UPRISING – Another visceral feat from Steve McQueen

A new series examining three major events that took place in 1981 in the Black British Community

UPRISING is the BBC’s New Series From Academy Award Winner Steve McQueen – a vivid and visceral three-part series for BBC One examining three events from 1981:  – in January 1981  the New Cross Fire killed 13 black teenagers; in March, Black People’s Day of Action,  saw more than 20,000 people join the first organised mass protest by Black British people and the Brixton riots in April. Directed by Steve McQueen and James Rogan, the series will reveal how these three events were intertwined in 1981 and how in the process race relations were defined for a generation.

Steve McQueen, Director and Executive Producer, 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.”


Site of the News Cross fire January 1981
Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer, said: “It has been an honour to work with Steve McQueen to bring these powerful stories to BBC One. 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.”


James Rogan, Director and Executive Producer, said: “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.”

More about Steve McQueen


Steve McQueen is an Oscar and Turner Prize winning artist and filmmaker. In 2008, McQueen’s critically acclaimed first feature Hunger starring Michael Fassbender won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His second feature Shame won two Best Film awards when it premiered at Venice Film Festival in 2011. His third film 12 Years A Slave starring Chiwetel Ejiofor received numerous prizes, most notably winning three Academy Awards including Best Picture. In 2018 he released Widows starring Viola Davis who was nominated for a Best Actress BAFTA. McQueen’s most recent project Small Axe for BBC One and Amazon, is an anthology of five films which brings to life the experiences of London’s West Indian community and stars John Boyega and Letitia Wright, and has recently been nominated for 15 BAFTA Television Awards. An unprecedented two of the films were selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival. In 2020, McQueen was awarded a knighthood for his services to the arts and alongside his film work, his artwork continues to be exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world.