Peaky Blinder Accents are news! If you are in the United Kingdom, you will no doubt be aware that that latest series of Peaky Blinders: the gangster style crime series set in Birmingham after the first world war. It is created by Stephen Knight and features the exploits of the Shelby family. It is hugely popular with people all of the world watching this via the BBC, with the hashtag #peakyblinders. In Birmingham there is another hashtag #peakybrum
I have to confess that I haven’t watched the programme: it is far to violent for me to cope with, but I know many, many people love this series. In particular they love (are amused by) the Brummie accent. Here is a spoiler alert: I was born in Birmingham, so have an acute ear for the Brummie accent, and along with many people living in the West Midlands, are deeply amused by the risible attempts of the actors to attempt the accent. Helen McCrory’s accent is more Queenswood than Queensbridge school accent for example. Stephen Knight has had to explain that certain characters ‘lived in other parts of the country’ hence their dodgy Brummie accents. A BBC article explained how it was difficult for non-natives to achieve the accent here.
And the accent isn’t highly regarded nationally. It has frequently been voted the least favourite accent in the country; the least friendly accent and even the least trustworthy accent. I am sure Peaky Blinders has had an impact on the trustworthiness image, but the other prejudices have been kicking round for a long time. How do I know? Because as I mentioned before, I was born in Birmingham, and whilst I don’t speak with a Brummie accent, these PREJUDICES EXIST for the city.
At a time where unconscious bias is being discussed, the whole concept of a particular city or region being discriminated against for jobs, training/education, promotion is horrifying. When this is discussed within the context of diversity – regional accents and areas are not being discussed. I can confirm some bizarre responses where people have reacted in a very negative way when I have told them I originally came from Birmingham, with those narrow minded people questioning my education levels, trustworthiness and work ethic EVEN THOUGH THEY ALREADY KNOW ME. Now I don’t give a stuff about those narrow minded individuals: it reflects very poorly on them. But for people who speak with a regional accent at interviews etc, they could experience this unconscious bias and it impact on their success.
So for those people who need convincing that the Brummie accent and therefore the people of the city will not add value to your company or university here are a few facts.
- Birmingham has always been known for its arts and culture. Currently there is the WORLD CLASS symphony orchestra: the CBSO, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the highly respected Birmingham Rep Theatre.
- Symphony Hall in Birmingham has a globally recognised and respected acoustic for live music. It attracts the worlds best performers.
- The King Edward VI foundation schools in the city are the envy of the (education) sector. These schools are highly academic with the two private schools consistently being at the top of the tables for all schools nationally and the Grammar schools are recognised as leading state schools in the country, not locally.
- The King Edward VI foundation also has a non-selective school which provides an astonishing quality of education. Sadly with the blind spot about Birmingham, journalists don’t include this school as a good news story.
- The sports programmes to nurture young talent is second to none. In particular athletics. It is wonderful to see so many people involved in sports and a number of them representing the country.
- Contrary to the myths, Brummies are hard working and work well in teams. For proof of this, look at the Go the Distance video of loads of people from Birmingham created a truly memorable welcome for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
- Brummies really do have a great sense of humour. You won’t fail to laugh if you in a team with Brummies!
So how can YOU become more aware of your own decision making when selecting your workforce, team members and even friends?
- If you hear a Brummie accent, really listen to what they are saying. You might be surprised that they have great content; have a lot to contribute.
- Instead of assuming they have no hobbies, ask what they are interested in; what they do in their spare time. You might be surprised.
- Have an open mind; where someone comes from doesn’t mean their experiences are any less valuable than yours: they might have a different perspective on a problem which could be refreshing.
- Recognise that the education outside London is also good. Instead of dismissing someone because they went to school in Birmingham, look at their results; their achievements.
Please please realise that although Peaky Blinders is hugely popular; it is fiction. People in Birmingham have accents like anyone else and if you look beyond your own prejudices you could employ some real gems!