Titled Uprising, the three-part series will examine the intertwined events of the New Cross Fire that killed 13 Black teenagers at a house party in January 1981; the Black People’s Day of Action mass protest in March of that year; and finally, the Brixton riots in April.
McQueen will helm Uprising alongside James Rogan (Stephen: The Murder That Changed a Nation), with the latter’s Rogan Productions housing the series. It is the second project McQueen and Rogan are collaborating on after teaming for BBC films Black Power and Subnormal, which were conceived during production on anthology drama Small Axe.
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.”
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.”
BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore said McQueen “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.”
Moore commissioned the series alongside Clare Sillery, head of commissioning, documentaries, history, and religion. Executive producers are McQueen, Nancy Bornat, Rogan, Soleta Rogan, Tracey Scoffield, Anna Smith Tenser and David Tanner. Uprising is series produced by Helen Bart.