Has Jesmond lost its Geordie accent?
Has Jesmond has lost its Geordie character? As footballers, an ever-increasing student population and a host of clinical wine bars move in, is Jesmond now at odds with its Newcastle surroundings? Two JesmondLocal writers, Joshua Shrimpton Dean and Dan Howarth offer their views:
“Everywhere in Newcastle is more or less crap… except Jesmond.” This is the title of a tongue-in-cheek Facebook group which has so far attracted a meagre 23 members.
The group’s administrator amusingly suggests that footballers and students now define a Jesmond which has become a “rah’s paradise”: “The streets are filled with Ugg boots, pyjama bottoms, fly-like sunglasses and messy hair which has actually taken two hours to do.”
It seems that Newcastle now has its very own Kensington. And it’s clear to us all that Kensington is not very Geordie. So, Jesmond is most definitely at odds with its surroundings.
Yet somehow, amongst the Chelsea tractors and mini-Moëts, an ever-dwindling core of native residents remains.
This much was plain to see at the recent north and south Jesmond council meetings as a handful of older locals argued passionately for matters which were no doubt of little concern to many of Jesmond’s flamboyant incomers.
Amid a growing sense of provincial pedanticism, it emerged that the student representative hadn’t bothered to show up to one of the meetings. Even a planned appearance by the police didn’t materialise. It’s easy to see how that dwindling core might begin to feel alienated.
But it’s the dilution of the Geordie culture in Jesmond that niggles at me; Newcastle is famous for being a little rough-and-ready around the edges. A hangover of an industrial past is evident across much of the city – and it’s all the better for it.
Take a look along on Osborne road for example. Beer gardens feature plots of pretentious palm trees littered with clusters of fairy lights, enticing passers-by to come in and enjoy a glass of overpriced chardonnay in a cocoon of brushed aluminium and neon.
I’d have a bottle of Brown Ale in Byker over that, any day.
A comment on the Facebook group sums it up for me: “Heaton has always been and will remain the original place for proper students who aren’t afraid of mixing it with the locals, who appreciate that Newcastle is for the locals and that they’re merely visiting for three years.”
Joshua Shrimpton Dean
It’s funny how the bugbears of modern life cast a rose-tinted shadow over the past.
Kids kick a pig’s bladder around the cobbled street whilst mothers look on fondly from their unlatched houses, preparing ham and pease pudding stotties for dinner. Coal-blackened husbands pledge to walk the dog, but sneak down the pub for a pint of Brown Ale.
Yes, legend loves a stereotype. But this isn’t the Jesmond that books remember.
Russian novelist and erstwhile Jesmondite, Yevgeny Zamyatin, tells of sombre, characterless people, far removed from the grime of working-class Newcastle, in his satire The Islanders (1917). “The gentlemen were, of course, manufactured at a factory in Jesmond, and on a Sunday morning thousands of copies appeared on the streets, carrying identical canes and wearing identical top hats…”
Rosamund Lehmann conjures a similar vision in A Note in Music (1930). Clearly, Geordie character was lost on early-20th Century Jesmond.
But what is Geordie character anyway? If we’re talking about that faithful twang, it still holds its own amongst the colourful voices of outsiders. If it’s that warm-welcome policy, then surely Jesmond’s bubbling melting-pot community is testament to its being? And if it’s that tendency to throw decorum to the wind and engage in some smutty banter, then Jesmond is still the birthplace and spiritual homeland of Viz magazine.
As for the points in question, let’s discuss.
If Jesmond had any more than a handful of footballers, their presence might be more than just a quirky trait. It isn’t.
The clinical wine bars are only part of Jesmond’s bustling nightlife. Want local ales in an old school pub? Take your pick.
The stuffy exclusivity of Jesmond’s past is breaking down, and now people from across the city feel at home in its bars and restaurants. Local shops are still a haven for posers, but that goes with the territory of being the region’s most affluent suburb.
And like many university towns, our student population is huge. But funding cuts mean that numbers will settle, if not drop – an unfortunate effect that might just be good for the community. And let’s not forget that it’s students who have brought much of Jesmond’s wealth. At least we can roam the streets in the summer months without a pair of pyjama bottoms in sight…
So really, Jesmond hasn’t lost its Geordie character. If anything, it’s stronger than ever.
The traditionalists take themselves far too seriously. And that’s unlike any proper Geordie I know.
But what do you think? Tell us your views and experiences of Jesmond by commenting below.