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Gemma is a teenager living on a housing scheme in Motherwell, an area deprived since the demise of the local steel industry. Rattling around a concrete maze, Gemma and her friends can imagine escaping by getting ‘locked up or knocked up’. There is a pervasive air of desperation and violence, though she has some fun with her doting grandfather, who keeps pigeons and teaches boxing, and clearly loves her boyfriend Pat, though he is a jailbird who few approve of. Scheme Birds is a remarkable achievement: a compassionate, intimate portrait of survival that finds poetic beauty and some humour amidst a grim reality. MH