Stevenage. Even the name has chav undertones. As one of the major definitive chav breeding grounds in the UK, chavs have populated this part of the land far longer than most, due to the New Town and the surrounding suburbs (grotty council estates is a more accurate description) was primarily built to house poor working-class Londonians who would otherwise have been living on the streets in the 1950s – 60s (judging by the behaviour of chavs nowadays, some of them do pretty much live on the streets).
The town centre is practically geared up for the acceptance of chavs. It has not been properly renovated since it’s opening in the 1960s (the council have made pathetic attempts to re-pave the area, but it still looks as ghastly as ever), so looming dirty grey-stone buildings surround you wherever you go. Within the town are more cheap, off-the-back-of-a-lorry clothes shops than I care to mention (stocking all the latest chav fashions), a McDonald’s (chav staple diet), two pound shops (always busy), The West Gate Centre (dated shopping mall with no decent shops to speak of, another chav meeting place) and the almost iconic clock tower right in the centre, chav meeting place for many a-year, adjacent to McDonalds and directly opposite some rarely cleaned public toilets. A small complex was built next to the bus station a few years ago in a bid to make the town a little more upmarket, housing a Wetherspoons, Hogshead and a Yates’s (hardly upmarket), the now deceased Cobarna (chav club. Underage teens and petty violence once common, since closed due to violence and the construction of a retirement home over the road. Although why any self respecting pensioner would choose to retire to a quaint residence next to a busy roundabout is beyond me) and a gym, the only relatively non-chavvy structure there. The complex once boasted an over-25s club, but the 70s theme was most unwelcome among the 30-something chav population of Stevenage. A Mecca Bingo hall and dozens of mobile phone shops also reside in the town centre. A 24 Hour Tesco’s and Asda are situated at opposite ends of the town centre, attracting an almost endless stream of underage chavs, pleading with legal drinkers to purchase them some cheap alcohol, Lambrini and cans of a Carling seem to be most popular.
Across the road from the town centre (or over the bridge and through the train station) is the rather un-leisurely leisure park, if you choose to make your visit on a Friday or Saturday night. The park includes two Italian restaurants (Ask and Frankie and Bennys; admittedly few chavs are seen in either), a chinese restaurant (Aroma, about as classy as chavs go), another McDonalds (because otherwise there’d be a mob of angry chavs racing around the car park in their clapped out Vauxhall Nova’s) a Cineworld (typically 60% of all the UK’s pirate DVDs are originally filmed in the 16-screener), The Hollywood Bowl (bowling alley come arcade come bar – popular among chavs), Chicago Rock Cafe (expensive, so chavs tend to avoid it) and another gym. Among the deceased include clubs The Square and Academy (shut due to violence), Smilin’ Sams (arcade/bar/restaurant. Over 18s only past 7.30pm. This obviously didn’t reduce violence) and Exchange (bar/restaurant – too prissy. Unpopular among chavs). The remaining clubs are now Pulse/Vogue (Pulse 18 – 25s, Vogue over 25s) and Jumpin’ Jaks (a rather Butlins-esque type of place, popular with all types of people).
Upon leaving the town, you will find a selection of council estates, all with their own name, shops, graffiti-caked underpasses and gangs. ‘The Oval Crew’ and ‘The Bedwell Crew’ are commonplace topics heard among most chavs. Naturally all of the approximate seven council estates hate each other, and have been waging petty war for decades, armed with BB guns and mopeds. The estates look almost identical wherever you go, just like the chavs who inhabit them.
As a resident of Stevenage for nine years now (trust me, if I wasn’t a poor student I would’ve been long gone by now), I have seen the town go through many stages, metamorphosing from quite a respectable town to a down trodden cesspool, a shadow of it’s former self and almost back again. Although the town is not completely out of the woods, and I personally doubt it will ever regain it’s once adequate reputation, some positive changes have been made. New restaurants are taking the place of once seedy clubs, tougher security measures are being taken on Friday and Saturday nights to make citizens feel safer, clubs are being refurbished to attract a different type of market, possibly shifting their less than desirable reputations. As for the people, well yes in my experience I have met people with more problems than a failing communist country. However, the ‘rough’ image of the Stevenage townspeople is sometimes unjustified. Despite all the people I have met who I wish I hadn’t, there are still those I’m glad to have known in my life and just because they are from Stevenage does not change my opinion of them. However I still plan to leave when I am qualified and have enough money to escape.