Entertainment

Sunday 22 July 2018

Rivers Of Blood documentary maker: ‘We cannot run away from our history’

The programme comes as the BBC sparked controversy by announcing Enoch Powell’s anti-immigration speech will be read in full.

Channel 5 will explore ethnic identity in a programme marking the anniversary of the Rivers Of Blood speech (Pashoura Singh Bal/Channel 5)
Channel 5 will explore ethnic identity in a programme marking the anniversary of the Rivers Of Blood speech (Pashoura Singh Bal/Channel 5)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The director of a Channel 5 documentary featuring excerpts of politician Enoch Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech says it is important not to “run away from our history”.

Rivers Of Blood: 50 Years On features parts of the speech, played to over 100 black and Asian people to seek their reaction.

It was broadcast to the families who first heard it in 1968 as well as their descendants.

It comes as the BBC sparked controversy by announcing Powell’s controversial anti-immigration speech will be read in full on Saturday for the first time, on Radio 4’s Archive On 4 programme.

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Selina Ullah, who features in Rivers Of Blood: 50 Years On, as a young girl (ITN Productions/Channel 5)

Geoff Small, who directed the Channel 5 documentary, said he was shocked to discover that “so many young people had never heard of Enoch Powell”.

“It’s important to look at his prophecy and whether or not that’s come true,” Small told the Press Association.

“But more to the point, from a non-white perspective, these people about whom he was speaking have an opportunity to give their view on race relations and on how it has changed over the last 50 years,” he said of the Channel 5 film.

The documentary explores personal stories of what it means to be black or Asian in Britain today on the 50th anniversary of the speech.

It “tells the highly personal story of multicultural Britain over the past half-century through the eyes of several generations”, the broadcaster said.

Enoch Powell's speech was probably the most incendiary speech on race relations ever delivered in this country Geoff Small, documentary director

“Enoch Powell’s speech was probably the most incendiary speech on race relations ever delivered in this country”, Small said.

“Generally speaking, there is a lot more optimism about race relations now and the future of race relations.

“But if you go online and Google ‘Enoch was right’ you find a lot of people on the far right who agree with Powell’s views.

“Also, quite pointedly you can buy a T-shirt with ‘Enoch was right’ written on it. So he’s as relevant today, I would suspect, as he was all those years ago.

“It’s a valid question to ask, ‘What has changed?'”

He said of Radio 4’s decision to air the speech: “I think it’s a good idea. I’m surprised about the backlash.

“He’s as valid to some people today as he was then. This idea of running away from what he said is not a good idea. We should not run away from our history.”

The BBC said the forthcoming broadcast was a “rigorous journalistic analysis of a historical political speech” and “not an endorsement of the controversial views”.

Rivers Of Blood: 50 Years On airs on April 20 at 10pm on Channel 5.

Press Association

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