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What is BBC's Ridley Road based on?

The story is based on true events

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Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
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Ridley Road is the BBC’s new four-part period drama which follows the fight of Jewish British people against rising Neo-Nazism in post-war London - but what is the story based on?

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For those who have yet to catch up on the tense series, the story focuses on 20-year-old Vivien Epstein as she leaves home in search of her lover but finds herself going undercover with fascists for the sake of her country. 

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Is it based on a true story?

Yes, the series is based on true events that took place in the early Sixties and inspired author Jo Bloom to write the novel from which the show has been adapted. 

Although the character Vivien Epstein is purely fictional, the 62 Group was a real Jewish defence organisation that operated during that time. The group stemmed from the original 43 Group, formed after the war by ex-Jewish servicemen in response to far-right agitators. 

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The group’s tactics were informed by their military experience, with one of their biggest battles taking place around the thriving Jewish community of Ridley Road.

agnes ridley walking down street© Photo: BBC

Agnes O’Casey stars as Vivien Epstein

The group dissolved in the 1950s as the threat of fascists seemed to have faded. But when the 1960s saw a resurgence of the far-right, the 62 Group was formed, built on the image of its predecessor. Ridley Road became a battlefield for anti-fascists and neo-Nazis once again. 

While Vivien Epstein’s character is not based on a real figure, members of the 62 Group did in fact infiltrate the far-right in order to pass on details about upcoming attacks.

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Who is in the show?

The show stars newcomer Agnes O’Casey as leading role Vivien Epstein, with Game of Thrones’ Tom Varey playing Vivien’s lover Jack Morris.

tom ridley road looking from train© Photo: BBC

Tom Varey plays Jack Morris

The cast also includes James Bond’s Rory Kinnear, Friday Night Dinner’s Tracy Ann Oberman and Hotel Babylon’s Tamzin Outhwaite.

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