Brixton bard Alex Wheatle features in BBC’s Small Axe series

Sheyi Cole (left) as Alex Wheatle and Khali Best

Alex Wheatle – the Brixton Bard – is at the centre of one of the five short plays in Small Axe, the eagerly awaited BBC series made by director and artist Steve McQueen.

The series explores five stories from London’s Caribbean community between the 1960s and 1980s. 

One of them, Alex Wheatle, tells the true story of the award-winning novelist and writer for young people and his own remarkable journey through the care system, and then to prison following the Brixton Uprising in 1981.

In 2008 Alex Wheatle was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Newcomer Sheyi Cole plays the writer in the film.

The four other Small Axe films are MangroveLovers RockEducation and Red, White and Blue.

Mangrove, starring Letitia Wright, and Lovers Rock, starring Michael Ward, were selected to be shown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Mangrove features another great Brixtonian – Darcus Howe – who was one of the Mangrove Nine.

Steve McQueen said that Sunday August 9 this year marked 50 years since the “Mangrove March”, protesting against police harassment and brutality against the African Caribbean community and the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill.

Nine innocent Black women and men were arrested, but were eventually acquitted of incitement to riot with the judge in the case citing “evidence of racial hatred”. McQueen and the BBC have released a trailer for Mangrove.

Red, White and Blue stars British actor John Boyega.

Mangrove is due to open the British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival in October and the Small Axe series is planned to be broadcast on BBC One in the autumn.

McQueen has dedicated the series to George Floyd and “all the other Black people that have been murdered, seen or unseen, because of who they are”.

So if you are the big tree,
We are the small axe
Ready to cut you down, (well sharp)
To cut you down
Bob Marley – Small Axe