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   Inside Out - North East: Monday February 21, 2005


Vicky Pollard
To charv or not to charver - that is the question

Charvers are everywhere - on the bus, down the pub, at the football match, and in the supermarket. They've been called "the new ruling class", a modern breed of uncouth yobs, and "a peasant underclass".

Inside Out explores the true nature of charverdom in this exclusive webchat and Q & A.

Sociologist Anoop Nayak from University of Newcastle and charver watcher Steve Drayton answer your questions.

You posed your questions to our expert charver watchers, and this is how they responded.

Q: Why is the word different in the north and south - charver in the north and chava in the south of England? (Ian, Newcastle)

Anoop: It is alleged that chav is a Romany term used by travellers and gypsies meaning little child. However regional differences do occur as it is sometimes said that in the North that charver is a play on the archetypal working-class names Sharon and Trevor (hence, pronounced Shar/Vor). Also, in popular culture some southerners have claimed that CHAV is short hand for Council House And Violent.

Q: Are there any charvers who are well educated kids with good school exam results or is purely about people with little brain power and no qualifications? (Will, Newcastle)

Anoop: I've certainly encountered some younger children who take on the charver image through style - music, haircuts, dress and so forth - who are actually doing quite well at school and have no criminal tendencies.

However, as they get older and peer-pressure increases, it be can become harder to maintain a charver identity without following the crowd, which is why some children may chose to opt out of this style, tone it down or play it up according to the context.

Anoop Nayak
Charvers are about a social underclass says Anoop Nayak

Q: Is anyone taking any notice of charver dance music like Makina or is it just cult thing? (Stu, Sunderland)

Anoop: It's still quite underground. However, the recent interest in charvers from the British press and media may well cause it to surface.

Don't be surprised if Julie Burchill or Tony Morely do a Channel 5 special on it in the near future!

Q: Isn't it unfair to label such a big group of people as charvers? Surely we should differentiate them into different groups?

Anoop: Absolutely. I encountered many young people who dressed in tracksuits, baseball caps and so forth, but refuted the label 'charver'. Nevertheless, the fact that many other young people identified, labelled and understood these youth as charvers meant it was difficult for them to be seen as individuals and escape widely held associations with crime and violence.

Q: Is charver purely a term used for white kids or can it be used for any ethnic group? (Pinkie)

Anoop: Great question Pinkie! It tends to be predominantly associated with a 'white trash underclass'.

Unfortunately minority ethnic kids are all too clearly defined through their skin colour, religion etc when on the street. This means that while they may adopt charver dress styles, they tend to be seen first and foremost as non-white. Even so, other youth cultures (punks, goths, ravers etc) have had a few minority afficionados, so there is no reason why Charver should be restricted to white kids.

Q. What do you think will happen to charvers when they aren't fashion flavour of the month any more? (Zoe)

Anoop: There is a longstanding middle-class obsession with lower- and working-class youth - from punks, to skinheads, ravers and rappers - all of whom have been termed 'vermin' or 'animals' by the press and media.

British working-class youth cultures have historically been incredibly creative with regard to popular culture, music, fashion and so forth. For these reasons I would envisage that we will continue to see new youth cultures. However, as with the punks and skins before them, it is unlikely that poverty, crime and youth violence will disappear just because the label charver goes into recession.

Q: What's the difference between American trailer trash and British charvers? (Darren)

Anoop: An excellent question. American trailer park trash are associated with the poor, southern rural communities living in the States in caravans, mobile homes or other impoverished dwellings.

As the term chav also has Romany connections and links to gypsies and travelling communities, there is an even stronger connection here. In many ways, both charvers and US trailer trash are 'not-quite-white', in the sense that they are seen as thieving, violent, promiscuous and thoroughly unrespectable: the very tropes that historically have been applied to Irish, Asian and Black immigrants in Europe and America.

