Black Lives

Portraits of public and private lives against the shifting social climate of 20th century Britain.

Black communities, like many minority groups, have long been ill-served by a mainstream British media accustomed to reflecting predominantly white, middle-class lives - a problem entrenched in the second half of the 20th century with the rise of television. Yet a rich tapestry of work from across the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction, film and TV, made for (though not always by) black people, does exist. This selection contains many surprises – some joyous, some sobering, some heartbreaking – and highlights the often painfully slow progress in addressing negative representations and stereotypes on screen. Impassioned and sometimes violent dispatches from the front line in the fight for racial equality can be found here, but so too can records of progress: in the pioneers breaking new ground in culture, politics and sport, and in the more mundane glimpses of everyday life. And this story is not just London’s story: the selection takes a journey around Britain, to a Nigerian wedding in 1960s Cornwall, an ‘African village’ in Essex and a Caribbean restaurant opening in West Bromwich; Newcastle, meanwhile, plays host to not one but two black luminaries, Martin Luther King and Muhammed Ali.

Read more Close
Watch for free

Sixty-four Day Hero: A Boxer's TaleSixty-four Day Hero: A Boxer's Tale

Biopic198594 mins

The turbulent life and death of championship boxer Randolph Turpin.

Watch for free

Caribbean RestaurantCaribbean Restaurant

Magazine and Review show19867 mins Location: West Bromwich

Bringing the tastes of Montego Bay to a wintry West Bromwich.

Watch for free

Burning Cross Race AttackBurning Cross Race Attack

Non-Fiction19655 mins Location: Handsworth

A stark reminder from Handsworth of the intolerance and hatred that darkened the streets of 1960s Britain.

Watch for free

Gay Black GroupGay Black Group

Magazine and Review show198325 mins Location: Bloomsbury

The Gay Black Group - reasserting culture and identity on two levels.

Watch for free

13 November 1967: Martin Luther King Interview13 November 1967: Martin Luther King Interview

News19672 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

A rare interview with Dr Martin Luther King casts fresh light on black British broadcast history.

Watch for free

Tiger Bay and The Rainbow Club - ITiger Bay and The Rainbow Club - I

Home movie196039 minsSilent Location: Butetown

Tiger Bay in Cardiff's docks area: a successful, multi-cultural community, providing a variety of activities, but which is threatened by 'slum' clearance.

Watch for free

Black Theatre of BrixtonBlack Theatre of Brixton

Documentary197512 mins

Interesting doc following the Black Theatre of Brixton, which produced more black plays in two years than the whole of English theatre had in the previous twenty-five.

Watch for free

Alexandra Park Pageant, 27 June 1970Alexandra Park Pageant, 27 June 1970

Amateur film19708 minsSilent Location: Moss Side

The beginning of a Mancunian tradition - could this be the first Moss Side Carnival?

Watch for free

Black Special ConstableBlack Special Constable

Non-Fiction19642 mins Location: Gloucestershire

In Gloucester in January 1964, Astley Lloyd Blair makes history by becoming the first black special constable in Britain.

Watch for free

Vox Pops on Black Police OfficersVox Pops on Black Police Officers

Non-Fiction19663 mins

Black police officers? What a ridiculous idea! Attitudes from England's colonial past linger on in the Midlands of the 1960s.

Watch for free

Suffolk RDC turn down housing for migrantsSuffolk RDC turn down housing for migrants

News19653 mins Location: Mildenhall

In an age when using the term ‘coloured’ was deemed acceptable, Anglia TV ask Councillors in Mildenhall why it is considered a problem to house migrants in the overspill town.

Watch for free

Grove CarnivalGrove Carnival

Documentary198118 mins Location: Notting Hill

West London echoes to the sound of reggae and steel pans in this kaleidoscopic record of the 1980 Notting Hill Carnival.

Watch for free

Divide and Rule - Never!Divide and Rule - Never!

Documentary197841 mins

Young working class Londoners fight racism with the power of rock and reggae in this anarchic documentary.

Watch for free

Out and AboutOut and About

Non-Fiction197914 mins Location: Leeds

Sandwiched between two typical native spectacles, the flower show and performing animals, the Leeds Carnival brings forth all the rhythms and exuberance of the Caribbean.

Currently unavailable

Nigerian Wedding in CornwallNigerian Wedding in Cornwall

Current affairs19641 minsSilent Location: Pool

Dressing to please as the happy couple switch wedding dress for national dress.

Watch for free

Cold Railway WorkersCold Railway Workers

Non-Fiction19632 mins

Tough times on the tracks - the railway workers who kept the trains moving through the big freeze.

Watch for free

Springtime in an English VillageSpringtime in an English Village

Documentary19447 mins Location: Stanion

An extraordinary and unexpected snapshot of rural life in wartime in which a young black girl is crowned Queen of the May.

