This Town: We preview Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight's new Birmingham ska music show

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This Town is the latest drama from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and it's all about ska music in Birmingham

"If your pretty face is good enough for the IRA, it's good enough for Top of the Pops."

Those are the words from Jordan Bolger's character Gregory Williams as he addresses Bardon Quinn, played by Ben Rose, in Steven Knight's new BBC drama This Town.

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Williams' words give an insight into how Knight's new show, which is set in Birmingham and Coventry, will be based around the societal issues of the early 80s - although you can expect some humour, too.

The Peaky Blinders creator's new show is set to air for on Easter Sunday, with much hype about the programme.

What to expect from BBC's This Town

Set in a Midlands world of family ties, teenage kicks and the exhilarating music of a generation, This Town 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 Ska and Two-tone revival that emerged in Coventry and Birmingham is a huge part of the show.

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Both a high octane thriller and a family saga, the show opens in 1981 at a moment of huge social tensions and unrest. Against this backdrop, it tells the story of a group of young people fighting to choose their own paths in life, and each in need of the second chance that music offers.

Those young people are drawn into the world of ska and two-tone music, which exploded from the grass roots of Coventry and Birmingham in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, uniting black, white and Asian youth.

Michelle Doherty in This TownMichelle Doherty in This Town
Michelle Doherty in This Town

'I fell in love with the script'

Award-wining actress Michelle Doherty also stars in the series. She plays Estella, the wife of a man who has been recruited by the IRA.

Speaking ahead of the show's opening episode, she said: "Estella is the wife of Eamonn, who has been recruited by the IRA and has been working for them for many years.

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"Estella, we assume, has begun to have a drinking problem from the time that Eamonn started working for the IRA and due to her being loose-lipped and talking far too much about what she knows she has to be removed from the community. So we find Estella living outside of the estate in very bad conditions."

Michelle says that she "fell in love with the script upon the first few pages", and knew instantly that she wanted to play Estrella upon reading Knight's script.

Steven Knight and the cast of This Town for BBC premiere in BirminghamSteven Knight and the cast of This Town for BBC premiere in Birmingham
Steven Knight and the cast of This Town for BBC premiere in Birmingham

Steven Knight on what draws the show's characters together

Steven said the characters are drawn together by their upringing and love of music. He said: "They’re drawn together - some of them because they live on the same estate, two of them and Bardon) because they’re cousins. They’re having their totally different lives, but they’re hard lives that they have to get out of.

"We’ve got the poet Dante, played by Levi Brown, who is troubled by the gift he has and the words that come to him. He needs to get them out and it’s not an environment where people write poetry, typically.

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"Bardon is a dancer and singer of Irish ballads, and music and dance competitions are really important in his Irish community. The music in that community, especially at that time, was about their struggle and the political situation."

Levi Brown on playing the show's lead character

Levi Brown plays Dante, the lead-role in the show.

Discussing the show's themes, he said: "There is a real sense of not wanting to be on a certain path, of fighting a destiny that feels like other people are setting for you.

"When injustice and unfairness is rampant the only thing you can do is come together and make some noise. I think back then that was more a thing to do than it is now.

A scene from This Town, featuring Levi Brown as Dante Williams. Credit: BBC/Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert Viglasky.A scene from This Town, featuring Levi Brown as Dante Williams. Credit: BBC/Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert Viglasky.
A scene from This Town, featuring Levi Brown as Dante Williams. Credit: BBC/Banijay Rights/Kudos/Robert Viglasky.

"Back then we didn’t have social media so you couldn’t just go on Twitter and rant about what’s going on, you actually had to go out there and do something about it. For a lot of the characters it’s about wanting more, wanting more than what’s being offered, expressing themselves and making it work in their favour."

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What were some of the challenges involved with being this character?

Levi said: "One of the biggest challenges was the guitar. My fingers are not my fingers anymore. They were sort of broken and healed over and now I have got guitar hands.

I am from Dudley and the accent is different to a Birmingham accent, but it came quite naturally. I think the way that Steven writes, the rhythmic nature of it helps you naturally form this rhythm with your voice and the way you say things."

He added: "Something I hope that people will take away is just how beautiful Birmingham can be if you can look at it from the right angles."

Every episode of This Town will be available in full on BBC iPlayer from this Sunday, March 31.

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