Plymouth which I know well. Can you help?

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