independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Cillian's vicious gang drama gives unsung city a tourist hit

SHARP: Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby and Paul Anderson as Arthur Shelby in cult BBC hit 'Peaky Blinders'

IRISH actor Cillian Murphy's latest starring role has triggered a much-needed tourist boom in one of Britain's most unfashionable cities.

The Cork star, 37, played the lead role of gangster Tommy Shelby in the hit BBC period drama Peaky Blinders, which is set in the lawless slums of post-First World War Birmingham.

Although the first series reached its climax last month, tourist chiefs in the vast city, the second-biggest in Britain after London, have been quick to capitalise on its huge popularity with the viewing public.

A new Peaky Blinders Tour has just been launched around the Digbeth area of the city, where many of the scenes were filmed, to take people on a trip back to that dark period in Birmingham's history.

The drama saw Murphy land his first major TV role as the leader of the 'Peaky Blinders' – a vicious criminal gang who take their name from the razor blades sewn into the peaks of their caps.

It was also the first time a major TV drama had been filmed in the city, which up to then had been ignored by the film industry.

But now excited tourist chiefs say there is huge potential to reap the rewards of the drama's success.

A spokesman for the new tour, which kicks off next week, said: "Peaky Blinders has been a huge success. Although most of the stories and characters are fictional, it is based on fact.

"These tours have been designed to give an insight into the real Digbeth of the late 1800s and early 1900s."

And John Gordon, chair of Digbeth Residents' Association, said: "The drama has significant factual underpinning – the tale of how the Peaky Blinders would sew razor blades into the brims of their caps has been passed down through generations of Brummies.

"But few of us have only the faintest of folk memories from a time when the police struggled to keep the peace in one of the largest industrial cities in the world."

Association secretary Pamela Pinski added: "Digbeth's links with the Peaky Blinders are somewhat fleeting. The tours have been designed to give people an insight into the real Digbeth and the gangs that operated from the area in Edwardian and Victorian times.

"There were dozens of gangs in the area, so the tours will not specifically focus on the Peaky Blinders."

Murphy, who has starred in hit movies like The Dark Knight, Inception and The Wind That Shakes The Barley, has previously told how he lived with Romany gypsies to perfect his role as the inner-city mob boss.

The father of two won plaudits for his performance as Shelby and for his convincing Brummie accent.

Meanwhile, filming for a second series of the show is due to start early next year.

The new series will see the Shelby family expand their empire to the north and south, while maintaining a stronghold in their Birmingham heartland.

Sunday Independent

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