Saturday, 21 November 2020

Steve McQueen – Small Axe anthology film series #1: “The Mangrove Nine” …

 

Mesmerising … two hours of complete spellbinding tv … stunningly documented …

 

Sir Steve McQueen with his Oscar
for 12 Years a Slave

I was bowled over … an incredible film … it felt so real – and has had outstanding reviews.  It is a film for everyone – about Caribbean people’s history in Britain that has never been brought to life and should be available for us to understand the struggles of their backstory.

 

The storyline is ‘perfect’ for a film to tell the narrative of a ground-breaking true life drama … with excellent acting – I really can’t praise it enough.

 

The actors as defendants in the film
c/o Bustle media

One member of the Mangrove Nine was a friend of Steve McQueen’s father … while his parents were part of that community during the late 1960s and 1970s … so the Mangrove Nine’s landmark 1970 Old Bailey trial would have been well known to McQueen’s family …

 

Frank Crichlow, who owned and set up The Mangrove’s Caribbean restaurant, became a community activist, after racially motivated police persecuted him, his friends and the restaurant.

Shaun Parkes plays
Frank Crichlow
 

The restaurant was over the years a meeting place for the Black community in the area, as well as for white radicals, artists, authors, and musicians. 

 

Vanessa Redgrave at Cannes 2016

Famous customers included Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Vanessa Redgrave, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Sammy Davis Jr and many activists, journalists and historians from Britain, South Africa, Australia, Trinidad, Guyana …  


Jimi Hendrix (1967)


... a small newspaper, The Hustler, was published on the premises, underlining the community aspect of the restaurant – which also served as the informal head for the Notting Hill Carnival.

 

Some links I give below give more background to this fascinating story, but I thought I’d relate back to the posts of my recent return visit to Notting Hill where I lived back in the 1970s and to my visit that day to Tate Modern – when I first encountered Steve MacQueen’s Small Axe series.

 

Part of Tate Modern's brochure
regarding McQueen's exhibition
earlier in 2020 - and where I first
came across the mini series "Small Axe"

I gave some background to the development of the area from the 1750s onwards – but which did not touch the cultural and political aspects of life in the 1960s – 1980s in the Notting Hill area … so I’m weaving in and adding to the development I wrote about in those posts.   NB I was politically and culturally unaware … time does change one’s perspective.

 

I know in my previous posts I only mentioned the Notting Hill Carnival – but from the origins of The Mangrove’s troubles with the police the Notting Hill Carnival developed.   I did not participate … I didn’t understand what it was about … and I really don’t like large crowds, nor am I musical or creative in that sense.  But – the learning today is fascinating having lived in that area …

 


"Small Axe" (the name came) from Bob Marley & The Wailers' 1973 Songs of Freedom album!  The name comes from an African proverb ... 'if you are the big tree - we are the small axe' ... 

  

Small Axe (miniseries) – there are five films … four true stories, one imagined … which premiered at the 58th New York Film Festival this year.  They are being shown on BBC1 and are available on Amazon Prime.

 

“The Mangrove Nine” – was the first shown last Sunday on BBC1 – I am now looking forward to four more Sunday evenings of engrossing films.

 

Letitia Wright as Shuri in
Black Panther poster

There are many well-known actors in these films … Letitia Wright – who was Shuri in the Black Panther series – plays British Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe, who, along with eight other Black activists, was arrested and charged with inciting after a peaceful protest in 1970.  John Boyega of Star Wars fame appears in a later film.

 

John Boyega appears in one of the 
later films (c/o Gage Skidmore)

The latter part of the story line centres around the trial at the ‘Old Bailey’ (the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales) and the activists’ rightful non-conformity to the British legal system. 

 

Lady Justice statue on Old Bailey

Legacy: Ian Macdonald, QC wrote in Race Today*: The Mangrove Nine trial was a watershed because we learnt through experience how to confront the power of the court, because the defendants refused to play the role of ‘victim’ and rely on the so-called ‘expertise’ of the lawyer.  Once you recognise the defendant as a self-assertive human being, everything in the court has to change. 

 

I kept on finding out more as I explored articles for this post … including the fact that the area became gentrified during the late 1980s – 90s and onwards – which explains the changes I came across.

