The truth about growing up in a tiny town, according to the stars of BBC Three's This Country
BBC Three’s This Country is one of the sharpest and funniest homegrown sitcoms of the last few years.
The lowkey mockumentary follows hopeless twentysomething cousins Kerry (Daisy May Cooper) and Kurtan (Charlie Cooper), as they aimlessly spend their days living in a small village in the Cotswolds. Charlie and Daisy - who also write the show - are real life siblings who grew up in the tiny Cotswold market town of Cirencester (population 19,000, smaller than most Premier League stadiums), and based the show on their youth. After debuting online in 2017, the show has built a strong word of mouth following, and the second series has jut started.
The authenticity is a lot of what makes the show so special, and it breaks a lot of stereotypes about life outside on Britiain's urban centres. “Everyone's got a really strong view of what the Cotswolds is - the wealthy classes, Land Rovers and things like that.” Charlie Cooper tells me. “But it wasn't anything that we sort of could identify with.” Instead, they set out to make a show accurate to their experiences. “It wasn't until we both move away for university, and suddenly you realise you know how unique where we were brought up is,” Charlie continues. It was only when they both returned to the area after studying that the started to write the show.
As well as being hilarious, it gives much needed representation to a section of the UK's young people who have very few opportunities in life, and don’t even get the coverage that inner cities do. Speaking as someone from London, the show gives a great glimpse into a life very different from mine. So we got Charlie to explain some key things you’d only know if you grew up in a very tiny town – including terrible night clubs, bad haircuts, and using the boredom to motivate you.
You are always behind on what music is cool.
“Everything is a little bit behind the time. Growing up we were always a few weeks or months behind what kids in cities listened to. Obviously there were no gigs, and no bands would to come to where we were. It was just what was on the music channels really. I was a proper mid-00s indie kid. I used to love NME. But when we'd go to London for shopping or whatever, you'd see the proper indie kids and fucking hell, they were light years ahead of us.
“I used to be obsessed with Razorlight, and Johnny Borrell used to have skinny white jeans. I remember I went to Top Man on Oxford Street. I bought a pair and I wore them at a college party next weekend. Everyone was like completely slayed - I don't know if it was in a good way or a bad way! I felt like Billy Big Bollocks.”
Everyone gets the same haircut.
“The barbers we went to in the Cotswolds was a sort of a weird old man who'd been cutting hair for years. You'd get what you were given. I've been in there multiple times asking for various haircuts but you come out and it's never what you wanted. They completely ignore it, they do what they want to do.”
JOE: Is that where Kurtan’s curtains come from?
“Yeah, but he probably still thinks it's cool. It's like how you get so many middle aged women here that have that Bonnie Tyler 1980s hair - they obviously had that when they were 18 when it was stylish, and they haven't changed it. I do admire that reluctance not to change with the times.”
Your clothing options are limited
“When you live in a small place, you've only got one or two clothes shops. So we had a Burton where we lived and if you went to the local nightclub on a Saturday night every bloke in there would be wearing the same shirt. That was always a fucking nightmare.”
JOE: Did you used to wear all the No Fear stuff that Kurtan does?
“Yeah, definitely. Those chunky white DC trainers as well. A lot of Kurtan’s wardrobe was found in charity shops around Cirencester.”
There’s only one nightclub, and it’s terrible.
“There was one nightclub called The Rock. Obviously everyone goes out there. It really was a shit hole. It had a stripper's pole in the middle of the dance floor, in a cage, with metal poles around it. I remember being 18, going there for the first time and thinking: "This is insane, this is brilliant", but very quickly you realise it is actually a dive. It's changed it's name to ‘ReVA’’ now.
“Occasionally we'd have a night out in Swindon or Cheltenham, and we get one of our parents to pick us up, but it always ended in disaster. Someone would be sick in the car.”
All the young people move away as soon as possible.
“I'm pretty much the only one left in our town. There's a group of about twelve that grew up together at school, and genuinely all of them live in London. If want to go for a pint, I've got to go just by myself - it's quite sad.
“That's the thing, when you're young there are no careers and no opportunities here, so you have to move away if you want to pursue something. I read a great article recently about social mobility in young people. I think the Cotswold is the worst or second worst place to live in terms of affordable housing and opportunities for young people - so you can see why people move away. If you did do badly school, and you haven't got anything to show for it, then you're pretty stuck, which I guess is where Kerry and Kurtan are. There are so many people like that where we live.
“I worked at Argos for a year when I came back from uni because there was nothing else. It's pretty bleak if you don't have the money. I spent a long time, the first few years [after dropping out of university], wishing I was in London doing something there, but l’ve finally grown out of that slightly. I'm quite happy with where I live now.”
The internet and social media are changing things.
“Myspace came out when I was at college and that was just revolutionary really. That was something to do in the evening really, that wasn’t hanging about in a car park with your mates.
“The great thing about it now is you can be in to anything you want to, like music or fashion, and shop online, stuff like that. I guess you don't feel isolated as you would have few years ago being in the country, so that's positive.
“I used to have to watch the music channels and wait a whole day, until my favourite song came along - Blink 182 or something. It meant that you savoured it a little bit more. [nowadays]. sometimes stuff is too accessible, and I think you get bored of stuff too quickly.”
You have to use the boredom as an inspiration.
“When your options are limited like we were, we had nothing to do... So much of the writing of the show came out of boredom. The fact that we were stuck together, and that we didn't have jobs because we couldn't find any, we poured our passion into something creative. And that is a positive. When you are stripped down to your bare bones, it's like, what can you do for yourself occupied?
“The boredom can be positive or it can be negative depending on how you use it. I guess if you don't find a thing you're enthused about, then you're left to rot, really. Like Kerry and Kurtan.”
This Country is released every Monday on BBC Three on iPlayer and on BBC One on Tuesdays at 10.45pm. You can catch up here.