Helen McCrory spent time with Julie Walters learning and preparing the Birmingham accent for Peaky Blinders. Then when Helen went to the first meeting all the actors were told that they were going to go for an original “Peaky Blinders” accent which wasn’t quite the same thing as a Birmingham accent. Whatever it was, they all sounded good to me, I was grabbed by the production straightaway – as was everyone I knew who’d watched it. A pure regional accent in England is a rare thing nowadays anyway. Authenticity of the period is in the costume and set rather than the accent. The acting is what matters and the accent should enhance rather than get in the way. The rule on regional accents on television is that an accent has to be understood in America, if it’s going to sell. I’ve seen Peaky Blinders in France with sub-titles, which is great!
However it’s taken time for the Peaky Blinders’ accent to settle in according to Lucy Townsend, who’s from Birmingham, in a piece she wrote a couple of years ago.
“Peaky Blinders marked a change of approach…(in the Birmingham accent). As Cillian Murphy dropped his soft Irish lilt for Tommy Shelby’s understated Brummie, he demonstrated that the accent could be serious, subtle and spoken by sharp-minded people.
As a possessor of a Birmingham accent myself, it was a relief – but Peaky Blinders’ cadences were not always so well received. My Facebook feed, made up largely of West Midlanders, was telling. “Why do some of them sound Liverpudlian?” asked one friend. “Love it – but why are they speaking like that?” wrote another.
Steven Knight, who wrote Peaky Blinders says that it’s intentional. “I remember going to Birmingham City matches as a kid and there were these other kids in Small Heath who had their own odd, partly Scouse accent,” he told the Birmingham Mail.”
The energy of the writing brings the love of the place and its characters to a level outside and inside of reality. The accents of the characters are another part of the style of this amazing series.