Behind the scenes

Inside the Big Issue: Once Upon a Time in the West Midlands

In this week's Big Issue, we talk to Peaky Blinders creator Steve Knight, hear from Mhairi Black, and much more.

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This Town is the ambitious, thrilling new drama from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight. It features social unrest, gangs, violence, conflict, and a whole lot of music.

The new BBC One series is set in Coventry and Birmingham in the early 1980s – but it is not hard to see modern-day parallels. The UK is in the grips of a recession following an energy crisis, and working-class communities are bearing the brunt. Unemployment is rising, tensions are high and the heavy-handed policing of black communities is triggering violent protest. 

But in the white heat of this social unrest and disruption, creative genius is forged and lives are changed. Across six episodes, This Town shows a band of young soulful rebels coming together to create the music that just might be their escape ticket.

Not for the first time, Knight was able to produce a compelling drama from key moments in the history of the West Midlands.

“I wanted to capture that spirit,” he said of This Town. “A bit like with Peaky Blinders, I didn’t want to say, look at these poor working-class people. Isn’t it a shame they’re living in such terrible places? I wanted to reflect the joy and the spirit of adventure and people believing they can do things, which was so true of the music culture at the time.”

What else is in this week’s Big Issue

The scoop on Scoop as Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Keeley Hawes and Billie Piper discuss the drama based on Prince Andrew’s PR disaster

When Newsnight suddenly announced they had an exclusive, hour-long interview with Prince Andrew to discuss his relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein in November 2019, the country was gripped. An hour of unfiltered television. People in positions of power and privilege simply don’t do that these days. It was absolute must-see television and did not disappoint.

Mhairi Black was the youngest MP elected in 200 years. Less than a decade later she tells us how the system has tired her out

The last decade of Mhairi Black’s life tells a story of the last decade of UK politics. The activist in her was awakened during campaigning for the independence referendum in 2014; the SNP may have lost the vote but they went on to win 56 out of 59 Scottish seats at the 2015 general election. At age 20, Black became the youngest MP in 200 years, representing Paisley and Renfrewshire South while she still had a final exam to sit to complete her politics and public policy degree.

Now she’s stepping away from politics. She tells us why.

The saga of how we revealed a hidden statue of Harry Kane to the world

If you read the Big Issue, you get it all: stories about council waste, a glimpse into the world of public art, and exclusives on the nation’s biggest fi gures. Rarely, though, do you get all this in the same article. Until now. We broke the story which got everyone talking, revealing the first pictures of a secret statue of England captain Harry Kane.

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