Despite many misconceptions during my time living and working in London, I’m not a Geordie. In fact, I was born and raised some 40 miles down the A19, but that didn’t stop plenty of people, both professionally and personally, asking me where in Newcastle I was from. The truth of course is that Geordies, Smoggies and Mackems have distinguishable accents, although to the untrained ear, they are pretty much the same. It leads to a generalisation, often an unfavourable one, and the same can be said about representations and stereotypes of ‘Northerners’.
For as long as I care to remember, the North East has faced an awful lot of bad press, predominantly from the national media. The focus on crime, poverty, industry and binge drinking hardly paints a wonderful picture of a flourishing region, ripe for investment and worth adding to your travel itinerary. Yet, from a man who has lived in some ‘interesting’ parts of the UK, including the capital, let me tell you that there are a lot worse places than the North East to live.
Bear with me here, before you think I’m about to embark on an advert for North East tourism, I’m not. Rather than listing some of the truly wonderful and beautiful places we have on our doorstep, or tell you about the fantastic work being done by Sustainability leaders in the City of Newcastle and their partners, or even talk about the upturn in fortunes for Nissan, TATA steel and other organisations, I won’t. Nor will I talk about the ‘lovely’ and friendly ‘northern’ folk, always willing to offer a friendly welcome to visitors.
Instead, I’ll talk about a piece of car crash television which doesn’t do any favours for PR in the North East. I’m talking about Geordie Shore, the MTV-produced show glorifying ‘life’ on Tyneside for some twenty-something’s, loving their ‘sprays’. It depicts Northern men as brain dead, gym-obsessed morons, willing to chase anything with a pulse. Not much better for the women either; imagine Jodie Marsh on steroids and you have a fair idea of the depiction offered. Of course, it’s a stereotype, of course it isn’t accurate but it won’t do anything to enhance the reputation of the region or the people that live here.
And although the Geordie Shore focus is Newcastle, the translation is ‘the North East.’ That is the sad thing.
Do I blame MTV? Not really. It’s a cheap, easy television. Do I blame the participants? Sad that they want that to be seen in that light, but hardly surprising given the rise of z-list reality TV stars becoming famous for doing very little. In the meantime, for those driving PR for the region, it’s back to the issue of breaking down these stereotypes and driving all that is good about the region into the national spotlight.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to Greggs for the tea and then it’s off to buy a new cloth cap for whippet racing this weekend…