What was 62 Group?

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 herself is fictional, Group 62 really existed. Here's the true history behind the series…

What was 62 Group?

62 Group was an antifascist coalition founded in Soho, London, in 1962.

The group was set up in response to a resurgence of fascism in the UK, which included Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and the then-emerging National Front, a fascist group which believes that only white people should be permitted to be citizens of the United Kingdom.

62 Group would take direct action against groups like these.

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 which read: "Free Britain from Jewish Control".

The confrontation eventually escalated into a full-blown riot.

Who was part of the 62 Group?

Only Jewish people were permitted to be formal members of the group but they frequently worked alongside other marginalized communities, most notably Irish and Black groups.

The group was founded by Jewish Nightclub Manager Harry Bidney, who modelled it after 43 Group, which he had also been a member 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 to the 62 Group?

The 62 Group was one of the largest Jewish militant groups of its' time, but began to fade into the background after the 1977 founding of The Anti Nazi League.

However, Searchlight, a magazine which was founded by Gerry Gable, a member of the 1962 Group, still exists.

Searchlight focuses on exposing fascism, antisemitism and other forms of bigotry in the UK.

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