TV & Movies

Small Axe Director Steve McQueen Had A Personal Link To The Mangrove Nine

The Oscar-winner wanted to ensure the historic events were told with "as much accuracy and care as possible.”


Steve McQueen's BBC anthology series Small Axe retells pivotal moments from Black British History between the late 1960s and mid-1980s. One of the stories depicted in the series is the case of the Mangrove Nine, which saw nine men and women wrongly arrested, charged, and tried. But how accurate is Mangrove?

As Radio Times reports, the real-life story on which Mangrove is based, began with the opening of the opening of the popular West Indian restaurant The Mangrove in London's Notting Hill, in 1968. The dining hotspot became something of a sanctuary for the local Black community, where respected intellectuals, activists, and artists would often come together. The restaurant was regularly targeted by the local council and police, who would regularly sanction and raid The Mangrove without justification.

As per iNews, this mistreatment prompted the restaurant's owner, Frank Crichlow, and the local community to take to the streets in peaceful protest in 1970. This demonstration led to the wrongful arrests of nine peaceful protesters, who were later charged with incitement to riot. What followed was a highly-publicised trial which became a key case in the fight against institutionalised discrimination.

McQueen's Mangrove, which recently aired on BBC One as part of the famed director's Small Axe film series, largely centres on the real-life figures Frank Crichlow, the owner of The Mangrove restaurant, the leader of the British Black Panther Movement Altheia Jones-LeCointe, and activists Darcus Howe and Barbara Beese — all of whom are portrayed in the BBC anthology.


The landmark real-life trial of the Mangrove Nine, which alongside those already mentioned, also included Rupert Boyce, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Innis, Rothwell Kentish, and Godfrey Millett, is at the heart of McQueen's dramatic reconstruction.

Commenting on the film's conception, the Oscar-winning director revealed his close personal connections to a member of the Mangrove Nine, and explained how he hoped to retell the story with "as much accuracy and care as possible.”

"This is a story that I grew up knowing through my parents, my dad was friends with one of the Mangrove Nine. It was crucial to me that my co-writer Alastair Siddons and I put all our effort into research and to retelling this story with as much accuracy and care as possible." He continued: “Alastair is very particular. He is an innate researcher and likes to get to the nitty-gritty. The minutia. We worked together in tandem, digging and refining as we went along on this journey.”

Mangrove is the first of five McQueen-directed films in the BBC's Small Axe anthology series, the cast of which includes The Accident's Shaun Parkes as Frank Crichlow, Top Boy's Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Black Mirror's Malachi Kirby as Darcus Howe, Lost In Space star Shaun Parkes, Line of Duty's Rochenda Sandall, and more.

Small Axe continues on Sundays at 9 p.m. on BBC One.