It’s half 12 and there are sirens outside in south Liverpool. Linda McDermott has just played Spandau Ballet’s True on Radio Merseyside and Liverpool is heading back to the early 80s in more ways than one.
Twitter and Facebook have been awash with rumours all night that riots are breaking out on Smithdown Road, Lodge Lane, Lawrence Road and Parliament Street.
As far as we can tell absolutely nothing is going on – there’s even a video of a quiet Smithdown Road shot by a resident at 10pm. The Liverpool Echo tweets a calming message that nothing untoward is happening.
Still the rumours persist. Something is definitely going around Smithdown, according to friends on Facebook. A bus attacked? Gangs of youths? The Asda supermarket on fire?
Then rumours that Lodge Lane is closed. And then a dread moment when a BBC traffic report shows that Lodge Lane is closed between Smithdown and Croxteth Road. So, something is going on.
Then images on Twitter, blurry snaps of large gangs of youths congregating near the Newstead Abbey pub on Smithdown, a line of bins pulled across the road.
It’s a part of Toxteth and Wavertree recently flattened by bulldozers to make way for new housing. It’s always been a deprived area of town and it’s perhaps half a mile away from the flashpoints of the 1981 Toxteth riots.
A few minutes later another images shows what look like bins on fire in the middle of Smithdown Road.
Then a friend who works for the BBC puts out a Facebook message that appears to confirm that cars have been set alight on Lawrence Road.
More images of blocked off roads, the blues of the emergency services. A video on Youtube appears to show a large gang attacking riot police in Liverpool, but it turns out not to be in Liverpool at all.
The crowds are headed towards town, presumably right past the intersection of Princes Avenue, Upper Parliament Street and Catharine Street where the Rialto was burned to the ground 30 years ago.
Back then it was about police brutality, harassment, disaffection. Today… what? Just kids? Mindless thuggery?
The police helicopter is heard overhead. A friend texts at 1am to say there’s ‘serious rioting’ going on on Smithdown Road and riot police are battling ‘kids’ near Myrtle Parade in town.
That’s near the house of Ben Schofield, formerly of the Liverpool Echo, who tweets that his car has been set alight along with others on Grove Street, near the University of Liverpool in Toxteth.
There are more conflicting reports on Twitter but a friend texts to say that cars are on fire on Lodge Lane.
The Liverpool Echo puts out a tweet confirming that 150 people are rioting in Liverpool.
Just a few weeks ago we went to see the Toxteth 1981 exhibition at the Slavery Museum. The pictures looked like a different age. “Despite their familiarity,” we said, “they feel alien.”
Well, not any more. As of tonight Liverpool will have a whole host of new images to conjure with.
• Last two images by Ben Schofield
• Final image by WMEvans