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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Teacher writes 'first chav novel'
Matthew David Scott
Matthew Scott worries about his pupils finding out about the book
An English teacher at a Welsh school has written what the publishers claim is the first "chav" novel.

Matthew David Scott, 26, who teaches at Fitzalan High School in Cardiff, said the book is a tribute to the vibrant sub-culture of working-class Britain.

It follows the life, fashion and violence of two sets of friends on a sink estate somewhere in Britain.

Scott said youngsters were now often condemned for behaviour that was a typical part of his growing up.

The book, Playing Mercy, is peppered throughout with references to "chav" fashion - the uniform of cheap jewellery and baseball caps beloved of teenage gangs - and has been launched at this year's Hay Festival.

Scott admitted that he was dreading his pupils finding out what he had been doing in his spare time for the past two-and-a-half years.

He said: "I think it might make teaching them different. They find it hard to accept that teachers have lives outside of school.

"But it's not that much of a big secret. The kids I teach don't tend to read the Guardian or go to the Hay Festival."

Scott said many of the characters in the tale are based on people he knew in his own "pretty much ordinary comprehensive school, working-class upbringing" in Middleton, Manchester.

I don't think there is such a thing as "chav culture" - it's a term coined by those who don't understand youth culture
Matthew David Scott

"I kind of did lead the life that they do in the book. Things are little different for 15-year-olds now, only the stakes are much higher for them."

But Scott's escape was books and he knuckled down to study at school, did his A-levels and went off to Sheffield University to read English.

At Sheffield he met his fiancée, a Swansea girl, which led to his move to Wales.

He says may have been on the fringes of the chav culture of his time, but he knew it was not for him.

"I was not really interested in their kind of lifestyle. There's a certain glamour involved but you are living your life day-to-day, like some of the characters in the book.

"I didn't want to know. I was interested in books and got the literature bug. But there are kids out there who do look up to the likes of fences.

"The same problems exist in every estate you go to, the same kind of deal goes on."

Ambition

Scott said each generation of young people had produced their own identifiably British youth culture. Yet he dismissed the idea that chav culture was somehow different.

"I don't think there is such a thing as 'chav culture'. It's a term coined by those who don't understand youth culture."

He added that his book took no moral stance on the actions of its characters but that did not mean he was trying to glamorise them.

"Communities themselves have to take some responsibility and look after their kids.

"But it always boils down to a lack of ambition. If (the kids) get a job and the money's crap, what kind of value is there in having ambition?"

Dominic Williams, marketing director at publishers Parthian, said: "Despite the obvious references to what has become known as the chav culture, this book looks deeper into this culture, showing an understanding of the social group beyond the stereotypes.

"This book highlights the rules and etiquette within the social hierarchy where reputation, usually governed by violence, means everything.

"This book is also about love, fear, loss, resentment, humiliation and teenage angst - it has it all!"


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