If you have ever visited Birmingham, you will find it in 2019 a vibrant, diverse and energised City, there is a huge amount of investment pouring into the West Midlands. A lot of money from China, the Middle East, you look around at the City centre and you see lots of cranes, and short term disruption as key areas of the City are being given face lifts. I have lived in and out of Birmingham for stretches of my life, I went to school in the City and have watched it transform from an industrial City of engineering and car building to what it is today.
Unlike other Cities in the UK, the history of Birmingham is comparatively new, it expanded rapidly on the back of the Industrial revolution. The gun quarter for example as well as the army of engineering factories that emerged in the Black Country, as well as the hub of car manufacturing epitomised by Longbridge, the former British Leyland car producer formed by Sir Herbert Austin, was regarded as the Mecca for car design back in the day. The same factory that I worked at as an industrial cleaner when I was at sixth form, is now a re developed retail park and College and it looks great.
What Birmingham has not been able to do is to create a great drama that celebrates the City albeit in a gangster culture. Today the 5th series of Peaky Blinders was formally launched outside Birmingham town hall. Thousands of fans turned up to see the actors walk along the famous red carpet. The story if you have not seen it chronicles the rise of the Shelby family as a key gangster gang known as Peaky Blinders, lead by Tommy Shelby he is the gaffer, a former Regimental Sergeant Major in the small Heath rifles who returned from the First World War. Hardened by death and returning to poverty, he set about with his brothers and extended family to start illegal bookmaking. This of course resulted in gang wars as their empire expands over the course of the last four series.
The programme has achieved cult like status around the world, it is well acted, very evocatively made, great scripts and very action packed. It has also helped put Birmingham on the map and has instigated a tourism surge and a range of Peaky Blinder heritage sights and trails. The Black Country museum, of whom I am a member has already capitalised on special Peaky Blinder events which are hugely popular, with thousands applying for a few hundred tickets. It has given Birmingham a new identity based on clever writing, indeed you don’t have to look to hard to find people with local claims to the families that Peaky Blinders was based upon. Indeed a chap who works in my local pub, had his grandfather interviewed by the writer of Peaky Blinders Stephen Knight. He used to be what they call a runner at race tracks where the Peaky Blinders type gangs used to operate, indeed he attended several of the series launches, such was the benefit of his experience.
So, like millions of others I will await with interest what the latest series has to offer, sources suggest it will be spectacular, so we will see what happens, but either way it can only be good for Birmingham and its economy, so thank you very much the Peaky Blinders.