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Don’t pity working-class people - our lives can be beautiful and glamorous, says Peaky Blinders creator

Don’t pity working-class people - our lives can be beautiful and glamorous, says Peaky Blinders creator

Steven Knight has said the lives of working-class people can be “beautiful and glamorous” and do not need to be pitied.

The Peaky Blinders creator, who is the son of a blacksmith, discussed the making of his explosive new BBC drama, This Town, which stars newcomer Levi Brown, Peaky Blinders actor Jordan Bolger, and Downton Abbey actor Michelle Dockery.

The six-part series tells the story of a band’s formation against a backdrop of violence, capturing “how creative genius can emerge from a time of madness.”

The 64-year-old told the Radio Times that he was eager to get the portrayal of both place and community right.

“As with Peaky, the first thing I said to the directors was this isn’t: ‘What a shame, these poor working-class people!’ This is beautiful and glamorous - it’s the Wild West, it’s mythology.”

He continued in praise of urban spaces: “If you live at the top of a tower block you can see the whole world, you see the curve of the Earth. Look at those places with a certain mindset and they’re bloody gorgeous.”

Working together with series director Paul Whittingon, who also directed The Moorside starring Sheridan Smith, the pair worked to capture the energy and spirit of working-class spaces including housing estates.

“The idea is that the [housing] blocks and the council estates look beautiful,” he said in an interview with PA, acknowledging they can be perceived in a negative light. The writer called the show his “love letter to Birmingham and Coventry”.

Knight has said working-class people do not need to be pitied (Jacob King/PA)
Knight has said working-class people do not need to be pitied (Jacob King/PA)

As well as staying faithful to the setting, Knight hoped to capture something of his experience of working-class spirit in his protagonist’s character and confidence.

“There was a huge amount of arrogance and inexperience amongst working-class people at that time; an idea that there was no pre-existing definition of what you are and what you could achieve - you could just do what you want. That seems to have disappared now.”

The series stars newcomer Levi Brown as the lead (BBC/Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert Viglasky)
The series stars newcomer Levi Brown as the lead (BBC/Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert Viglasky)

Knight has previously received praise for the creation of Midlands-based hit series, Peaky Blinders, which starred Oscar-winning actor Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby.

A 2018 Ofcom report, “Representation and Portrayal on BBC Television”, noted that “despite the programme’s focus on a criminal family in a poor area of the city, people [of the region] liked that it offered complex characters instead of stereotypes, with the additional layer of an authentically presented historical setting.”

This Town will be released on Sunday 31st March, with all episodes becoming instantly available to stream on BBC iPlayer at 6am. The first episode will then air on BBC One at 9pm.