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Steve McQueen and the BBC are building on the huge success of Small Axe with a new three-part docuseries diving back into Black British history and examining some of the key historical moments that were referenced in the Golden Globe-winning and BAFTA-nominated anthology series.
Uprising is set to explore three events that took place in early 1981 — the New Cross Fire that killed 13 black teenagers, the Black People’s Day of Action in which more than 20,000 people joined the march organized by Black British people, and the Brixton Riots. Directed by McQueen and James Rogan, the series aims to reveal how these events — which formed part of the story in the Alex Wheatle episode of Small Axe — intertwined in 1981 and how, in the process, race relations were defined for a generation.
McQueen said that he would draw upon “testimonials from the survivors, investigators, activists and representatives of the machinery of state,” to make the films.
“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,” he added.
“The New Cross Fire that claimed the lives of so many young people and affected many more remains one of the biggest losses of life in a house fire in modern British history,” said Rogan. “What happened and how Britain responded to it is a story that has been waiting to be told in depth for 40 years. In the series, survivors and the key participants will give their account of the fire, the aftermath, the impact it had on the historic events of 1981 and the profound legacy it has left behind.”
Uprising was commissioned by the Charlotte Moore, BBC chief content officer, and Clare Sillery, head of commissioning, documentaries, history and religion. It is produced by Rogan Productions, Lammas Park and Turbine Studios. The executive producers are McQueen, Rogan, Nancy Bornat, Soleta Rogan, Tracey Scoffield, Anna Smith Tenser and David Tanner. The series producer is Helen Bart.
“It has been an honour to work with Steve McQueen to bring these powerful stories to BBC One,” said Moore. “With his visionary genius as a filmmaker he has created an incredibly important and evocative series that charts events that have defined race relations in Britain today, giving a voice to the people at the heart of these stories.”
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