 

Interior of Old Bailey

The Mangrove was near recording studios that Iron Maiden, Bob Marley, The Clash, Queen, and many others came to record their music - known now as SARM studios (an acronym of Sound and Recording Mobiles).

 

I think I’d better wrap this up … but as you’ll have gathered … I highly recommend this series.


The Mangrove Nine *

The Mangrove Restaurant

Small Axe (mini series) ... 

Bustle - the media company's review of McQueen's first Small Axe film: The Mangrove Nine

Youtube 1992 recording of Small Axe song by Bob Marley and the Wailers ...  

My post on Steve McQueen's exhibit at Tate Modern early in 2020 ... 

My post (first of three) on my Notting Hill visits - the history and my memories ... 

BBC News article on 'Mangrove Nine' - echoes of black lives matter from 50 years ago ... with press footage, details of the coverage ... and photos ... this is excellent to read.

Steve McQueen's exhibition at the Tate - there's a downloadable brochure via the link.


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

33 comments:

Tara Tyler said...

Great review and recommendation. I always enjoy reading your stories with all the detail and research you put into it - a wonderful rendition full of informative facts! And this was a poignant story to read about, thank you for sharing it. I will definitely check out the Mangrove Nine. I appreciate films that bring history to life and show diverse perspectives.

And thanks for continuing to support me as well - you're a great friend!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I have to say, Hilary, that I know nothing of Steve McQueen, nor the history, nor the cultural background of any of this, so I am really at a loss to offer any cogent comment. I will leave it to your fellow Brits to weigh in on the subject. Stay safe from Covid. It still lurks behind every corner it seems!

Inger said...

So much to read and learn here, I have to come back again. I was a Swedish girl in London in 1960, met a Jamaican young man, a singer in a club, and thus a strange, wonderful, awful, and mixed up time in my life began. I sometimes wonder how the West Indian community is doing in London these days. How included are they in British life, how much have things changed. Thanks for this, I will come back and read more.

Joanne said...

Wow - I am definitely checking this out on Amazon. History I know nothing about and was not aware of. Time does give one perspective and I find myself reading more about stuff that in theory I lived through but was clueless - never in tune with news. You always make me think, Hilary and I thank you.
Have a good weekend and stay safe, my friend

Elephant's Child said...

I have heard nothing but good things about this film. I really don't 'do' movies (because I need to be able to stop, go back, and rethink things but your review has tempted me.
I will explore your generous links a little later. And yes, perspective does change things for me - sometimes dramatically.
Thank you for yet another post which has me thinking and exploring.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tara – many thanks for your wonderful comment … I enjoy bringing my posts to life a little with that ‘Hilary’ approach to what I write up. That’s great you’ll check the film out – I saw another excellent review for it today. This is very British and Caribbean … but brought that era to life.
Pleasure I enjoy coming over to your blog …

@ David – sorry … I completely understand you and where you’re coming from … I knew very little about Steve McQueen – but he’s highly regarded in the creative arts world – perhaps I’ll elaborate in my next post on the Small Axe series. However – it’s wonderful you’ve come by to comment … thank you!

@ Inger – well you were around in those days – so, as you mention, you became involved … as I did too – mixed-up life is the right word.

Life has changed – yet hasn’t … those that are prepared to learn and be a part of the culture will find it so rewarding … but we have to move ourselves into that way of life. It is happening … and I’m grateful I’ve learnt so much.

I’d love to sit down with you sometime and chat with you re life – it’d be fun. I have my doubts it’ll happen – but who knows it just might …

@ Joanne – yes … WOW is the word – another review I read gave the Mangrove Nine film outstanding status.
Time and being prepared to research and investigate different aspects definitely opens one’s eyes … I’m so grateful I can do this now. I think it helps having lived in South Africa for those years and also that year I had in Canada … seeing others’ way of life teaches us. Thank you … just happy you enjoy joining me here … with my thoughts.

@ EC – you’re right … it is excellent – I loved it … it was so good. It’s very British – Caribbean and British … but educatively interesting. I’m glad you’ll be back to explore … and as you say our perspective changes over time … delighted to see you here – enjoy the look around … the BBC News article is probably the best one to look at.

Thanks so much to the five of you – I really appreciate you being here and commenting … take care, stay safe and have peaceful days - Hilary

Munir said...

Hi,
Just checking that all is well with you and you are safe.

