The bus ride into jolly old Shildon was an experience to say the least; the highlight had to be seeing the bright yellow and blue sign ‘Shildon, Cradle of the Railways’ yeah right, more like ‘cradle of the chavs’. The long ride up Busty Bank was one of the longest I’ve ever been on, and to be perfectly frank I didn’t think we were going to make it. The view from the window wasn’t terrible to begin with, the landscape was beautiful, deep green fields rolling one into another, however the view soon dramatically changed, it turned into terraced houses and take-aways, and I was beginning to see why people called Shildon the ‘Take-Away Town’.
Upon my arrival at the King William bus stop, known to the locals as the King Willy I was surprised by the amount of school children that swarmed the stand, crowds of little faces in Mulberry jumpers who seemed to have absolutely no regard for the people around them. As I made my way off the bus, I was surprised by what I heard in passing, stories of ‘slags’, ‘drugs’ and new relationships; I have to admit I had a little laugh to myself, oh the joys of being 13.
I knew as soon as I stepped off the bus and looked around; I knew that my weekend in Shildon was going to be something that I wouldn’t forget in a long time. I have been told that one of the main spots in this town was ‘up the street’ which to normal people like you and me, is the local high street. With its huge green arch announcing that you were in fact in Shildon it was all looking good.
So I set off on my journey with high expectations of Topshop and House of Fraser, sadly I was disappointed. Would you like to know what I found? A street that consisted of take-aways, charity shops and hairdressers, perfect if you need food, second hand clothes or your hair cut, but if the people of Shildon are wanting anything else they won’t find it ‘up the street’.
As I got to the top of the street there was the town centre, it had all the makings of a beautiful place that the whole town could enjoy together. Unfortunately the place has been taken over by the youths of Old Shildon Town and it no longer had the grace and elegance that it was intended. The once pristine fountain which used to be the focal point in the town centre I’m sure, was now filled with litter and take-away boxes instead of water, and the youths had obviously decided to give it a make-over with things such as ‘Bex was ere 2K11’ and ‘Shildon Mad Dogs’ very classy indeed. During the day the town centre was taken over by old men in flat caps and elderly women with shopping trollies who obviously use it as a communal gathering spot. Even though these people were more than three times my age, the sea of grey was in fact very intimidating. After my very entertaining walk ‘up the street’ I had come to the conclusion that Shildon was in fact everything that everyone had told me it was, it put it simply; it’s awful.
By the time I had been in the charity shops and had a look around Morrisons, it was getting into evening, and Shildon had been lit up like Blackpool Illuminations. Walking down the street, every other shop was a Chinese or Pizza take-away; I was beginning to see how ‘cultural’ Old Shildon Town actually was. I discovered at the bottom of the street that there was another main place that the youth of Shildon hang out and that place would be the King Willy Corner, where everyone congregates on a bench and watches the world go by. Like all the fresh arrivals in Shildon, the locals could spot me a mile away. With the black looks I received and ever so friendly language they spoke; I knew I was definitely in the ‘cradle of the chavs’.
I had earlier in the day been speaking to probably one of the only polite people in the whole of the town who had informed me that nearly every young person in the town at the weekend ended up in a place they call ‘The Rek’ or Hackworth Park as the council named it. So to get the full experience of Shildon I decided to take a wander down the bank and into the realms of underage drinkers and drug takers. On first glance ‘The Rek’ looked like every other park in the country, but as I approached and got closer to the entrance I could see that a huge gathering was taking place.
Now don’t get me wrong I don’t disapprove of people having a few social drinks on a weekend, however this was something else. As I cast my eyes over the communal ground I saw that cheap bottles of cider and packets of foreign fags were the norm. Obviously the young girls of Shildon had decided that less is more when it came to the clothes they were wearing. Short skirts, crop tops and platforms seemed to be the way forward in Shildon fashion, to be frank I felt quite over dressed in my jeans. I had to laugh though when three girls, one after another fell like dominos flat on their faces, and because of the amount of alcohol consumed they just lay with their legs in the air giggling.
To be honest I was quite surprised that parents would allow their 13 year old children to drink on the streets, but I’m guessing by the classiness of the drink, I doubt their parents bought them it in the first place. The Shildon Youth were definitely living up to my expectations, and I was beginning to enjoy seeing how the other half live. I decided though that it would be in my best interests to leave The Rek before I to was handed a bottle of cheap price cider and ended my night either throwing up in a bush or clinging to the earth for dear life, which I’m sure many of the Shildon girls would be doing tonight.
I stood wondering in which direction I was going to walk to see my next sight of Shildon, and I decided that my best bet would be to stick to what I know, so I headed up the Civic Bank to the town centre. On my arrival I found that the sea of grey that had been here during the day had been swapped for the complete opposite. The youth of Shildon that had already decorated the fountain in their own style had descended again. The young lads obviously had just raided JD sports as every single one of them was an exact copy of each other. Adidas tracksuit bottoms tucked in their socks, Nike Air Maxes in every colour imaginable and enough jewellery to make even The Queen jealous. By the looks of things, the boys and girls of the town were having a competition of who could be the most outrageous with their outfits, and I’m not sure which ones were winning. Walking up the street I saw that even though chavs seemed to rule Old Shildon Town, people still seemed to be aware that it was easier to avoid them, rather than confront them.
I decided to call it a night, as I knew that the rest of my stay in this historic town would be as eventful and eye-opening as today had been. So I made my way down the street, called into Miami Pizza and headed to my hotel for the night.
Waking up the next morning I hoped that my second day in Shildon would be as insightful as the first. Yesterday I saw that Shildon was a dull, grey town full of take-aways and chavs, however as I left my hotel I found that Shildon seemed to have changed overnight, I now saw it to have a little bit of charm. I had been told as I was served my breakfast this morning that the only place to be today was Dean Street for the football. It was one of the biggest days in Shildon FC’s history, the cup final against West Auckland FC, and according to the town paper it was going to be the biggest derby game since Newcastle and Sunderland, so with this in mind I donned the Shildon colours and headed up to Dean Street, escorted by two other Shildon fans. I had never in all of my life seen a town come together over something as simple as a game of football. I honestly think that every resident of the town had descended on Dean Street, the young and the old, all in Shildon colours. Inside the stadium I took my seat in the stand and was handed a pint and a cheeseburger and told ‘ere you go honey, can’t beat this when you’re at the football’.
I have to admit I was seeing the positive side of Shildon, and it surprised me, not everyone was an anti-social youth who drank and took drugs. With the chants in full swing and the game nearly at an end, I was shocked at how much I felt part of the Shildon Mad Dogs’ tribe, and I couldn’t have been happier when the final whistle sounded and Shildon FC lifted the cup.
My weekend in Shildon had been one that had definitely opened my eyes to how people live. On first glance the town looks like it’s full of youths who vandalise and drink and old people who sit in the town centre and intimidate new arrivals, which to some extent is true. However, I have come to learn that when it matters the people of Shildon can come together and do these things together, and that if you’re from Shildon you can point out the atrocious parts and call it every name under the sun, but if you’re not, be warned, the Shildon Mad Dogs don’t take things lightly.