Last year, Sir Steve McQueen impressed audiences with Small Axe, a five-part anthology series set within London’s West Indian community during the late 1960s and early 1980s.
The five short films, which starred Letitia Wright, John Boyega, Michael Ward and Rochenda Sandall, portray various true events that shaped and influenced UK race relations during this period, such as the protests led by the Mangrove Nine and the imprisonment of award-winning writer Alex Wheatle (played by Sheyi Cole).
In his next series for the BBC, McQueen will continue exploring Britain’s racial relations in the late 20th century – but this time in documentary form.
His three-part docuseries, called Uprising, will examine three events from 1981 which defined race relations “for a generation”. Visitors to this site may already know about these events.
The New Cross Fire, which killed thirteen Black teenagers in January, was one of these events. Despite authorities stating that the fire was an accident, many members of the community believed it was an arson attack and criticised police for not taking further action.
The two other events explored in the series are the Black People’s Day of Action, which took place in March following the police handling of the fire. 20,000 people joined the first organised mass protest by Black British people. And finally, the Brixton Riots in April.
It will connect closely with the events and period explored in Small Axe, allowing those who enjoyed the series to learn more about the real people behind the stories shown on screen.
Speaking about the new series, on which he will serve as director and executive producer, McQueen said it was an “honour” to make the films using “testimonials from the survivors, investigators, activists and representatives of the machinery of the state”.
McQueen continued: “We can only learn if we look at things through the eyes of everyone concerned; the New Cross Fire passed into history as a tragic footnote, but that event and its aftermath can now be seen as momentous events in our nation’s history.”
Uprising will air weekly for the next three weeks on BBC1. Alternatively, you can watch all three episodes of Uprising on 21 July on BBC iPlayer.