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Who’s who in gripping new BBC thriller Ridley Road

Who’s who in gripping new BBC thriller Ridley Road

Learn about the lesser-known history of London in the Swinging Sixties, where far-right fascism was on the rise – and the plucky characters helping to combat it

By Laura Rutkowski, Senior Staff Writer

Jo Bloom’s novel Ridley Road has been adapted into a four-part TV series, with a story inspired by the real-life 62 Group. In the 1960s, fascism was on the rise in East London, where Ridley Road is located, and this coalition of anti-fascists was created in response to rising antisemitic attacks.

 

Colin Jordan’s National Socialist Movement (NSM) fuelled their fight to take action, which included planting informers within fascist groups. Set in 1962, Ridley Road is told through the eyes of young Jewish woman Vivien Epstein. She finds herself at the centre of an undercover mission (where our brave brunette turns blonde) when she learns that her lover is injured. 
 


“A young hairdresser from Manchester makes an unlikely hero in this little-known slice of British history,” said screenwriter Sarah Solemani, who is also an actress (Him & Her, No Offence). “In these unprecedented times, it is the unlikely heroes whose stories are now worth telling.”

 

Solemani undertook extensive research into the period. "Britain's relationship with fascism is closer and more alive than we like to think,” she said. “Fortunately, so too is our rich heritage of beating it.”

 

The plot, which combines romance and life-threatening scenarios, makes for compelling viewing, with the action taking place in a London that’s still recovering from the Second World War. Ridley Road housed a large Jewish community between the 30s and 60s, and still exists today. Aside from Jordan, the rest of the characters are fictional, but they illuminate the very real, and highly powerful, work of the 62 Group.

 

Meet the star-studded cast, including the newcomer playing Vivien…
 


When Vivien moves from Manchester to East London after the death of her father, she tries to track down her former flame Jack Morris. After landing a job at a hair salon in Soho, she joins the fight against fascism in London and is asked to infiltrate the NSM, a neo-Nazi group.
 

What else can I watch her in?

This is Agnes’ first television role.
 


Jack, Vivien’s love interest, is an active member of the anti-fascist organisation the 62 Group, and has disappeared.

 

What else can I watch him in?

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Kinnear plays the real-life far-right leader of NSM, a formidable character who incites racism and rioting through his fanatical and passionate speeches.
 

What else can I watch him in?

  • Find Years And Years in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
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Soly is a hot-headed, witty cabbie who is the leader of the 62 Group. He sends Vivien on her top-secret, and very dangerous, mission.  

 

What else can I watch him in?

  • Find The Pact in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
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Barbara owns the hair salon where Vivien starts working and has witnessed racism first-hand towards her mixed-race son.

 

What else can I watch her in?

  • Find EastEnders in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
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Although she’s an independent and capable woman, Vivien’s landlady in London is lonely after her three sons were killed in the Second World War. She’s worried about the changing state of the world around her.

 

What else can I watch her in?

  • Find The Pale Horse in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
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Soly’s wife is an innate charmer who plays a crucial role in the 62 Group operations.

 

What else can I watch her in?

  • Find After Life series 1 & 2 in Apps & Games > Netflix
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Vivien’s mother has her world turned upside down when she learns about her husband’s secret involvement with the underground movement.

 

What else can I watch her in?

  • Find Sex Education series 1-3 in Apps & Games > Netflix
  • Find Me Before You in Apps & Games > Netflix
  • Find Bad Education series 1-3 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
     

When is the BBC’s Ridley Road on TV?

Ridley Road airs on BBC One HD (CH 101/108) on Sundays at 9pm, with the first episode screening on October 3rd. The four-part series will subsequently air every week until Sunday 24th October.

 

The full Box Set is also available to stream in Ultra HD in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer from Sunday 3 October.

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