RIDLEY Road, a new BBC Drama, follows the story of Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser living in London, who joins antifascist coalition 62 Group.
Although Vivien’s story is fictionalized, Group 62 did exist. Here’s the true history behind the series…
What was 62 Group?
The Antifascist Coalition 62 Group was established in Soho in London in 1962.
The group was created in response to the UK’s re-emergence of fascism. This included Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists as well as the newly-emerging National Front. Oswald Mosley is a fascist group that believes that only white people should have the right to become citizens of the United Kingdom.
The 62 Group would direct action against such groups.
In July 1962, the 62 Group clashed in Trafalgar Square with neo-fascists including prominent far-right figure Colin Jordan, who was attempting to make a speech in front of a banner that read: “Free Britain from Jewish Control”.
The confrontation escalated to a full-blown riot.
Who were the 62 Group members?
Although only Jews were allowed to join the group, they often worked alongside marginalized communities such as Black and Irish peoples.
Harry Bidney (Jewish Nightclub Manager) founded the group. He modeled it on 43 Group which he was also a part of.
43 Group had been founded twenty years earlier with the similar aim of tackling anti-Semitic violence – however, the group disbanded in 1950 after its’ members believed that the immediate threat had passed.
What happened with the 62 groups?
The 62 Group was one the most powerful Jewish militant groups at the time. However, it faded into the background following the 1977 founding by The Anti-Nazi League.
Searchlight, which was started by Gerry Gable of the 1962 Group, is still in existence.
Searchlight’s mission is to expose fascism and antisemitism in the UK.