TV Review: Gangs of Britain with Gary and Martin Kemp

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24/04/2013 by stewartjthorpe


New to the Crime and Investigation channel is a programme about gangs hosted by a partnership of Kemps. Sound familiar? Well so it bloody should, is it ridiculous to suggest someone without the surname Kemp can host a gang related programme?

Gangs of Britain follows Gary and Martin Kemp to notorious gang ridden cities throughout Britain, including Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield. Whilst there they find out about gang culture with Gary investigating historical and Martin modern-day gangs. This is done through interviews with historians, journalists, diving into archive records and constructive re-enactments.

The first episode takes us north to discover more about one of the historical Glasgow razor gangs, the Billy Boys. This gang was renowned for the use of the razor in an area that allegedly has more scarred faces than anywhere else in Britain. In his role Martin Kemp discovers some of the more recent gang related misdemeanours.

On the surface Gangs Of Britain appears to be a localised and smaller budgeted Ross Kemp On Gangs but in reality it’s nothing like it. Whereas Ross Kemp goes deep into the heart of gangs, or at least appears to for the convenience of camera crews, the Kemp brothers take a more factual driven approach, talking to journalists, historians and those that have witnessed gang events from a professional perspective.

At times however you get the feeling they’re trying to emulate some aspects of Ross’ success in his rivalling Kemp production. The closest they get, at least in the initial episode, is to visit an abandoned train station that was once occupied by and is now a shrine to the Billy Boys. Also the event chosen to cover for the modern-day is more of an incident you expect to see on Waterloo Road, not a grand documentary on the gangs of Britain. Though Billy Boys are undoubtedly defunct and most ex-members deceased, is  approaching a modern-day Glasgow gang in Martin’s part of the show too much to ask for? The modern gangs are far more interesting as they’re still largely relevant but I can’t help feel Martin Kemp pussyfoots around the real , gritty, attention grabbing stuff, resultantly falling behind some of the more hard-hitting gang documentaries.

Nevertheless, this is a first look at the series so maybe it will delve deeper in other episodes.

One of the most underwhelming moments of the entire programme is when we go from Gary to Martin, to refocus on modern-day gangs. At one point Martin asks if we have any modern-day equivalents to Billy Fulerton, the leader of the Billy Boys, and indicates that there is, at the violence reduction unit in Glasgow. Here local gangs are all put in the same room and spoken to. What. Martin then goes on to say something along the lines of:

“Everything I’ve seen and learnt in this city is like no place I’ve ever experienced before, no matter what the area there are gangs, it’s not just the gangs, it’s the whole deep-rooted mentality that goes with it.”

And then concluding a whole line of exaggerated statements by suggesting he’s sickened and shocked and also convinced gangs aren’t a problem that can be fixed, that the problem’s engrained. I don’t know what Martin’s been investigating but it’s certainly not the same investigation I’ve just viewed. To emphasise how ridiculous his claims are, the show then goes on to list statistics that have dramatically shown a drop in crime, including a 46% fall in violent offending. Sorry Martin, what the hell are you smoking?

On the channel’s website, it suggest “Gangs of Britain will build up a fascinating picture of the dark underbelly of the United Kingdom” and this is certainly true to an extent, especially Gary Kemp’s section investigating historical gangs. But opening the show it’s said that “From vicious street gangs of the last century, to modern-day multi-million pound crime cartels. Join Gary & Martin Kemp as they delve into Britain’s dark side”. Now maybe the series will change but the modern-day gangs investigated were a little underwhelming and certainly didn’t live up to that last claim. It felt like Martin Kemp was trying to make a mountain out of a molehill  An intriguing documentary, nothing revolutionary and it’s certainly not as good as some of its contemporises, more of a second class Kemp documentary, one that has just about squeezed out enough interest for me to continue watching, though if first impressions stand, I won’t be for long.


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