Reading is covered extensively on this site, but what is missing is the unique history that made Reading, for many years, a national example of excellent chav control until moments of corporation madness and complacency turned it into the dismal national chav magnet it now is.
In 1943 a sole German Dornier bomber took some time out to bomb Reading. Despite having the large GWR station, the huge Courage brewery site, the immense Suttons Seeds testing grounds and the massive Huntley and Palmer’s biscuit factory available to bomb, the Luftwaffe pilot inexplicably ignored all of those and instead levelled ‘The Peoples’ Pantry’, which was the McDonalds of its day. Perhaps he was a chav hater, tired of youths in swastika covered burberry caps gobbing on the streets of his beloved Dresden? It’s a long way to come to make a point, though.
The resulting loss of life amongst the ancestors of today’s kangaroo burger eating chav fraternity was very high, but Reading Corporation were inspired and must have realised two things; firstly, if they boarded up the bombed out shops and didn’t rebuild in the craters they could pass the wreckage off as a shopping arcade. (And the Bristol and West Arcade still stands, largely untouched by time, today). Secondly and far more significantly, it became apparent that if you could see the back of 40 or so chavs in an incident like this, then building a bigger centre for chav gatherings (i.e The Butts Shopping Centre) could mean that a whole host of them might be vapourised the next time Jerry flew over. Obviously, something had to be done to give the Butts Centre military significance as painting a target on it for the Krauts to aim for would be too obvious a form of pest control. Instead, shrewd councillors built a massive government complex on top that handled agricultural subsidies. (The Intervention Board). This would look ripe for a stick of bombs with rationing at its height. Quite unmissable, really.
The shopping centre was perfectly positioned at the bottom of the Oxford Rd, a deteriorating Victorian terraced artery into Reading. By placing the Centre between the Oxford Road and the town centre itself, chavs would be drawn in before they reached anywhere half decent.
And let’s give them their due – the council knew their stuff about what attracted chavs. Cheap electrical goods shops, clothes stores that have developed into Mark One and T K Maxx of today, plus the obligatory Argos made The Butts Centre a haven for anyone in burberry caps or ill fitting pink tracksuit bottoms (or both).
Security guards kept the chavs circulating through the concrete pillars, ensuring maximum chav capacity in what was a concrete multi level chav zoo.
The council also kept up with the times. As zoos faced criticism for keeping monkeys in concrete cages, Reading recognised the need for change and added Primark, the Co-Op and cheap Christmas stores around the edge of The Butts Centre, allowing chavs to roam locally outside, replacing the zoo feel with a chav safari park look. It was cutting edge stuff.
By the late 90s the council were understandably happy with life. The bulk of the town was chav free, local chavs had their place to go and it was time to cash in, pack the town full of new pubs and to build a huge new shopping centre. After all, no travelling chavs would come to the town as they couldn’t afford the rail fare.
And indeed they can’t. Just ask any terrified railway staff who have locked themselves into the guard’s compartment until the Intercity 125s have disgorged chav-packed clouds of Lynx Africa and Impulse into Reading.
Far from being faced with the occasional chav turd getting off the train to see what shops he can steal from, the station is in fact hosing chav s**t into Reading at a rate that would do justice to a herd of elephants on Sennakot.
It was such a great plan – it deserved so much more. But the Germans never flew back, the Cold War dimished and even the Americans operating out of the nearby Greenham Common airbase have long gone home, removing any hope of a friendly fire accident which the Yanks deliver with such unapologetic regularity. Instead, Reading braces itself each day against the torrent of drunken chav yobs and can only dream of what might have been.