TWO key team members of a Barrow arts charity are the writing talent behind a new Peaky Blinders virtual reality game.

Signal Film and Media co-director Kerry Kolbe took up a writing post with London-based games company Maze Theory in 2019 alongside writing partner and Signal Film and Media’s trustee and tutor Karen Bird.

The pair worked remotely to script the game with Maze Theory’s design team throughout the lockdown.

Released last Thursday, Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom is a virtual reality adventure that has been widely celebrated for its authenticity.

The pair’s script is approved by show creator Steven Knight and is delivered by lead cast members Cillian Murphy, who plays enigmatic gang leader Tommy Shelby and Paul Anderson, who plays volatile brother Arthur Shelby.

The story allows gamers to explore the iconic locations of the criminal underworld of 1920s Birmingham including The Garrison Pub and the Shelby family betting shop. In an immersive quest to earn a membership in the iconic Brummy gang, the player goes in search of Churchill’s stolen red box which contains the identities of Britain’s entire network of spies, and tries to uncover what happened to the previous Shelby associate who was supposed to get it back.

The Mail: Peaky Blinders: The King’s RansomPeaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom (Image: Newsquest)

Signal Film and Media director Kerry lives in Ulverston and leads the Barrow charity, based at Cooke’s Studios on Abbey Road, alongside film and TV writing partner Karen.

Kerry said: “I was thrilled when Russ from Maze Theory brought me into their team right at the start of the development process, just after I graduated from my Screenwriting Masters at the National Film and Television School in 2019. My writing partner Karen joined us during lockdown and we spent the best part of two years working on the script most weeks.”

Signal Film and Media runs workshops for young people aged eight upwards to gain creative skills, including the BFI Film Academy, a six-month course led by Karen which is designed to prepare wannabe filmmakers and creatives for work in the media industry.

Kerry stressed the importance of role models for young people in Barrow who, unlike teens who live in cities, do not have the BBC or other creative companies on their doorstep.

She said: “(Co-director) Loren and I set Signal up as local graduates who wanted to work in film but weren’t sure where to start on returning to Cumbria. Particularly coming from working-class backgrounds with not much money and no connections, the idea being a professional artist or filmmaker can feel abstract and unattainable.

"At Signal we are super approachable and open in talking about how we’ve 1 got to where we are, and we bring back alumni of our past BFI Academies to explain how they’ve progressed in film, TV or games. By sharing with local young people our experience of working on a high-profile project like Peaky Blinders, we can show it’s possible to pursue your creative dreams whatever your background and wherever you’re from.”

The Mail: Peaky Blinders: The King’s RansomPeaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom (Image: Newsquest)

Co-writer Karen Bird said: “At Signal I love helping young people come up with ideas, explore their creativity, develop their confidence and get clearer on what direction they might take for a creative career. The BFI Film Academy is a viable route to an industry job, and it’s so fulfilling when I hear that past participants have gone on to exciting things.

"With Peaky Blinders it was a fresh challenge for me to write for interactive games - thinking of ways to use objects and actions to embody meaning without dialogue and devise all the different branches that players might choose to take. It was brilliant to be set loose with the rich, complex, compelling characters Steven Knight created and to invent new characters to expand that world.”

The game is available on virtual reality formats Metaquest 2 and Pico 4.