Q. Why is everyone fascinated by charvers - they're a total bore don't you think? (Peter in Heaton)

Steve: As an ever growing part of our society they deserve a look and a chance to say their piece don’t you think? Any burgeoning youth movement is always looked upon with cynicism and hostility. Maybe we should be asking why, in this day and age we have this raft of disaffected youth.

Q. Why does everyone take the mickey out of charvers? Isn't it mocking the afflicted? (Kelly in Middlesbrough)

Steve: On the programme I didn’t think we were taking the mickey. People do have a pop at them, look at the websites that allow people to denigrate them - they’re an easy target.

Q. Aren't chavs just another Geordie stereotype like Viz comic characters? (Gordon)

Steve: I think that Viz has taken the image and turned it into a stereotype. Viz is great at that. If the Charva was around at the birth of the Fat Slags they would’ve been Charvas.

Q. Where do chavas come from? (Stuart from Alston)

Steve: Everywhere. These days the tabloids and Saturday Night ITV mainly.

Q. Isn't chavs just another fashionable term for joyriders and low lifes? Is there anything good about it? (Pete)

Steve: The people that I met in Hendon and Elswick had immense pride in their culture. They were doing things that young people have always done.

Q. Where can you hear the monkey music? (Canesy)

Steve: You’re asking an old bloke here... I think there’s a club in Sunderland called the New Monkey that plays Makina, the Spanish techno that was featured in the show.

Charver fashion
Charver fashion - say it will stripes

Mention was given of a record shop on Gateshead High Street that sells 12” stuff. I’d take a look at the internet to see where it can be found up here. One of the DJ’s at the Youth Project had a fine collection of stuff. There’s a stall on the Quayside Market that sells it by the shed load.

Q. Why do everyone think that just cause you wear the clothes and maybe even talk like a charver that you are nasty n unpleasant.

I think that at the end of the day its the way you act and treat other people, you get this type of personality in every one and 'type' of people. what does everyone else think?? (ShOkInGpink)

Steve: One of the points that the group in Elswick and many of the Goths we spoke to in Old Eldon Square (that didn’t make the final TV film) made was that just because they wear a particular uniform, that shouldn’t stop them from getting on.

Whilst out filming we attracted grief from many different ’types'. It would be easy to lump everyone together as bad lots. As the Osmonds once sang "One bad apple don’t spoil a whole bunch, girl".

Q. Why are charvers being given so much credit? They are a waste of space. I'm probably what you would call a 'goth' and unfortunately I live in Newcastle.

I have to put up with violence and abuse every day from charvers because they think they are some kind of higher species and are all out to cause trouble. I was very disappointed to see Inside Out paint them as poor kids on benefits just trying to get by. (Tanya)

Steve: Would a ten minute feature that lampooned an entire movement for 10 minutes have been seen as fair?

From the invention of the teenager in the 1950’s there’s always been animosity between the various sects, mods, rockers, punks, baggies etc.

One thing that sets the charver apart from many of these cults is class, and it seems to me that if you’re working class you’ve got a fight on your hands from day one.

Q. I have loads of chavs, or chores as they are called in Hartlepool, in my school, and being part of the alt. youth I find them so annoying. they dont speak properly, and have a total disregard for life. They want money but if they don't listen in school and spend their 'pocket money' on drugs how will they live nicely? (Zoe, Hartlepool)

Anoop: Some young people who adopt the charver style are undoubtedly involved in crime, intimidation and violence.

The research I have conducted on charvers in North East England would certainly support this (see Race, Place and Globalization: Youth Cultures in a Changing World (Oxford: Berg, 2003)). In many cases the victims of street crime are other vulnerable young people.

However despicable such acts are, the point is we cannot understand these activities outside of wider relations of poverty, masculinity and place-specific youth cultures.

See also ...

Inside Out: North East
Likely Lads

On the rest of Inside Out
Charver dads

BBC Education

On the rest of the web
Newcastle Central

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