What really happened during the New Cross Fire in 1981 and how the people of Britain responded to it is the subject of Steve McQueen’s latest project, Uprising.
Uprising is a BBC One three-part series that will examine three events from 1981 – in January, the New Cross Fire which killed 13 Black teenagers; in March, Black People’s Day of Action, which saw more than 20,000 people join the first organised mass protest by Black British people; and the Brixton riots in April.
Leading the project is Academy Award winner Steve McQueen, whose most recent project, Small Axe, an anthology of five films brought to life the experiences of London’s West Indian community and starred John Boyega and Letitia Wright. Small Axe has recently been nominated for 15 BAFTA Television Awards.
Staying with the Black British, historical theme, Uprising is a story that has been waiting to be told in depth for 40 years. Directed by Steve McQueen and James Rogan, the series will reveal how these three events intertwined in 1981 and how, in the process, race relations were defined for a generation.
Steve McQueen said: “It is an honour to make these films with testimonials from the survivors, investigators, activists and representatives of the machinery of state. 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.”
Fellow Uprising director and executive producer James Rogan 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. 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.”