Uprising, a new BBC three-part documentary by award-winning director Steve McQueen starts this evening

July 20, 2021

Steve McQueen and James Rogan have directed a multi-part documentary which explores three key points for the black community in 1981. Uprising comprises: ‘Fire’ about the New Cross house fire in January; ‘Blame’, which covers the Black People’s Day of Action, the first mass protest organised by Black British people in March; and ‘The Front Line’, which takes a look at the Brixton Riots which took place in April. The George Padmore Institute (GPI) has worked with the producers of the documentaries to provide information drawn from its archive on the New Cross Massacre Action Committee.

Broadcast over three consecutive evenings, the first episode is shown tonight on BBC 1 at 9pm.  ‘Fire’ details how, in the early hours of 18 January 1981, a birthday party in New Cross, south London ended in alleged arson, killing thirteen young black people. This film tells the stories of the young people who were at the party and the events that led up to it.

‘Blame’ is broadcast on Wednesday on BBC 1 at 9pm. It continues with the aftermath of the New Cross fire, the mounting anger at the inept police investigation and the seeming indifference of the press and the government to the loss of so many black lives. A mass demonstration, the Black People’s Day of Action, the largest ever organised by the black community, brought the tragedy to the attention of the nation.

‘The Front Line’ completes the trilogy on Thursday on BBC 1 at 9pm. After the New Cross fire and the Black People’s Day of Action, tensions escalated when the police launched a stop-and-search operation targeting black people on the streets of Brixton, London. In April, the situation boiled over into one of the biggest riots in British history, with other uprisings taking place in the rest of the country.

In 2021, the GPI marked the 40th anniversary of the New Cross Massacre and the Black People’s Day of Action with a short film. Trustees of the GPI, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Roxy Harris, talk about their experience of providing support to those directly affected by the fire and the Black People’s Day of Action, while writer Rex Obano and award-winning poet Jay Bernard discuss how the GPI archive has played an intrinsic role in their work.

The short film New Cross Massacre: Reflections 40 Years On is available to view on the Discover page

For more detailed information about the New Cross Massacre Action Committee archive collection visit the Archive page.

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