Who was Colin Jordan, and was Vivien Epstein a real person?

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Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Contains discussion of topics such as anti-Semitism, child abuse and suicide that some readers may find upsetting.

Ridley Road spoilers follow.

BBC drama Ridley Road transports us back to 1960s Britain when the bouffant was all the rage and fascism was undergoing a revival, promoted by individuals such as neo-Nazi Colin Jordan.

"He seemed fairly intelligent, ordinary, there was nothing deeply seemingly impactful in his young life that, on a cod psychology level, would necessarily have led to this narcissism and hateful racism," said Rory Kinnear (via The Times), who plays him in the series.

Jordan was born in Birmingham, where he attended the Warwick School. According to some reports, his father was a lecturer, while others claim that he was a postman. His mother was a teacher (via Bloomsbury Collections). He went on to study at Cambridge, where he achieved a second-class honours degree in history. During his time there, he also formed his own nationalist club.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Jordan served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, worked as a traveling sales representative and was also a maths teacher at a secondary boys school in Coventry before committing to politics full-time. He established the White Defence League, the base of which was a house in Notting Hill that he had inherited from Arnold Leese, the co-founder and head of the Imperial Fascist League. The organisation was eventually merged with the National Labour Party to form the British National Party, but when we first met him in Ridley Road, Jordan had moved on.

He was the face of the National Socialist Movement, which was later rebranded as the British Movement (BM). The group campaigned to repatriate all immigrants of colour and for Jews to be shipped off to Israel.

Colin was declared head of the organisation on April 20, 1962 – Hitler's birthday (via Nectar). The first rally took place in Trafalgar Square in July that same year, with Jordan's platform backdropped by banners that read "Britain Awake", "Keep White Solidarity" and "Free Britain from Jewish control". It descended into a mass brawl, for which he was imprisoned. That would not be the last time Jordan found himself behind bars, and he was in and out of court on numerous occasions following his involvement in various protests and rallies.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Jordan's first wife was French socialite Françoise Dior, the niece of fashion designer Christian Dior. She, too, was a Nazi and helped fund various right-wing causes after the war. Their wedding ceremony reportedly involved them both nicking a finger, pressing them together and allowing the drops of blood to fall onto a copy of Mein Kampf.

"When I looked them up, I found a photograph of them giving the Nazi salute outside the church," said Agnes O'Casey, who plays Vivien Epstein in Ridley Road (via The Telegraph). Unlike Jordan, the young Jewish hairdresser who infiltrated his organisation in the drama is a work of fiction. But the 62 Group, the anti-facist organisation that features, was real.

Jordan and Dior's marriage eventually fell apart and he married again. In his book Death by Dior, Terry Cooper, who was romantically involved with Dior, claims that she had an incestuous relationship with her own daughter Christiane, before playing an active role in her child's suicide.

Photo credit: George Harris/ANL/Shutterstock
Photo credit: George Harris/ANL/Shutterstock

Jordan was reportedly fined for stealing three pairs of red knickers from Tesco in 1975. That same year, he resigned from the BM. In 1991, the police raided his home in search of racist literature but the warrant had expired and he sued the authorities, receiving a £10,000 settlement out of court.

In 2001, he received a court order prohibiting him from any political activity, but it was unearthed by a Scottish newspaper that he was communicating with fascist groups in Europe.

Jordan died in 2009 at the age of 85. He was succeeded by his second wife, Julianna Safrany.

Ridley Road continues on Sunday, September 10 at 9pm on BBC One. All four episodes are also available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.

We would encourage anyone who identifies with the topics raised in this article to reach out. Organisations who can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to visit mentalhealth.gov or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


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