Small Axe is an ‘anthology’ of five films released in the UK on prime-time television and in a series of cinema presentations affected by the COVID pandemic. 

Together the films represent an unprecedented feat of storytelling about London’s West Indian community, mostly during the 1970s and early 1980s. These are in various ways ‘personal stories’ researched by McQueen and inspired by family friends and acquaintances.

Our event will focus on two of the shorter films, Lovers Rock and Education. If possible, you should try to see all five films but sufficient background will be provided if you are unable to do so. 

We will explore McQueen’s stated aims and the approaches he adopts to tell the stories as well as the cinematic techniques he uses and the collaborations he makes. 

Steve McQueen has achieved a unique standing as both an artist on film and now as a filmmaker of mainstream narratives. How do we understand that status in relation to Black British film and British cinema more generally? 

All five Small Axe films are currently available on BBC iPlayer (and will be for several months).