THE LEGITIMATE PEAKY BLINDERS FESTIVAL FINALE COMES TO AN ELECTRIFYING CLIMAX
Sunday 15th September, Digbeth, Central Birmingham, marks the final day of the first-ever Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival. From the stand out immersive theatre, five stages of music, fashion shows and spoken word, fans and stars alike were swept up into the dazzling world of the Shelby family, with The Telegraph describing the festival as a “criminally good immersive experience”.
Theatre company Dank Parish took the immersive experience to another level on the final day of the festival. Highlights included betting on hot-blooded choreographed boxing matches, an impromptu staged bare-knuckle fight that exploded out of the ring into the pit, an invigorating Women’s Protest that culminated in cast and audience linked arm in arm waving placards and creating barricades, plus a disturbance in Peaky Blinders actor Packy Lee’s DJ set as a staged mass brawl took place between ‘The Peakys’ and ‘The Captain’. The actors were even joined by one-half of punk band Slaves, guitarist Laurie Vincent, who spent time in the Shelby Co. Ltd. yard before watching the boxing match ringside. The last staged fight of the weekend ended up in a mass Irish jig that developed into a huge celebratory conga line.
Becky Brown, Dank Parish’s Creative Producer, said, “It was really important to us, in the current climate, to represent the struggle for equality. Whilst the shape of that has changed in the present day, it became apparent during this scene last night, how much the sentiment remains.”
Martin Coat, Theatre Director of Dank Parish, said, “We are legitimately in Peaky territory here. You can feel the history and because of that, it doesn’t take much for our characters to believe in themselves and in the world that they’ve created. It’s not like when you’re on stage and you’ve got the fourth wall – here you’re immersed in something that feels completely real. It’s amazing.”
Anna Calvi stunned fans on stage by wearing a Kempton Penny Collar Shirt from the new Garrison Tailors’ Union Cut range launched at the festival and ‘Tommy’ Braces in red. She said: “The audience has been amazing and it’s really nice to see everyone dressed up looking the part, so many strangers talking to each other because they’re all passionate about the same thing.” Richard Hawley and Jehnny Beth (Savages) made another guest appearance at Calvi’s show for their bespoke set covering Peaky Blinders theme tune “Red Right Hand.”
We also saw Packy Lee (who plays Johnny Dogs in Peaky Blinders) and headliner Frank Carter and Dean Richardson from Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes earlier in the day shopping at Garrison Tailors. Subsequently, Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes headlined the main stage with an energetic set in his brand new get-up. Dean Richardson wore the Bordesley Pinstripe 2-Piece Suit and Shelby News Boy Cap and Frank Carter also donned a Shelby News Boy Cap, with a gold double pocket watch chain. Mid-song, Frank said, “Do you know how beautiful it is to see a flapper girl in the middle of my mosh pit?”
Isaac from the self-branded “two-piece boy band” Slaves walked on to Vengaboys’ anthem ‘We Like To Party’, in nothing but a pair of shorts and a Peaky Blinders cap, and got the crowd raring to go for the headline set. They played an hour-long set filled with shouting, story-telling, and a little kiss with guitarist Laurie in the middle.
Singer-songwriter Liam Frost performed both days and even treated himself to a Peaky Blinders haircut at the on-site barbers. The Manchester-born star is next in line to have his music featured in the hit show: “I’m really excited because my music is hopefully going to appear in the next series, alongside Nick Cave and co. It’s unbelievable,” he said.
The whimsical Carousel stage saw swing bands from around the world play jazzy versions of hit songs and original music entirely fitting with the theme of the weekend, encouraging punters to dance alongside cabaret performers.
The BBC Introducing stage brought some of the best local and national talent from around the country to Digbeth for the weekend.
Birmingham native, Mike Skinner of The Streets, DJ’d on the Arena Stage and whipped the crowd into a grime, garage and bassline frenzy.
Following introductions from Series 5 director Anthony Byrne, Birmingham-based poet Casey Bailey delivered a rousing performance of his spoken-word piece The Ballad Of The Peaky Blinders. Plus, show creator and writer Steven Knight delivered a moving reading from his own mother’s journal, detailing her life as a young child in 1920s Birmingham.
Rambert, the world-renowned Ballet company created a spellbinding piece for the festival, performing to a bespoke 12-minute version of Nick Cave’s theme tune, ‘Red Right Hand,’ reworked by Raven. The captivating piece also referenced the original Rambert production of Swan Lake in Birmingham in the 1920s, which Steven Knight, Peaky Blinders creator, then adapted for Series 5.
Rambert’s Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer said: “I stumbled into watching Peaky Blinders two years ago and binge-watched it. The fact that they capture scenes without words; people walking down the street, a carriage, the smoke, people working in the mill and that’s the movement part – we just expanded it and made a dance out of it. But that’s what’s beautiful about the show – it has movement without words in it.”
The immersive 2-day festival has won plaudits from both the public and the cast of Peaky Blinders. Following the cast Q&A on Saturday, Hollywood star Sam O’Neill said: “So interesting to see the crowd – mostly dressed as Peakys. And a few dressed as cops (who didn’t recognise me). People just LOVE this show – they own it – it belongs to them. Amazing to see such devotion. Great day.”