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Who were the real Peaky Blinders?

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, you can’t deny that the BBC’s Peaky Blinders has the world gripped — with viewers from around the globe eagerly awaiting the beginning of the new series this weekend.

As a company based in the heart of Birmingham — just a stone’s throw away from the locations immortalised in the acclaimed series — we thought: what better time to look into the real history behind the thrilling drama of the Peaky Blinders?

With local historian Carl Chinn — who runs Peaky Tours here in Birmingham and wrote the book, The Real Peaky Blinders — we take a journey through time that encompasses the gang’s origins, the role of women in 1920s working-class life, the iconic clothing of the Peaky Blinders, the use of music in the series, and — of course — the Brummie accent.

Transcript: Who were the real Peaky Blinders?

Robin Powell:

Until a few years ago, hardly anyone had even heard of the Peaky Blinders - a criminal gang operating in Birmingham from the early 1890s until around 1930. Now, though, they are known the world over, thanks to a BAFTA award-wining TV show. It is of course a drama series, but how close is it to reality? Carl Chinn is a Birmingham historian, and the author of the book The Real Peaky Blinders. He also runs Peaky Blinders tours. With Carl’s help, we are going to take a closer look of life here in Birmingham at the time of the Peaky Blinders in a series of videos by Ember Television. Whether you are a fan of this series or not, you’re going to find it fascinating.

Carl Chinn:

I’m in love with history because of family stories. My mom’s family are from Aston, my dad’s family are from Sparkbrook: inner city Birmingham areas. Both families were rumbustious, and both of them told stories. It was through their stories, that I was drawn into researching the history of Birmingham. And later on, into the Peaky Blinders — the gangs of backstreet Birmingham. And that’s how I found out that my great-grandfather, Edward Derrick, was actually a Peaky Blinder.

Peaky Tours highlight two aspects of Birmingham’s hidden history. First of all, the backstreet gangs, made up by petty criminals and thugs . The second thing that the Peaky Tours highlight is the gang leaders who went to war in 1921 on the racecourses of southern England. The gang leaders included Billy Kimber, Darby Sabini and Alfie Solomons. And it all starts here, at the Old Crown, Birmingham’s oldest pub in the heart of old Birmingham.

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