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Uprising: Small Axe creator Steve McQueen is bringing an important new documentary series to BBC One

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Steve McQueen’s new docuseries Uprising is described as a “vivid and visceral” examination of three events from 1981. Here’s everything we know so far.

Last year, Academy Award winner Sir Steve McQueen impressed audiences with Small Axe, a five-part anthology series set within London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s to the early 80s.

The five short films, which starred the likes of Letitia Wright, John Boyega, Michael Ward and Rochenda Sandall, dramatised a series of true events which shaped and represented UK race relations during this period, including the protests led by the Mangrove Nine and the imprisonment of the award-winning writer Alex Wheatle (played by Sheyi Cole).

And now, in his next series for the BBC, McQueen will continue his work exploring UK race relations in the late 20th century – although this time, it’ll be in documentary form.

The three-part docuseries, called Uprising, is described as a “vivid and visceral” examination of three events from 1981 which defined race relations “for a generation”.

These events include the New Cross Fire, which took place in January and killed 13 Black teenagers. Although authorities put the cause of the fire down to an accident, many members of the public believed that the fire had been an arson attack, and criticised the 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 and saw 20,000 people join the first organised mass protest by Black British people, and the Brixton Riots in April. 

A still from Small Axe
McQueen’s previous series, Small Axe, dramatised many of the events his new documentary series will explore, including the Brixton Riots.

In short, the focus of Uprising will closely interlink with the events and period explored in Small Axe, giving those who enjoyed the series a chance to learn more about the real people behind the stories which played out 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.” 

James Rogan, who will also serve as director and executive producer alongside McQueen, 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.

“What happened and how Britain responded to it is a story that has been waiting to be told in depth for 40 years.”

He continued: “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.” 

Although we don’t know much more at the moment about when we can expect Uprising to be released, if the description and people involved with the series are anything to go by, this documentary series will likely be a powerful and insightful watch – and we can’t wait to see more of McQueen’s work make its way to our screens.

We’ll update this space with new details about Uprising when they become available, so keep your eyes peeled. 

All five of the films that make up Small Axe are available to watch on BBC iPlayer now

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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