Real survivors of events in Uprising share ‘relief’ over BBC series

Uprising: BBC releases trailer for Steve McQueen film

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BBC One’s newest documentary series, Steve McQueen’s Uprising, is currently airing and explores three tragic events surrounding London’s black community. In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, survivors of the New Cross fire of 1981, Wayne Haynes and Denise Gooding, revealed their relief to finally tell their stories, as well as outline the “honour” of working with McQueen to bring their important stories to the screen.

After the tremendous success of the anthology film series, Small Axe, the BBC is once again reteaming with award-winning director McQueen, as well as producer Rogan, to shed light on the tragic events of 1981.

In a Q&A ahead of the series’ release, the two filmmakers detailed how they plan on changing the conversation regarding race relations in the United Kingdom.

McQueen highlighted the importance of the series, not just for the black community, but for the British public who have little knowledge of the historic events.

Wayne Hayes and Denise Gooding described how it felt to finally have their respective stories shared on-screen and what it means to them both.

The New Cross fire occurred during a house party in southeast London during the early hours of the morning and no one was ever charged.

The blaze claimed the lives of 13 black teenagers and another survivor took their own life less than two years later.

Both Hayes and Gooding were survivors of that tragic night and both detailed how they were emotionally liberated by discussing the events with McQueen and his team.

Hayes said: “You know, it’s almost like a freedom, it’s like somebody setting you free. Being allowed to tell your story for what it is, and how it was, it’s a relief it really is.

“It’s something we’ve carried, and we’ve carried these things with us for 40 years. And no matter how we try to walk away from it, we can’t,” he continued.

“It doesn’t matter how we try to quantify it, we can’t. There is a beginning, but there is no end,” Hayes explained.

“So you see for us, this is a release. I’ve been able to get my story out and inform people of how we were living and the things that we had to go through back in those days. That’s a great feeling for me.”

Gooding revealed that reliving the trauma of the fire has been “hard” because, as a survivor, she felt so alone as few “understood the meaning of being a part of it”.

She explained that, for survivors, they were “suffering, but not being heard”.

However, Uprising has been a blessing and they were finally able to reveal their truths: “It’s been like therapy, it really has been like therapy because it’s like, for once, we can tell the story in its entirety and don’t have to miss bits out.”

Gooding noted that, while they were attempting to carry on and rebuild their lives, they didn’t receive an outlet to tell their story until now.

“It has been hard but it’s nice now to be able to speak about it so openly. To have that empathy and that understanding is brilliant,” she added.

Producer Rogan stated that the events of 1981 should be taught in schools and, as Hayes noted, the events in 1981 are not just black history: “It’s British history so it shouldn’t just be taught one month of the year.”

Gooding expressed gratitude to McQueen and Rogan for taking the project on because “it makes people actually listen to me”.

Hayes echoed her sentiments stating: “For the first time, this is really us. Without you guys. I’d still be walking around with a heavy heart.”

Hayes and Gooding also revealed that they have attempted to discuss the fire in the past but their interviews would frequently be edited to the point that their story didn’t have an impact.

“These guys [McQueen and Rogan] gave us a platform to tell the world how we feel. And you know what, they didn’t edit out the parts that they didn’t like.

“We’ve been listened to and not directed,” he remarked.

Hayes also detailed his hopes for the series and what audiences should take away from the project: “I hope that this helps other people to stop and take a look at life and racism from a different angle.”

He added: “We’re now in 2021 and we need a new revolution. You guys [McQueen and Gooding] are actually creating the new revolution for change.”

Uprising explores the New Cross house fire and the Black People’s Day of Action, which was the first organised black protest, taking place in March that year.

The series also examines the events leading up to the Brixton riot a few months later, which was a confrontation between the Metropolitan police and black protesters. The two-day protest was later dubbed ‘Bloody Saturday’.

The horrific tragedies of 1981 have had a lasting impact on the black community across the UK and, the country’s little knowledge of the events inspired McQueen to bring the events to the public’s attention.

Uprising sheds real light on a moment in British history that has too long been ignored and forgotten.

Uprising continues tonight on BBC One at 9pm, and all episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from July 20.

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