Enniscorthy Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - By ES­THER HAY­DEN

WEX­FORD ac­tress Char­lie Mur­phy will take on the role of trade union ac­tivist Jessie Eden in the new se­ries of Peaky Blin­ders which starts on Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 15, on BBC2.

Char­lie who is the daugh­ter of Pat and Brenda Mur­phy who owned and ran the pop­u­lar Scis­sors Em­pire hair salon on Wex­ford’s South Main Street be­fore it be­came part of Lloyd’s Hair Salon in late 2015 is per­haps best known to Ir­ish au­di­ences for her role as Siob­han in Love/Hate. Char­lie (29) said she hadn’t seen the show be­fore she was cast.

‘It was on the list, ev­ery­one has a list: ‘I have to watch that, I have to watch that’, she said.

How­ever she soon reme­died that say­ing: ‘I watched the first few episodes and then I was just hooked’.

In the fourth se­ries of the hit BBC gang­ster drama Peaky Blin­ders Char­lie takes on the role of pas­sion­ate Com­mu­nist trade union ac­tivist Jessie Eden who made his­tory in the 1920s.

Eden made head­lines in 1926 when she con­vinced her all-fe­male sec­tion of work­ers at the Joseph Lu­cas mo­tor com­po­nents fac­tory in Birm­ing­ham to down tools as part of the gen­eral strike, be­fore go­ing on to lead 10,000 women out on a week’s strike in 1931, a show of power that was al­most un­prece­dented in its time.

‘I’m al­ways in­ter­ested in those peo­ple you see flash­ing by at the cor­ner of your eye,’ said the show’s cre­ator Steven Knight. ‘So much of his­tory con­cen­trates on the mem­oirs of some politi­cian or other but then in the mid­dle of all that grey there’s a flash of colour and that’s Jessie – be­ing fe­male and work­ing class there was very lit­tle prospect that she would be­come a house­hold name but she did ex­tra­or­di­nary things.’

Peaky Blin­ders first men­tioned Eden last se­ries when He­len McCrory’s out­spo­ken Aunt Pol and the rest of the Shelby women downed tools and headed out to hear the fire­brand speak at Birm­ing­ham’s Bull Ring. This se­ries, how­ever, she will play a more cen­tral role as her desire for bet­ter con­di­tions for her work­ers puts her on a col­li­sion course with enig­matic anti-hero Tommy Shelby played by Cil­lian Mur­phy.

‘It’s al­ways been my in­ten­tion to tackle the 1926 gen­eral strike as it was a time when the pos­si­bil­ity of a gen­uine rev­o­lu­tion was in the air,’ said Knight. ‘Birm­ing­ham has al­ways been a very rad­i­cal, very unionised, very left-wing city so it was im­por­tant for us to have some­one on the show who rep­re­sents that.’

Even the briefest glimpses of Eden in his­tory paints a tan­ta­lis­ing pic­ture of a de­ter­mined work­ing-class woman whose prag­matic, hon­est and ar­tic­u­late voice speaks vi­brantly across the years.

Her daugh­ter-in-law An­drea McCul­loch de­scribes her as ‘very strong, com­mit­ted in her be­liefs. She was sort of per­son you might un­der­es­ti­mate be­cause she was small and vul­ner­a­ble-look­ing but then – bang. You didn’t want to un­der­es­ti­mate her. By the time I knew her she was a sweet old lady but I was told she could tear you off a strip if you did some­thing she didn’t ap­prove of.’

Char­lie Mur­phy said that Eden’s voice feels as rel­e­vant now as it was then. ‘One of the things I find most fas­ci­nat­ing is where she drew that strength from. She’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary woman, very brave, very pas­sion­ate and she really put her neck on the line, not just for women but for ev­ery­one.’

Af­ter lead­ing 10,000 women out on strike in 1931 in a dis­pute over at­tempts to link work­ers’ pay to per­for­mance speed Eden found her­self sin­gled out at work and even­tu­ally lost her job.

Char­lie ad­mit­ted she was ner­vous tack­ling the Birm­ing­ham ac­cent.‘At the au­di­tion I’d never tack­led the Brum­mie ac­cent be­fore. It’s such a bril­liant ac­cent but very daunt­ing to ap­proach.’

She said she hopes that her por­trayal of Eden helps to show the role she had in his­tory.

‘Jessie was so in­trigu­ing and such a pow­er­ful per­son at that time, you delve on­line and you try and find as much as you can when you’re re­search­ing but there’s very lit­tle there so hope­fully this will cast a light on er.

‘ To the very end her one true love seems to have been jus­tice, fair­ness and equal­ity. She comes across as a very in­spi­ra­tional per­son to be around and I’m sure that rubbed off on so many peo­ple.’

The Wex­ford ac­tress said she had been ner­vous join­ing the heavy­weight cast which also fea­tures Tom Hardy, Ai­den Gillen and Adrien Brody.

‘It was scary, ex­cit­ing, you kind of get used to the first day of school ev­ery few months, but here you are not start­ing with ev­ery­one and the dy­namic is set.

‘It seems like a beast of a show from the out­side and it’s stun­ning. It was a bit nerve-rack­ing start­ing and the an­tic­i­pa­tion was more than any­thing. I was fine when I got there.’

“She really put her neck on the line, not just for women, but for ev­ery­one”

Wex­ford’s Char­lie Mur­phy as Jessie Eden in Peaky Blin­ders.

The real Jessie Eden, circa 1926.

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