Watch for free

London Line No. 113London Line No. 113

Cinemagazine196614 mins Location: Sevenoaks

If your interests happen to include rainwear, concrete in Africa, science in Sevenoaks, and gbedu drum music, then this is your lucky day...

Watch for free

London Line No. 373London Line No. 373

Cinemagazine197115 minsSilent Location: Westminster

A Ghanaian fashion student and a Nigerian squash player are among the Africans making a life in 70s Britain in this edition of the magazine show.

Watch for free

Tessa SandersonTessa Sanderson

Non-Fiction19777 mins Location: Wednesfield

Despite having to work in an office for a living, Wolverhampton's Tessa Sanderson is tipped to be the greatest javelin thrower ever.

Watch for free

Ballet BlackBallet Black

Documentary198685 mins

Stephen Dwoskin brings together members of the Ballet Negres dance company, founded in London in 1946.

Watch for free

Afro Housing Self Build SchemeAfro Housing Self Build Scheme

Non-Fiction19746 mins Location: Small Heath

New houses for a new future? A self build housing project for Afro Caribbeans is introduced in Birmingham.

Watch for free

Osibisa Musical GroupOsibisa Musical Group

Current affairs19803 mins Location: Plymouth

Ghanaian led Afro-Caribbean band spread infectious rhythms of world music at Plymouth’s Frankfort Gate.

Watch for free

To the Four CornersTo the Four Corners

Travelogue195727 mins Location: Cardiff/Caerdydd

Haunting colour travelogue taking in Ulster, Lewis, Lincoln and Cardiff's Tiger Bay.

Watch for free

Community CentreCommunity Centre

Magazine and Review show19847 mins Location: Wolverhampton

A centre for the "undertones and outcasts". Breaking down cultural and generational barriers at Wolverhampton's first Rastafari centre.

Watch for free

Seaside EscapeSeaside Escape

Current affairs19831 minsSilent Location: Wembury

Children from inner city Brixton in London having fun at Wembury Beach.

Watch for free

Liverpool 8Liverpool 8

Current affairs197227 mins Location: Liverpool

Jonathan Dimbleby investigates racial tension on Liverpool's housing estates for This Week.

Watch for free

Black to FrontBlack to Front

Current affairs197827 mins Location: Brixton

World in Action interviews the residents of Haycroft Road, Brixton as a controversial by-election stokes concerns about race and immigration.

Watch for free

The Jah PeopleThe Jah People

Documentary198122 mins Location: Handsworth

Followers of the Rastafari way of life bring tales of Haile Selassie, Jah and Zion to the streets of inner-city Birmingham.

Watch for free

Muhammad Ali Visit to the North EastMuhammad Ali Visit to the North East

News19776 mins Location: Durham Tees Valley Airport

A boxing legend and 'People's Champion', Muhammad Ali makes an extraordinary visit to Tyneside in the 1970s.

Watch for free

Black VoteBlack Vote

Current affairs198013 mins Location: Smethwick

"There's been no active encouragement for black people to participate within the political structure of this country". A bleak picture of the lack of equality in Britain.

Watch for free

Cuthbert GardnerCuthbert Gardner

19687 mins

"Why Tory?" Bernard Braden asks aspiring politician Cuthbert Gardner, who's standing for election to Merton Council

Watch for free

Regent of Abyssinia in LondonRegent of Abyssinia in London

Non-Fiction19240 minsSilent

Abyssinian state ministers visit London during Prince Regent Haile Selassie's diplomatic tour of Europe.

Watch for free

Martin Luther King Honorary Degree Ceremony at Newcastle UniversityMartin Luther King Honorary Degree Ceremony at Newcastle University

Non-Fiction196710 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

A remarkable event the great American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King makes a powerful speech on a unique visit to Newcastle University.

Watch for free

Black MagistrateBlack Magistrate

Non-Fiction19625 mins Location: Nottingham

Nottingham welcomes Britain's first black magistrate.

Watch for free

Black Sheriff of NottinghamBlack Sheriff of Nottingham

Magazine and Review show19898 mins Location: Nottingham

He jokes that he's joined the 'chain gang' but there is more than ceremonial robes for Tony Robinson as Nottingham's first black Sheriff.

Watch for free

Unemployment Crisis for Birmingham West Indian School LeaversUnemployment Crisis for Birmingham West Indian School Leavers

Non-Fiction19769 mins Location: Handsworth

Birmingham's lost black generation: undermined by the racism that's stifling the dynamism of a young workforce.

Watch for free

Foster Mother to Eleven ChildrenFoster Mother to Eleven Children

News19705 mins

Miss Christie, aged 64, shares her home with eleven foster children, a donkey, three dogs and twelve cats. Anglia TV reports.

