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Today BBC One have released a first look at all five films in Steve McQueen's anthology drama Small Axe which airs in the UK in November.

The five films that make up Small Axe are Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Education, Alex Wheatle and Red, White and Blue.

Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, the films each tell a different story involving London's West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination.

The title is derived from an African proverb, which has resonance throughout the Caribbean, “if you are the big tree, we are the small axe”. This was made popular by Bob Marley in The Wailers song Small Axe from the album Burnin’ (1973).

Watch the trailer here...

And find out more about all five films here...


Co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen, Mangrove tells the true story of the Mangrove 9, the group of Black activists who clashed with London police during a protest march in 1970, and their highly publicised trial that followed.

The trial which took place at the Old Bailey in 1970 was the first judicial acknowledgment of behaviour motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.

The nine protest leaders who were arrested and charged with incitement to riot were Frank Crichlow, Darcus Howe, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Innis, Rothwell Kentish and Godfrey Millett.

It stars Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Jack Lowden, Sam Spruell, Gershwyn Eustache, Nathaniel Martello-White, Richie Campbell, Jumayn Hunter and Gary Beadle.

Lovers Rock

Co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen, Lovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love and music at a blues party in the early 1980s.

It stars Amarah-Jae St Aubyn - who makes her screen debut alongside Micheal Ward, Shaniqua Okwok, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Ellis George, Alexander James-Blake, Kadeem Ramsay as well as Francis Lovehall and Daniel Francis-Swaby who make their screen debuts.

Alex Wheatle

Co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen, Alex Wheatle follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle, from a young boy through his early adult years.

Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJ’ing.

When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing.

It stars Sheyi Cole opposite Jonathan Jules, with Robbie Gee, Elliot Edusah, Cecilia Noble and Johann Myers.


Co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen, Education is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley, who has a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the headmaster’s office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he’s being sent to a school for those with “special needs.”

Distracted by working two jobs, his parents (Sharlene Smith, Daniel Francis) are unaware of the unofficial segregation policy at play, preventing many black children from receiving the education they deserve, until a group of West Indian women take matters into their own hands.

It stars Kenyah Sandy, Tamara Lawrance and Naomi Ackie.

Red, White and Blue

Co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen, Red, White and Blue tells the true story of Leroy Logan, a young forensic scientist with a yearning to do more than his solitary laboratory work.

When he sees his father assaulted by two policemen, he finds himself driven to revisiting a childhood ambition to become a police officer; an ambition borne from the naïve hope of wanting to change racist attitudes from within.

Leroy must face the consequences of his father’s disapproval, and the blatant racism he finds in his new role as a despised yet exemplary constable in the Metropolitan Police Force.

John Boyega and Steve Toussaint star alongside talented newcomers Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal and Jaden Oshenye.

Small Axe launches this November on BBC One

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