John Boyega, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Shaun Parkes and more will join Steve McQueen’s London set drama series.

If that’s not enough, British Black legendary authors Courttia Newland (The Scholar, Snakeskin) is on the writing team, and Alex Wheatle (Brixton Rock, East of Acre Lane) is a consultant!

The series due to air on BBC One has long been rumoured and now finally filming has begun. Oscar and Bafta-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen (Widows, Twelve Years A Slave) is at the helm of the 6×60 films tell five stories, with the first told across two episodes, and are set within London’s Caribbean community from the late 1960s to the early 80s.

The cast includes John Boyega (Star Wars franchise, Detroit) and Letitia Wright (Black Panther) alongside Evening Standard Theatre Awards’ Outstanding Newcomer Malachi Kirby (Curfew, Black Mirror, Roots), Shaun Parkes (Lost In Space, Hooten & The Lady), and Rochenda Sandall (Line Of Duty, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch).

The title Small Axe is derived from a Jamaican proverb which has resonance throughout the Caribbean, “if you are the big tree, we are the small axe”. Small Axe is also the title of a Bob Marley song from his 1973 album Catch A Fire. It means that relatively marginal or small voices of dissent can successfully challenge more powerful voices.

The series is executive produced by Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner for Turbine Studios and Steve McQueen for Lammas Park. Shooting began on location in London on June 24.

Mike Elliot is producing for EMU Films with Turbine Studios and Anita Overland. Associate producers are Charlotte Andrews for Turbine Studios, Susan Dolan for Lammas Park and Helen Bart.

The drama has been commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, and the executive producer for the BBC is Lucy Richer, Senior Commissioning Editor for Drama. Amazon has licensed the show for the US. BBC Studios is handling worldwide sales.

Steve McQueen says: “I felt these stories needed to be shared. I wanted to re-live, re-evaluate and investigate the journeys that my parents and the first generation of West Indians went on to deliver me here today calling myself a Black British person. What’s important about our stories is that they are local but at the same time global. I think audiences will identify with the trials, tribulations and joy of our characters as well as reflecting on the present environment in which we find ourselves. The dynamic nature of the series allows us to confront injustice in the face of adversity hence the proverb Small Axe, ‘if you are the big tree, we are the small axe’ (Bob Marley).”