The Welsh Streets Part 2 – ‘Peaky Blinders’

This article follows on my last post from December 2014 about Madryn Street where Ringo Starr of the Beatles lived in his early life.

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As I explored the ‘Welsh Streets’ I wandered into the next street to Madryn Street – Powis Street.  I wondered why all the terraced houses were painted black.

Not being a great follower of TV series I subsequently discovered that the facades of the abandoned terraces in Powis Street are painted black after posing as Birmingham’s slums for the filming of the BBC series ‘Peaky Blinders’.  The second series of the programme was screened on BBC 1 in the Autumn of 2014.  The show is set in post First World War Birmingham and draws audiences of around 2.4 million.  The story is centred on criminal gangs in Birmingham and their battle with a local chief inspector of police who is tasked with cleaning up the city’s streets.

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Producers used Liverpool to recreate the show’s historical setting, with locations including Stanley Dock and Rodney Street as well as Powis Street.  The story begins in 1919 and focuses on the Shelby family who make up the fiercest gang of all – the Peaky Blinders of the title.  Peaky Blinders takes its name from the gang’s habit of wearing flat caps with razor blades hidden in the peaks.  The Shelby family are headed by Irish actor Cillian Murphy as gang leader Thomas who is attempting to expand their criminal empire beyond the Midlands.

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Sam Neill stars as the chief inspector and the second series also featured Hollywood star Tom Hardy and new wife Charlotte Riley.  According to the local press they were spotted several times in the Hope Street Hotel whilst filming was on-going in early 2014.

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The derelict houses in Powis Street were apparently given three identities in the series – the lawless slum neighbourhoods of Birmingham, ‘Little Italy’ and ‘Watery Lane’.  Whilst shooting took place in Birmingham and Leeds as well, Liverpool was chosen because of its towering buildings and striking architecture.  The location managers wanted locations which would give a Victorian industrial heartland.  The Liverpool Film Office have brought a number of film and TV companies to film in Liverpool before and they secured the buildings for filming, which were then painted black and stripped of their TV aerials and steel security screens.

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As the picture extract from the TV series shows below, Powis Street has been transformed with the actor Sam Neill along with other policemen on horseback charging up the terraced street which has a period industrial backdrop put in place at the end of the street with a little bit CGI.

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I commented in my earlier post that walking around the mostly abandoned Welsh Streets has an eerie feeling but with the sinister mat black finish given to the houses in Powis Street the feeling is heightened even further.

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I did wonder if the houses would still be standing if they make a third series of ‘Peaky Blinders’?  But on 16 January Eric Pickles, the Government’s Communities Secretary, blocked Liverpool City Council’s planning application to demolish 271 terraced Victorian homes in the area which he had ‘called-in’ last year.  He said that this was because of the “effect on the appreciation of Liverpool’s Beatles heritage as the birth place of Ringo Starr”.  Mr Pickles ruled demolishing the streets would be “short-sighted as regards the future tourism potential of Madryn Street”.  But Joe Anderson, the Labour Mayor of Liverpool, said the ruling was a “kick in the teeth” for people who wanted to see new homes built in the area.  SAVE Britain’s Heritage who want to see the existing homes restored have supported Mr Pickles decision but the ‘Welsh Streets Home Group’, the local residents’ organisation, said Mr Pickles’ decision was “shocking news” and they have called on authorities to resolve the problem “to end our 11-year purgatory”.  They are worried about “the continuing community stress, and the antagonism between Liverpool City Council and central government that this decision creates.”

I wonder if a solution will be found soon?

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