Steven Knight is bound to send Peaky Blinders out with a bang

Rebecca Nicholson
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: GP Images/WireImage</span>
Photograph: GP Images/WireImage

Good news and bad for fans of the Birmingham blockbuster Peaky Blinders, which will end with its forthcoming sixth season.

However, before any tears are shed for the Shelbys, creator Steven Knight revealed that it was too soon to say a firm and final farewell and that the story would “continue in another form”. Later, he told Deadline that this send-off was likely to be a feature-length Peaky Blinders film. “Covid changed our plans. But I can say that my plan from the beginning was to end Peaky with a movie. That is what is going to happen,” he said.

Almost every week, Peaky Blinders has had the feel of a film packed into a single episode of television, so who knows who and what it will decide to blow up if it has the budget to do so? I came late to the series, only reluctantly getting on board for the fourth season, and it was a revelation. I felt like I’d bought a ticket for the teacups and ended up on the Nemesis. Who knew British television could be so brilliantly bombastic?

I went back to the beginning and gobbled up the whole thing until I was bloated on backstabbing gangsters and accents that had wandered so far from Birmingham that they needed an Ordnance Survey map to get back. It was all so thrilling and so daft. It’s hard not to marvel at just how massive an industry Peaky Blinders has become. Its viewing figures are good, but the devotion of its fanbase is phenomenal.

I have been on nights out and seen groups of young men dressed up as the Shelbys, haircuts and all, on the cusp of cosplay, not quite out of fancy dress and not quite in it. There are themed pubs and themed club nights, tours of filming locations, even a planned virtual reality game.

A few months ago, I was taking a car for a test drive and we ended up driving around villages in the West Midlands. “You know Peaky Blinders?” asked the salesman. I told him that I did. “They filmed that here,” he said, authoritatively. I Googled it, to no avail, but either way, you don’t get people claiming that kind of ownership for Death in Paradise.

Knight said he had hoped to finish with a seventh season, but the pandemic put paid to that. If the film does happen, then it will get a finale twice over, once for the series and then once more, with feeling. Peaky Blinders is never knowingly understated, so I imagine hamming up an ending will suit it just fine.

Bernie Sanders: do his mittens herald a cosier, happier era?

If anything about the US presidential election was stolen, then it was the limelight, robbed in plain sight during the inauguration of Joe Biden, when Bernie Sanders looked grumpy and warm and wore mittens.

That’s all it took to launch a thousand memes, but what memes they were. Within hours, I had seen Sanders sitting in front of Marina Abramović during The Artist Is Present at Moma. I had seen him replace Samantha in the cast of the Sex and the City reboot. I saw him on various fashion week front rows, selling merch at a gig, hanging out with the Beatles, in The Queen’s Gambit, Schitt’s Creek, The Big Lebowski and Forrest Gump.

The mittens were created out of recycled jumpers and plastic bottles, of course they were, and arrived on to the global stage with a lesson in patience. The woman who made them, Jen Ellis, a teacher from Vermont, says that despite huge demand, she has none to sell. “I hate to disappoint people, but the mittens, they’re one of a kind and they’re unique and sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want,” she told the Jewish Insider.

What a small, sweet relief it was to wander through the fields of the internet last week and be overwhelmed not by hate and rage and incoherent rambling, but by mittens, even if was only for a brief moment. And if that sounds unbearably twee and Pinterest-y and cosy, so be it. I worry enough that this is not the turning point many would like it to be and who knows what is on its way next? Just for a second, joking about knitwear felt like breathing out.

Virginia Woolf was never afraid of a good quiz

Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf: literary love, pet hates. Photograph: GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

If anyone is in the market for feeling inadequate, I can recommend reading a questionnaire filled out in 1924 by Virginia Woolf, which set Woolf and her contemporaries the task of naming their favourite and least favourite writers.

One question asked for “your favourite deceased writer in prose and poetry”, in categories of Greek, Latin, English, Italian, German, Russian, French, Spanish and Scandinavian authors. I am not saying we’ve lost our intellectual edge today, because I suppose it is pretty similar to me clicking on pictures of snacks for a BuzzFeed quiz that promises to guess my personality type based on whether I prefer cheese on toast or pizza.

The questions and answers, which sold at auction last week, were part of a parlour game and Rose Macaulay, Rebecca West and Hilaire Belloc were among other participants. To one question who they thought to be overrated, Woolf said Belloc, while Belloc named himself his favourite living essayist. When asked to name “a deceased man of letters whose character you most dislike”, Woolf answered: “I like all dead men of letters.” It’s the Big Brother diary room of literary greats and worth every one of those £21,000.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist