I Remember: 1981


Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been in office for two years in 1981; policies to push privatisation of state-owned industries and utilities and the reform of the trade unions, combined with mass closure of heavy industry and factories contribute to the highest postwar levels of unemployment and a year remembered for a summer of civil unrest as the spending cuts and monetary policy bite deep.  100,000 people from across Britain march to Trafalgar Square in London for the TUC's March For Jobs.
After racial tension builds up, riots break out in Brixton, Peckham, Toxteth and Handsworth and by the end of summer riots against police occur in many towns and cities.

"Ghost Town" by The Specials hits number one in the UK charts, capturing the political mood of the summer.
John Lennon spends 6 consecutive weeks at number one with "Imagine" spending 4 weeks at the top, to be replaced by "Woman"; Adam and the Ants also have two number ones with "Stand and Deliver" and "Prince Charming".
Bucks Fizz win the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK with the song "Making Your Mind Up".
MTV hits the airwaves for the first time, Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" is the first song to be played.

BBC Two adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy begins airing.

David Jason stars in the BBC One sitcom "Only Fools and Horses" which is also broadcast for the first time this year. School children rushed home to watch Dangermouse, broadcast for the first time in 1981, as a crime fighting mouse with a hamster as a side kick repeatedly save the world. "Crumbs, DM!"

"Crumbs" indeed! The toasted sandwich was born, thanks to Breville the country lived on melted cheese for a while.

On the big screen An American Werewolf in London, Gregory's Girl and the multi award winning Chariots of Fire are all released this year.

In the same year that sees Liverpool win the European Cup for the third time, legendary former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly dies aged 67. Aston Villa win the English League Championship The 100th FA Cup final is won by Tottenham Hotspurs (for the sixth time in their history) 3-2 in a replay at Wembley against Manchester City. Bryan Robson becomes Britain's most expensive footballer in a £1.5million move from West Bromwich Albion to Manchester United.

A 22-year-old John McEnroe ended Sweden's Bjorn Borg's record run of victories at the Wimbledon
Thousands of people jog through the normally quiet Sunday streets of the capital to compete in the first ever London marathon.

Shergar quite simply strolled away wit h the Derby.  And then, just  to prove how good he was, he walked off with the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes as well. 

Two years after he had been diagnosed with cancer and given just eight months to live, jockey Bob Champion wins the Grand National on Aldaniti in an emotional tale of courage for both jockey and horse.

In the Ashes, England are 105 for 5 in their second innings and need another 122 just to make Australia bat again. With defeat at Headingley looking inevitable, Ian Botham (having just resigned as England captain) comes to the crease and his 149 not out transforms the match, which England go on to win by 18 runs, and turn the series.

President Reagan is shot in the chest by 25-year-old former Yale student John Hinckley, the bullet was successfully removed from his left lung. He allegedly quipped "Honey, I forgot to duck" a line from a 1930s film, when his wife Nancy visited him in hospital.
It was a year for failed assassination attempts, Pope John Paul II is shot as he blessed crowds in St Peter's Square from his Pope-mobile. The pontiff was hit twice in the stomach by 23-year-old Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in protest against Soviet action in Afghanistan and US involvement in El Salvador.

The first IBM PC  hit the shelves in 1981, with a 4.7Mhz processor and the cheapest model had 16K of memory. Disk drives were an optional extra but each 5.25inch disk could hold 160K of data.
It's the wedding of the year, if not the century, as Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral. Britain goes wild, bunting is strewn and union flags are waved by the masses, and 700 million television viewers tune in around the world.