PEAKY Blinders burst on to our screens last night - and was labelled a smash-hit by leading figures from Birmingham's film, TV and academic industries.
An invited audience watched the much-anticipated BBC crime drama at Broad Street's Cineworld - and were wowed by its verve, style and authenticity.
Written by the city's own Steven Knight and opening in 1919, the series is set in and around Small Heath.
It documents the life and times of a gang of illegal bookmakers trying to live the high life, despite many having been left mentally damaged by the First World War.
The canal scenes were shot at the Black Country Living Museum, the street and dock scenes in Liverpool and the interiors in a Leeds studio after Screen Yorkshire secured the money to make it.
Midlands Today anchorman Nick Owen, who hosted postscreening Q&A with Knight and director Otto Bathurst, said: "It was absolutely amazing, incredibly atmospheric." The show's historical expert Chris Upton said: "They didn't use all of my research and they never used the word 'mythologising' when I was starting, but... never mind the quality, feel the width. It swept me along."
Dr Upton, senior lecturer at Newman University in Birmingham, added: "They sent me the scripts last year saying they didn't want to make a series like Downton Abbey that's riddled with historical inaccuracies, so could I suggest things? "One of my ideas for one scene would have been in Cannon Hill Park, but they've set it in the middle of an opera!
"I did a lot of research about Winston Churchill's cigars at the time and in the end they dropped that.
"You can hear the script melting and transforming and there's a sense of place with Birmingham behind it.
"The scripts I saw from Steven were so well written and not justwith the dialogue, theywere very descriptive."In 1919 it was a new world...how much had things changed?What were they fighting for?"For me it was like watching" Once Upon A Time In Birminham."
Film Birmingham managerSindy Campbell was also blownaway by the dark drama.
- She said: "I loved it. The ciematography was fantastic. I can see the whole story coming through and we'd hope to get more scenes filmed here in the future - that's what Steven wants."
film professor Roger Shannon said: 'It's an epic about theworking class in Birmingham. Itmythologises what life was like."
Prof Shannon, who teaches atEdge Hill University in Ormskirk, was born in Liverpool wherethe street and dock scenes werefilmed.
But he still lives in .Moseley and was the director of the Birmingham International Film andTelevision Festival in the 1980s "and 90s.
Prof Shannon said: "It doesn't bother me that it was mostly filmed in Liverpool and Leeds and not Birmingham - and who knows what people used to talk like in 1919? "People will remember this series for its stories and that fact that it's cinematic television about a city in flux.
"Steven Knight has come up with a personal vision of what the city might have looked like then and makes it more epic than it probably was."
Director Otto Bathurst said: "We were not making a documentary and I knew what I didn't want Peaky Blinders to be.
"I have a pathological hatred of most period British television.
"The scripts blew me away and when I tried to research the subject on Google I found one page and thought 'Nobody knows anything about this.
"I want people to enjoy a period piece as if it's a contemporary piece."
Steven Knight said he decided to look at Peaky Blinders from the perspective of the kind of tenyear-old boy he was when he first heard family stories about the era.
Although he first tried to get the drama made 15 years ago, the success of films like Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises and his directorial debut with Hummingbird earlier this year meant "now was the right time - the whole business of period drama has moved on and time has moved on."
" Last night's first episode featured the repeated use of four letter words, which wouldn't have been permitted on TV even 15years ago.
Steven added: "I was following BBC guidelines about what you can do after 9pm, but to have had no swear words in this would have been odd."
And on the hoary old subject of 'the Brummie accent', he said: "I wanted to capture the fastness and the hardness of it, not the slow, weird drawl from so much TV.
"Birmingham hasn't been very good at telling its own stories."
Although some scenes will make some people wince, Steven said it was the right type of screen violence.
"We always see consequence - that people did get injured."
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
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