Watch for free

Fostering Nigerian ChildrenFostering Nigerian Children

News19657 mins Location: Fremington

Nigerian children find a home with the Arnetts in Fremington

Watch for free

No East or WestNo East or West

Documentary195422 mins Location: Bayswater

From Africa to Bayswater: international students receive a charitable welcome in 1950s London.

Watch for free

African Student FamiliesAfrican Student Families

Cinemagazine197510 minsSilent Location: Westminster

Cinemagazine London Line looks at the support available in London for African students and their families.

Watch for free

Peterborough PlaybusPeterborough Playbus

News19764 mins Location: Peterborough

Peterborough's Playbus offers a fun and welcoming space for ethnic minority families to improve their English language skills.

Watch for free

Ian and VivIan and Viv

News19806 mins Location: Taunton

Interview with International and Somerset cricketers Ian Botham and Viv Richards

Watch for free

Aklowa African Village, Bishop's Stortford, EssexAklowa African Village, Bishop's Stortford, Essex

News19775 mins Location: Takeley

With workshops and performances, Aklowa village in Essex promotes a greater awareness of the richness of African culture.

Watch for free

Multi-cultural Fortnight in CambridgeMulti-cultural Fortnight in Cambridge

News19784 mins Location: Cambridge

Welcome to the Multicultural Fortnight in Cambridge where children learn to banish cultural stereotypes learned from TV.

Watch for free

African Sculpture Exhibition in WeymouthAfrican Sculpture Exhibition in Weymouth

News19791 minsSilent Location: Weymouth

An African sculpture exhibition in a Weymouth school

Watch for free

Aklowa African Village in EssexAklowa African Village in Essex

Factual TV19866 mins Location: Takeley

Essex primary schoolchildren share an unforgettable afternoon, living the life of an African villager.

Watch for free

You in Your Small CornerYou in Your Small Corner

Drama196281 mins Location: Brixton

Lloyd Reckord stars as a gifted student confronting the race and class divide in 1960s Brixton.

Watch for free

African music at Stewards Comprehensive, HarlowAfrican music at Stewards Comprehensive, Harlow

News19747 mins Location: Harlow

With great enthusiasm, the schoolchildren of Stewards Comp in Harlow are inspired to drum, dance, and sing traditional African music.

Watch for free

East African Dance in WeymouthEast African Dance in Weymouth

News19768 mins Location: Weymouth

Basil, an East African performer educates school children in traditional dance

Watch for free


Drama198426 mins

Monologue about a "nice" West Indian and his descent into postcolonial cynicism, performed by the legendary Norman Beaton.

Watch for free

Faith and HenryFaith and Henry

196956 mins

Captivating exploration of a young interracial friendship, set against Lancashire’s industrial landscape.

Watch for free

To Keep Our Way of LifeTo Keep Our Way of Life

Drama195952 mins

A West Indian man working in Britain faces prejudice, suspicion and jealousy in this shocking early TV play.

Watch for free

Tunde's FilmTunde's Film

Documentary drama197440 mins Location: Stepney

Tired of being hassled by the police and with no job opportunities, a group of teenage East End lads plan to rob a bank.

Watch for free

Steel 'n' SkinSteel 'n' Skin

Performance197936 mins Location: Liverpool

Black music and culture in the community

Watch for free

Men of Two WorldsMen of Two Worlds

Drama1946107 mins Location: Pinewood Film Studios

Handsomely presented drama about a man caught between his privileged Western education and traditional African roots.

Watch for free

Home Away from HomeHome Away from Home

199311 mins

A powerfully bittersweet image of the loneliness and sacrifice in migration stories, centred on a Nigerian-British family

Watch for free

Aerial Views of YorkshireAerial Views of Yorkshire

Non-Fiction197910 minsSilent Location: Leeds

A bird’s eye view of the tower blocks and new roads of 1970s Leeds contrasts nicely with the colourful and exuberant Caribbean Carnival, headed by an intriguingly titled banner.

Watch for free

Carnival FantastiqueCarnival Fantastique

Documentary196018 mins

Vibrant documentary that captures Trinidad's famous street carnival in 1960.

Watch for free

28 June 1967: Town Moor Hoppings28 June 1967: Town Moor Hoppings

News19676 mins Location: Town Moor

A rap on rain and rates with Britain’s first black British broadcaster and the travelling showpeople at the Hoppings funfair in Newcastle.

Watch for free

Race Relations BoardRace Relations Board

Public Information Filler19691 mins

New law targets discrimination in housing and employment in this eye-opening public information film.

Watch for free

Carnival of Tears Today SpecialCarnival of Tears Today Special

Current affairs197629 mins Location: Notting Hill

Special edition of the current affairs series Today about the planning of the Notting Hill Carnival and clashes with police.

Watch for free

Notting Hill CarnivalNotting Hill Carnival

Amateur film19762 minsSilent Location: Notting Hill

Music, dancing and community characterise this short film from Notting Hill Carnival, 1976.

More Black Lives films in our Rentals collection.