Screen Tourism

As the latest series of the BBC’s Peaky Blinders reached its disappointing conclusion, like many others across the world, I felt deflated at the prospect of waiting two more long years for the penultimate, and hopefully more action-packed, series.

As the mania and hype builds further, the Peaky Blinders effect has tourism at an all time high in and around Birmingham as we satisfy our obsession.

Birmingham is home to the Peaky Blinders gang and, though predominantly shot in Manchester and Liverpool, the West Midlands city has seen tourism spike since the first series aired in 2013.

For the launch of series 5 in August 2019, the BBC put a fan painted mural on the side of the Custard Factory, a creative hub in Birmingham and the former site of Bird’s Custard. Gang leader Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) looks down over Digbeth, drawing fans directly into the heart of the city.

Some scenes are shot at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, which has just had its fifth year of growth. Visitors are up a third since 2013. The museum made a loss of £599,745 in 2012/13 and in its annual report for 2018 shows profits of £910,095.

I, like many, want to recognise something from the show, or to have a photo taken or stand in the spot the actors did. It’s silly when you think about it, but it’s a phenomenon that is making the area a lot of money and shows no sign of slowing down.

Shops, a festival, escape rooms, themed evenings, series screenings, it all sells out almost instantly. The impact it’s had is incredible with Joe Godwin, the director of BBC Midlands, telling the Guardian: “Peaky Blinders has been a game changer for Birmingham.”

Sticking to the UK, the BBC series Poldark draws tourists to Cornwall with Visit Cornwall claiming it accounts for 13 per cent of all holidaymakers. Though the fashions, drinks and theme of the show have not made it to the mainstream like Peaky Blinders (thankfully, not sure I am feeling a corset) not everyone in the south is happy, complaining tourists ruin the area.

I would argue the opposite and a programme that encourages any sort of UK staycation is positive for the economy, the arts and history of the local area. I highly doubt the Poldark crowd is particularly larger lout-ish either and is probably more inclined to buy branded tea towels than other fans!

Virgin jumped on the bandwagon last week and re-launched Gavin and Stacey tours of Barry Island in Wales. For £60 you and a friend can go on a bus trip around all the filming locations on a Dave’s Coaches branded bus. Those who booked to go in July 2019 were treated to selfies with the show’s star James Corden as it coincided with the filming of the Christmas special.  And Marco is a real person selling his ice-cream, so he must be thrilled!

I am excited to be inspired to visit somewhere else in the UK as the next big thing launches on the BBC and hope the Peaky Blinders bubble doesn’t burst. Perhaps a getaway to Dudley is on the cards, who would have thought it?

And yes, Tommy Shelby is in my dining room