Have you now read the full text of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech from 1968? If you’re not old enough to remember, can you imagine how immigrants and the rest of British society reacted to it? And how it may have affected individuals’ lives?
That’s what Chris Hannan explores in What Shadows. The new play, commissioned by Birmingham Rep, where it premiered last October, tells some of the story behind Powell’s explosive speech, bringing to life the community that inspired it and, 30 years later, looks at its effects on a woman trying to make sense of her own life and identity. The woman sets out to meet Powell and get answers.
Ian McDiarmid reprises his role as Powell, and is joined by Amelia Donkor, Nicholas Le Prevost, Paula Wilcox, Waleed Akhtar, Ameet Chana and Joanne Pearce. The production is directed by Birmingham Rep artistic director Roxana Silbert.
Ahead of the London premiere ofWhat Shadows, we’ve gathered the following YouTube videos that provide key historical context – and a more recent response from a 21st-century British politician who you’ll definitely recognise.
Playing the Race Card
The three-part documentary Playing the Race Card, looking at race relations in the UK in the 20th century, aired on BBC One in 1999. The following two videos show extracts that specifically pertain to Enoch Powell, who, leading up to Rivers of Blood speech, was Shadow Secretary of State for Defence in the Conservative Opposition, and public and political reactions to his words.
Parallels with Brexit?
In an interview with Sky News in 2014, then UKIP leader Nigel Farage was read extracts from the Rivers of Blood (which he didn’t recognise) and this was his reaction. (We won’t even go into parallels with populist politicians from other countries!)