The title of Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen’s (‘12 Years a Slave’) anthology film series ‘Small Axe’ refers to a Jamaican/West Indian proverb made famous by Bob Marley’s 1973 namesake song. Considering the film documents the trials and tribulations of the Windrush generation, the people who came to the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1970, the title seems both appropriate and evocative.
It especially focuses on the West Indian experience in London between the late 1960s and mid-1980s. While filming these exceptional period pieces, McQueen and his crew had to ensure that they get not only the place but also the time of the setting correct. Here is everything you need to know about the filming locations of ‘Small Axe!’
What is Small Axe About?
The pilot episode of ‘Small Axe’ depicts the remarkable story of Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes), who establishes the eponymous West Indian restaurant in Notting Hill. In time, it becomes a cultural hub that draws artists, intellectuals, locals, and activists. However, Crichlow soon finds himself confronted by institutionalized racism.
The 2nd episode, ‘Lovers Rock’, revolves around a party in 1980 and celebrates love in the time of reggae music and racial tension. ‘Red, White and Blue’ is the 3rd film and tells the story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega), a forensic scientist who decides to join the Metropolitan Police Department after watching two of their officers assault his father when he was young. His personal mission is to change the institution from the inside.
‘Alex Wheatle’, the fourth film, chronicles the life of its titular character (Sheyi Cole), beginning from his childhood in a children’s home, covering his incarceration because of his involvement in the 1981 Brixton riots, and portraying his eventual emergence as a well-respected author. In the fifth and final episode, ‘Education’, the main character is a 12-year-old boy named Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who harbors a deep fascination for space. His life takes an unexpected turn when he finds out that he has been transferred to a school for children with special needs.
Small Axe Filming Locations
All five films resonate with modern relevance, despite some of them depicting events that happened in the past. McQueen, cinematographer Shabier Kirchner, and their crew predominantly shot the film in London. Some scenes were filmed in the English city of Wolverhampton as well.
‘Small Axe’ was filmed in various locations in London, including Acre Lane, Brixton; West Ealing; Kingsgate Rd., Kilburn; and Deptford. Principal photography began in June 2019. Residents and business owners of the aforementioned neighborhoods took to social media to share photos of and experiences with the production. According to one resident, Supertone Records, located at 110 Acre Ln, Ferndale, was turned into Soferno B for the movie.
— Common Streathamite (@loveiseveryone) October 2, 2019
In West Ealing, a Caribbean restaurant thanked McQueen and the rest of the production for their patronage during the shooting.
#rotikitchen would like to thank Steve McQueen, plus the cast and crew of Small Axe (TV Mini-series) for their generous support, while filming in West Ealing, London last night. pic.twitter.com/ddcmNcQTBb
— Roti Kitchen (@RotiKitchen) July 17, 2020
In August 2019, a Kilburn-based Twitter page reported that while filming for the movie series has ended there, parts of the set have not been taken down yet.
Filming of Small Axe in Kingsgate Road has ended, however some of the set is still here. pic.twitter.com/3zIQSXIAmT
— Life In Kilburn (@LifeInKilburn) August 3, 2019
While the team was in Deptford, a local shared a photo of several vintage cars from the set of ‘Small Axe.’
Period cars parked up yesterday ready for filming of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe currently on location in Deptford. pic.twitter.com/mJ2udL3Lkm
— Deptford Dame (@deptforddame) July 30, 2019
Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England
A city located in central England, Wolverhampton hosted the cast and crew in late 2019. They used a particular property in Goldthorn Avenue for filming. According to the residents, the production team showed up with lorries and vans, turning a normally quiet residential street into a bustling one. The crew members were also spotted adding a coat of paint on the PVC windows of the house to make it fit the setting of the story.
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