Jz said...

It's so important that these stories be more widely known - yet I often end up so incensed by the injustice of the idiocy that I really have a hard time watching things like this. (Probably means I should watch them more, not less, because of that, but my struggle is real.)
This just makes me particularly glad we have you to spread the word. :-)

bazza said...

I need to follow up on this wonderful story. 12 Years a Slave was a wonderful film. Thanks for the information and links here!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s earth-shatteringly educational Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Joanne said...

I am posting again because I did start at Mangrove episode - holy crap. It's brilliantly acted and such a story. Quite gripping and troubling too. Just wanted to let you know your post is not just read and forgotten - I do follow through. Thanks

Hels said...

Why did The Mangrove in Notting Hill close? Has any alternative site opened up since?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Munir – good to see you … all well here, many thanks for checking in – hope all well with you … stay safe …

@ Jz – I agree it is so important that we know more … and I really appreciate these Small Axe stories being written and shown on our tv. It’s being able to look at the whole – and get a glimpse of life that was going on around me – that I had no idea about … but we have to start somewhere and then build up our knowledge, or find out more as we live life, and thus understand more and learn about ourselves. I hope you’ll watch – especially based on Joanne’s comment …

@ Bazza – so pleased … it’s excellent … and the second one is on BBC 1 tonight …

@ Joanne – you are brilliant … and to learn you thought my appreciation of the film is right … we’re getting one a week – so tonight is the 2nd. It’s certainly gripping and troubling – yet they worked their way round our justice system … we’re still in the racist and political growth era.

@ Hels – thank you … The Mangrove has closed … Crichlow kept it open til the late 1980s – but he was still being raided – he was against drugs etc … and was known for that stance. He was then persecuted again and not allowed to go near the restaurant for a year … he alleged the police had planted the drugs. In 1992 the Met Police paid him damages of £50,000 for false imprisonment, battery and malicious prosecution. See more at Wiki – The Mangrove – per link above, where you’ll find out a little more. I’m sure there’s more to the story – but this is the very basic.

Thanks to you all for your comment and thoughts – stay safe - Hilary

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I feel rather ashamed that I don't remember much about this at all; I can only presume that this is a reflection of how little coverage was given of the events in the media at the time. In 1960, when I was seven years old, I was sitting at my desk alongside my best friend (a boy whose parents were German), when we were told by our teacher that a new boy was joining the school and would we help him settle in. He turned out to be black and his parents had somehow found their way from the Windrush to rural Cambridgeshire. We all got on fine and, apart from his ability to disappear into dark corners during games of hide-and-seek, I don't remember any comments about the colour of his skin. We remained firm friends even when he became a skinhead and I grew my hair long - such things were very important when we were teenagers. Why is it that children can have so much more mature attitudes than many adults?

Kay G. said...

I am very interested in documentaries such as this and I thank you for telling me about it. I do hope that we will get to see this on American TV soon!

Jacqui Murray said...

What an amazing story, and thank you for the links. There are so many shocking histories like this, for every race and color. It's a wonder mankind survives.

Mason Canyon said...

Hillary, what a fascinating post. This sounds like a truly amazing series. I always learn so much from your post. Thanks for sharing.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Awesome post, great revieew

Liz A. said...

Sounds fascinating. And it's very timely.

retirementreflections said...

Your posts are fascinating and I continue to learn so much from them. Thank you for all of your research, and your generous sharing!

Rhodesia said...

Not a subject that I know anything about but as always I learn for you. We never go to the cinema much and this year, of course, we have not had a chance anyway!
Take care and stay safe, Diane

Patsy said...

That sounds like an interesting film. I enjoy those which teach us about events and people we might otherwise have known little, or nothing, about.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I haven't watched it yet but I will now.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thank you for such a thorough post, Hilary. I agree the subject should be widely known. I'll check out the film on my firestick. I've been to the Caribeanna and England, and I never connected the two. Thank you for introducing me to this fascinating history.

Sandra Cox said...

Sounds both fascinating and moving. Thanks for sharing, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ John – well I too join you in being ashamed that so much of others’ lives passed me by … I just wasn’t engaged at that stage in my life.

Interesting story about your early school years – and that extra ability to hide! - my mother in the early 1980s employed a Caribbean lady in Penzance … and her family was probably the first in the area for quite a long time – she was delightful.

