Four gunshots create a myth: The Ordsall estate, Salford, is now seen as another potential inner-city flashpoint, but Jonathan Foster finds a different picture

EIGHT of them sprang the ambush, pulling balaclavas over their faces as they attacked the police from the dark of a Salford night. They struck two officers, who were responding to an alarm the attackers had set off by smashing a community centre window. The police drove off, unhurt but frightened, their patrol car's windows smashed.

This was another instance of violence in the week when four shots were fired at police and firemen, who were fighting a blaze at a warehouse deliberately set alight on the Ordsall housing estate in Salford, Greater Manchester. The fuse of civil disorder seemed to be smouldering in the first inner-city riot of the summer.

But the realities of Ordsall, and Salford in general, are not quite what they appear. The ambush by the balaclava gang took place more than a mile from the estate. On Thursday night and Friday there were reports of 'five hours of orchestrated violence by youths on the rampage'; but these consisted of six separate incidents over a wide area, only two of them in Ordsall. Police did not consider them serious. It was a quiet week after Monday's shooting.

Ordsall is not an identikit area of inner-city deprivation. From their doorsteps in the Coronation Street housing association, a set of beautifully renovated redbrick terraces, two Ordsall women said: 'It's the same group of lads that are responsible. There's just a handful of them, no Mr Big behind the trouble as far as we know. One of the lads got beaten up by the police when they took a stolen car off him. Some of the others had a good hiding. They're trying to get their own back.'

In the early hours, Ordsall's streets are populated only by these lads, two or three to one mountain bike. Some recited the ghetto manifesto: alienated and abused, they would defend their territory against the police.

'Some of these youngsters are not being controlled by their parents,' said Syd Turner, 73, a Labour councillor and Ordsall resident. 'But there are no particularly serious social or racial problems in Ordsall - nothing that amounts to anything that could cause civil disorder. The estate has been improved.'

Mr Turner speaks for the older generation, born when Ordsall was part of the teeming 'Barbary Coast' of slums, back-to-back with the docks. The teenagers have their problems - one in seven has no job. They get into crime - piecework in the black economy, some thieving, a bit of ram- raiding, car ringing, perhaps drugs. Infatuated with older criminals, they are manipulated.

Someone - maybe one of the lads, perhaps not even from Ordsall - got hold of a gun and fired four bullets last week. But there was no riot. Until they catch the gunman, the police can only speculate about why they came under fire. Generally, attacks on the police have decreased in Salford this year, compared with 1990 and 1991. Last year, assaults were suffered by 23 per cent of officers in Salford's 'F' division. In 'L' division of the Greater Manchester force, based in Wigan, the percentage was 29. Salford is familiar inner- city territory, with great plains of public housing wasteland; 'L' division covers smaller communities, old coal and cotton towns like Tyldesley and Atherton, just as hard and hard-pressed as Salford, but not seen as hostile to the law.

The eastern end of Phoebe Street on the Ordsall estate fits the preconceptions of where summer civil disorder may strike. Prefabricated homes built to rehouse slum-dwellers have deteriorated into slums themselves. Many are about to be demolished. Salford council has spent pounds 13m improving the estate; a further pounds 17m is budgeted.

At the other end of Phoebe Street, where the flats have been converted into houses, gardens bloom and the tenants feel defamed by last week's events. For every boy kicking his Nike trainers' heels, many more are doing their homework.

'I've been out of work for 18 months, but I don't chuck Molotov cocktails,' a man on St Bartholomew's Drive said. 'Anyway, I couldn't afford the petrol.'

The petrol bombs and other arson attacks on Ordsall that comprised the week of 'terror' totalled 17 incidents. In the whole of Salford last year, there was an average of 66 arson attacks a week; in the Wigan division the figure was 67. Four shots last week have given the estate an unfair reputation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower