Last year I met a top notch poet called Ben Norris while we were doing a slam in Bristol. In jest, he mentioned that it was hard to get his head around the difference between the way I looked and the way I talked. I was wearing a suit at the time, with a waistcoat, and I was talking in.. well I was talking in my voice.
He joked that when he thought of people from Newcastle, he thought of them all looking, acting and talking like the cast of Geordie Shore- and how we all laughed!… But there is a grim truth to this joke; sure enough, whenever I travel somewhere, I find the same response over and over. Most recently, while meeting a friend of a friend in Berlin who said simply: “I don’t know anything about Newcastle except Geordie Shore”.
The fact that there is so much more to the North East than this means these comments have often filled me with utter despair, though I know it’s by no means the fault of anyone who’s said it. Geordie Shore’s pulled millions of viewers since it aired and it’s now shaped Newcastle’s public image irrevocably. MTV has sold us down the river, tricking the rest of the world into thinking the North East is a twisted fantasy land full of psychopathic Ken and Barbie dolls.
But as time went on this bitterness towards MTV started to grow into an idea for a show. Exactly what kind of culture does the North East export to the rest of the world? What do North East celebrities make it seem like? And what’s it really like?
I don’t think any of my favorite things about living here, namely World Headquarters, Tynemouth Beach or The Sky Apple Cafe, would ever make it on to MTV or end up in a Cheryl Cole song. I think its safe to say there’s another side to modern Newcastle that’s not being talked about, a more unique and (dare I say it) intelligent side.
As well as this, what about the history? The Train, The Light Bulb. Will our creation of so many planet altering inventions be washed away by the Jager Bomb riddled urine of an MTV reality show?
And, just like that, two of the ideas for poems I had buzzing around in my head sort of collided and I thought: what about a piece narrated by Joseph Swan, as he tells us about a Gothic-style nightmare he’s just had about the cast of Geordie Shore? (Try looking for that in a Cheryl Cole lyric). Joseph Swan, for anyone who’s not sure, was an inventor from Gateshead who created the light bulb.
However, to write this tale I would have to do some essential research because… and here comes the twist… Until this point I’d never actually watched Geordie Shore. I mean, I had had all its ‘pivotal’ moments summarised to me on a daily basis from colleagues and friends, from hot tub sex to poo in box, so I already felt fairly sure that there was nothing to be gained from watching it.
BUT HOW WRONG I WAS! Well I mean, there wasn’t anything to learn or gain spiritually. But it was a comedy goldmine!
I was faced with the challenge of where to start, there now being so many series to choose from, so I went for the “authentic” experience of starting at the beginning and, I must confess, I haven’t watched them all. However, the 4 hours of what I got, I’m assured, is the basic standard of the rest.
I laughed (in that *crying on the inside* sort of way) at the vacant comments, like Holly’s “being Geordie is a lifestyle: you go out to get pissed and don’t give a shit about anyone”. Or the now infamous bastardisation of the Geordie tongue in phrases like “tashing on” and “game as a badger”.
But there was something sinister there as well. The constant plying with alcohol, to people who are (lets face it) basically children. Or the fact that their boss, Anna, is really nothing more than a corporate pimp, dressing them up in scanty clothes even more revealing than the ones they own and encouraging them to get drunk and flirt with strangers to attract business.
I mean, I’m not saying that the cast of Geordie Shore are some sort of angels led astray by a smooth talking business executive (especially not after the whole ‘Sophie’s a racist’ *thing*). But I don’t know how an organisation like MTV can justify plying these spoilt, emotionally underdeveloped young adults with so much booze and god knows what else so that they make utter tools out of themselves for the sake of entertainment.
I find it all pretty barbaric to be honest and, while it’s a fool on the cast for letting themselves look that stupid, I think the real scumbags here are the people facilitating it and making it seem like it’s an example of real people from Newcastle.
Anyway, to end on a lighter note, as well as this poem I’m now working on a host of other voices and stories from the North East. It looks I’m going to be attempting something which many of my friends and colleagues have been doing well before I started: fighting to give Newcastle an alternative voice!