You’re right about kids having much more mature and understanding attitudes than many adults.

@ Kay – that’s great … I don’t know American tv … but it’s on Amazon Prime.

@ Jacqui – thanks that’s wonderful you’re interested … it’s a fabulous film – really shows life in the 1960s in London … particularly in those days in Notting Hill.

@ Mason – so pleased Mason – I hope you’ll have a look at some of the five films … even one!

@ Jo-Anne – good to see you …

@ Liz – thanks … very timely for us here – I hope you’ll take time to have a look …

@ Donna – thank you … it’s a great film to watch, so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to look at it …

@ Diane – nor did I – I learnt and then found it was happening all around me in the middle 1970s … took me by surprise! It was on BBC1 – that’s how highly the series is rated … and can be found on Amazon Prime … but I do understand you don’t do cinema …

@ Patsy – it’s so worth watching … I hope you’ll give them a go – so much to learn …

@ Diane – that’s fabulous … it’s very British – but such a great historical take …

@ Joylene – you’ll understand the cultural aspects of the film … it is very British though … but that will be great if you’ll take time to watch it …

@ Sandra – it is wonderful … and yes moving as to what others had to put up with …

Thanks to you all – so pleased you’re all interested – I really appreciate it … take care - Hilary

Yolanda Renée said...

I think you do a wonderful service sharing your reviews. These stories need more exposure. I haven't watched the movie 12 years a slave. I get too emotional over the horrors humans do to against each other. Yes, I know, but I write it. Still, it's something that bothers me deeply. And today, it bothers me even more as it's still happening, and so many folks out there think that it's okay. 73,000,000 people voted for one of the worst of them.

Keep bring attention though, it's so needed! Great post, Hilary!

Sue Bursztynski said...

This is a piece of history that is new to me. Thanks for the links, I will definitely check them out!

Nilanjana Bose said...

You've got me seriously intrigued!

I was politically clueless for a long time, but the recent decades have left many of us no option but to get clued up. It is beyond unacceptable the levels of injustice and inequality in the world in this day and age.

Enjoyed the post as always. Keep safe and fit Hilary. <3

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Well that sure worked out for me! My visits into the blogosphere have been very sparse since Mike got sick, but the last time I visited your blog was when you first wrote about Steve McQueen... so reading this one now is like a continuation. :)

Thanks for the recommendation about "Small Axe." It sounds very enlightening, and now that I have Amazon Prime and a smart TV... I can watch it! (And WILL!)

Take care, sweet lady.

mail4rosey said...

I haven't heard of Small Axe until now, but just like everyone else reading you have me curious to seek it out! Here to wish you a lovely day.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Yolanda – good to see … and thank you so much for your comment – I’m glad blogging readers are taking note of these sorts of things. 12 Years a Slave is a really brilliantly told film – we know the backstory … so watching the film is definitely not worse – I do hope you’ll give it a go … it’s your history, after all!

The Mangrove Nine tells my history that I was unaware of – as I was living with it back in the late 1960s – 1970s …so again I hope you’ll take a chance and watch this – it is outstanding …

Thanks – ‘you’ll’ carry on getting info-posts as and when I write them up. Appreciate your thoughts though – have a good day tomorrow – Hilary

@ Sue – excellent to know you’ll be checking Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series out … this first one: The Mangrove Nine – is really special.

@ Nila – that’s great … love your thoughts about being seriously intrigued.

That’s the way I was and to a way still am … but living on three continents has helped … but I’d like to do a degree now – it won’t happen … but I might attend various talks to learn more. Then as you mention the levels of injustice and inequality in all walks of life, and around the world …

@ Sue – good to see you … and it’s excellent you managed to find those two posts … I’m going to do a write up on McQueen – as he’s achieved so much …

So pleased you’ll take some time to watch The Mangrove Nine – the first of the Small Axe films … and great you can watch it via Amazon Prime and a smart TV – well done!

@ Rosey - thank you ... great to read you'll also look at the film ...

Thanks so much to you all – lovely to see you and to have your comments here … stay safe and take care - Hilary

Sandra Cox said...

I like John Boyega.
You have a great one;0)

Sherry Ellis said...

I did not know anything about Steve McQueen and his exhibition. It all sounds fascinating.