The success of the BBC’s Birmingham-set drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ has been remarkable: a modestly budgeted crime drama, set in a period and location unfamiliar to most viewers – particularly overseas – and with accents that are uniquely ‘regional’. But a success it has been, with budgets increasing season upon season, and awards flowing in as surely and steadily as the barges travel along the Grand Union Canal.
Britain’s second city is often overlooked in terms of visitors from overseas and as a cultural centre. But, thanks to the popularity of ‘Peaky Blinders’, the region has seen a huge uptick in visitors; what’s known as “screen tourism”. Locations from the film have received heavy foot traffic and the show’s creator, Steven Knight, has created a festival inspired by the series, featuring musicians and bands from the show, talks from the shows actors, creators and historians.
But what’s more interesting is the more indirect impacts that the production has made on the Midlands city. Knight himself is behind a £100-million pound studio that is projected to be ’the greenest in the UK’. The studio will have six sound stages for film and television, as well as post-production facilities. Knight wants to encourage a terrestrial television franchise to be based there, and the BBC is among those who are “very keen”, he said. “We’ve got a backlot which is basically the countryside, where people can build castles and shoot things. A local landowner is happy to have productions.”
At 52 Films we have had a sneak peak of these developments first hand. One of our film directors is based in neighbouring Leamington Spa and has experienced an increase in small independent film production projects around the Birmingham region over the last few years. We are actively pursuing freelancers from the area to supplement our (mainly London-based) production efforts as we are keen to explore this talented pool of creatives providing a competitive advantage through refreshing and cost-effective approaches to the filmmaking process. Talent is not the only new valuable source the region seems to foster as we are also finding new location options, camera and lighting suppliers offering up interesting opportunities.
Elsewhere, there are plans for other studios across the UK including the redevelopment of the former Littlewoods building in Liverpool, and major facilities near to the new Channel 4 HQ in Leeds. All this contributes to a welcome shift from the London-centric cultural bias, especially at a time when the political news agenda suggests that Britain is becoming ever more inward-looking.