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Image of TV still Guerrilla

Hackney sets the scene in Guerrilla

Date posted: 15.05.2017

New Sky Atlantic series Guerrilla tells the gripping story of two politically engaged lovers who become involved in the Black Power movement of 1970s London. The series was created and written by Academy Award winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), with Idris Elba as executive producer.

Jas (Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire) and Marcus (Babou Ceesay, Free Fire), set out to fight against injustice and prejudice, putting their relationship and values to the test when they liberate a political prisoner and form a radical underground cell.

The drama also stars Elba, who plays an activist with a less extreme approach to overcoming oppression, and Rory Kinnear, who plays a Chief Inspector from the British Police Special Branch’s ‘Black Power Desk’ - the sole purpose of which was to dismantle black activism in the UK.

Rising tension

The series needed to recreate the look and feel of London in 1971, setting the story against rising tensions in the city when the new Immigration Act was implemented to restrict the numbers of non-white immigrants into the UK.

The six-part series used numerous places around London, including areas of Islington, Lewisham, Finsbury Park, Hackney, Lambeth and Holborn. Specific locations featured on screen include Sobell Leisure Centre in Holloway, Candid Arts Centre in Angel, Ye Olde Mitre pub in Holborn, Bedford Square in Bloomsbury and Goddard’s Pie Shop in Deptford.

Many of the areas used for filming were familiar to Hackney-born Elba, who says “We filmed some of the tea house scenes right near my childhood home, and so some days walking to set felt like walking back in time.”

Versatile Hackney

One location that features prominently is the headquarters and garage for Empress Coaches in Hackney. The premises runs alongside the canal, and includes the unique feature of original vintage petrol pumps on the old forecourt.

Georgette Turner, location manager for the series, was already familiar with the location and knew it would be well suited to the needs of the production. Turner explains “It’s incredibly versatile and has been variously used as a vintage petrol station, coachworks, gangsters’ lair, wasteland, 18th Century cobbled marketplace, homeless persons’ sanctuary and, most notably, a chop shop in Fast & Furious 6.

Turner managed to win over the rest of the team with her choice “The director liked it so much it became the main location for episodes three and four, and for the final episode. Our incredibly talented production designer Paul Cross cleverly used the house attached to the location to transform into a safe house set in the country.”

Guerilla is available to watch now on Sky Atlantic.