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Your guide to Small Axe

Your guide to Small Axe


Take a closer look at director Steve McQueen’s new collection of films on BBC One, plus we trace his stellar career so far

By Virgin TV Edit

His movies have won Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, but now acclaimed director Steve McQueen is heading to the small screen with five new original films.


Directed and co-written by McQueen, the Small Axe anthology zooms in on life among London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s onwards. From real-life stories that have shaped British life to fresh fictional tales, McQueen believes these five features contain poignant messages that are as relevant as ever.


“Although all five films take place between the late 1960s and mid-80s, they are just as much a comment on the present moment as they were then,” he says. “They are about the past, yet they are very much concerned with the present. A commentary on where we were, where we are and where we want to go.”

Find out more about Small Axe with our episode guide below, then head to the bottom of the page to discover how Steve McQueen became one of the world’s most acclaimed directors with his career timeline.



Steven McQueen's Mangrove (Small Axe)

This film tells the true story of the Mangrove Restaurant, a hub for intellectuals and activists in Notting Hill’s Caribbean community. In 1970, following repeated raids by police and racist attacks, owner Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes, Lost In Space) and the local community take to the street in peaceful protest. However, when nine members of the group are arrested and charged with incitement to riot, a high-profile trial takes place. Co-starring Letitia Wright (Black Panther).


Lovers Rock

The year is 1980 and romantic reggae – also known as the genre Lovers Rock – is the soundtrack to house parties across London. This love letter to the music that soundtracked a generation (which also serves as a reminder of a time when nightclubs shunned Black youth) stars newcomer Amarah-Jae St Aubyn, Top Boy’s Michael Ward and Ellis George (Doctor Who).


Red, White And Blue

John Boyega in Red, White And Blue (Small Axe)

The brilliant John Boyega stars as Leroy Logan, the real-life forensic scientist who joined the Metropolitan Police after witnessing his dad being assaulted by two policemen. Wanting to change racist attitudes from within the force, Logan encounters discrimination at every turn when he becomes a Constable for the Met.


Alex Wheatle

Get to know the remarkable true story of Alex Wheatle, the award-winning writer who spent his formative years in predominantly white care institutions before finding his spiritual home in Brixton. Jailed during the Brixton riots of the early 1980s, Wheatle (newcomer Sheyi Cole) tackles his past head on in this dramatic profile that charts his youth and early adulthood.



Kenyah Sandy in Education (Small Axe)

Twelve-year-old Kingsley is fascinated by spacemen and rockets, but one day he’s removed from his class at school for being disruptive. The young boy is sent to a school for children with “special needs” but it soon becomes clear Black students aren’t receiving the education they deserve. That’s when a group of West Indian women begin to fight back…


Steve McQueen’s life on screen

Discover McQueen's journey from artistic darling to box-office behemoth with this timeline of his most significant films to date. Just click on the title of the film or TV show to find out more...

When is Small Axe on TV?

The first instalment of the anthology series, Mangrove, airs at 9pm on Sunday 15 November on BBC One HD (CH 101/108), followed each Sunday by the next four films. Also available in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer.

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Image credits: Small Axe © BBC/McQueen Limited/Des Willie