WEDNESDAY June 23 marks 20 years since the outbreak of the 2001 Burnley Riots. In this special report we look back on the events and legacy of that weekend of civil unrest. 

Here, former Lancashire Telegraph staff look back on documenting the events as they unfolded. 

On May 23 2001 events were set in motion that would rock Burnley. 

After weeks and months of agitation by far-right activists, a series of devastating inter-racial riots that had begun in the Greater Manchester Borough of Oldham spread to the Lancastrian mill town after a man was stabbed outside his home on Francis Street in the early hours of Saturday May 23 and an off duty Asian taxi driver was attacked by three white men on Colne Road shortly after.

Over the ensuing weekend, the streets where communities once lived together in peace soon became engulfed in fire bombings and street battles more reminiscent of an urban warzone than the north of England. 

Former Lancashire Telegraph photographer Clive Lawrence, who covered the unfolding events, said: "I remember taking some of the pictures of the taxis being smashed up and straight away you just knew how bad it was.

"It was quite a close community and I knew the guy who ran the newsagents that was trashed and he was just the best guy, he's not there anymore.

"They were probably the most historical photographs I ever took and when I look back at those pictures of the family of ten who had there house set on fire I just think flipping heck!

"Your mind blocks some of these things out, or mine does anyone, but when you look at the photos it really brings it back."

Lancashire Telegraph reporter Catherine Smyth, who was based in the town at the time, was there for the immediate aftermath. 

She said: said: "I was working on the Monday and we had to mop it up because there was still tension in the town.

"I remember it was very warm, very hot and we'd heard that there was something going down in the Burnley Wood area, there was an uneasy feeling about the place."

She added: "Then we got the news that there were people gathering in the Abel Street area, that's the same area where the newsagents was trashed.

"It was the aftermath but we knew there was still the potential for things to kick off so we had reporters everywhere."

One of Ms Smyth's most enduring memories encountering Asian youths who were preparing to protect their areas and finding that, despite the strife of the previous days, she was made welcome.

"My abiding memory was how friendly everyone was, they all came out with food and drink to share with me and to make sure I was well looked after.

"They brought out pot after pot of curry and rice."

The aftermath also saw the very same far-right forces that spend the preceding months stoking the tensions that eventually exploded into riots brought to greater prominence, with racist attacks continuing. 

Ms Smyth said: "I know at the time I wrote the reports nine months on cabbies were still being attacked.

"There was an influx of far-right activists and I remember the BNP leader Nick Griffin came up during the elections in 2002.

"He held a rally in an area of Burnley Wood that was obviously part of the rioting area and it was obviously picked because of this connection, I remember he was all surrounded by broken glass." 

Looking back on how the town has changed, Ms Smyth added: "I would be hard to say because I don't live in the area, but I haven't felt that same tension when I've been there."