“LET me tell you a little bit about the role”.
Said the German director in the presence of myself and the Italian/American producers.
“He is an English aristocrat, goes by the name of Lord Frederick Langham. He lives in a stately home with 27 bedrooms, fourteen and a half bathrooms and an Italian garden that replicates a section of the Venetian waterways. His parents have a portfolio of real estate all around the Globe including London, Paris, Rome, New York and Monte Carlo. His wine collection alone could clear the debt of a Third World country and he is chauffeured around in a vintage Rolls Royce by his trusted Butler Uri”.
“Sounds great kidder. Where do I sign la?”
Sound unlikely? Well this happened to me once. It was in a film studio somewhere outside of the UK. I had been working on a feature and word had gotten around that there was an Englishman on the lot. Sure enough, I was approached by the aforementioned American Italian and German. They checked me out, liked my ‘look’ and more importantly the colour of my passport. They were searching for a Brit pure and simple; and as far as these foreigners were concerned I was British. Not Liverpudlian, not Northern… just British. Better still I was ENGLISH! In fact let’s be honest, to them, I could have been James ‘fu*king’ Bond! I was offered the job on the spot.
Shortly after that I started spending a lot of time in New York. Like John Lennon before me, it reminded me of home. The docks, humour, energy, edge… I couldn’t get enough. What was more, New York couldn’t get enough of me. There wasn’t a day went by when I wasn’t stopped on the street…
“Man… Your accent is just AWESOME!”
“Wow…You sound just like a Beatle!”
“I LOVE the Liverpool voice dude!”
The Americans didn’t hear subconscious sirens or picture me dressed in a mask with a swag bag over my shoulder. Their hands didn’t instinctively move to check that their wallets were safe. Instead they just heard a voice, a sound, a song and they associated it with positivity, possibility and friendliness. As for the women?…I might as well have been talking Italian!
During my time in America I hung out with millionaires and movie stars, designers, producers, rock stars, photographers, artists, magazine editors and people in very high places (quite literally at times). And do you know what? I was their equal. I was an ‘English man’ in New York.
Fast forward a couple of years and back home in England I hear of a drama being cast about British soldiers in Iraq. I managed to get hold of the script and really liked it. I was a fan of the director and thought the role a challenge. Furthermore the character was a soldier from the Cheshire regiment, the regiment nearest to Liverpool. I promptly called my agents and asked them to ask the producers if they would meet me for a casting. The reply they got back went something like this…
“Unfortunately we don’t believe Scot is right for this role because this character trained at Sandhurst.”
Which, for those of you unfamiliar with Sandhurst and what it stands for, can be roughly translated as…
“A Liverpudlian? Playing somebody educated with an RP accent?! Do me a fu*king favour!”
As it happens I was born in the early 70s to Liverpool parents of Celtic descent and grew up in the much milder accented ‘South’ of the city. My folks would often correct my pronunciation, “It’s car NOT caaaaaar,” being a regular prompt and consequently my accent never grew strong to begin with. Dilute that with 20 years of living in London and my accent (though still there) is more of a mystery than anything else.
Despite this, in 20 years of working as an actor and having what some casting directors might deem a ‘classic’ look (don’t ask me what that means either), in spite of having one of the finest agents in the country and a CV the length of my arm, I have still, not once, not ever received even an audition for what we might call a ‘period drama’. Not even a screen-test, let alone an offer (apart from LILIES of course, which was set in Garston!).
Despite a versatility and ability with accents, in spite of having played RP on more than one occasion, never have I gotten past the casting suite door for an Austen, Dickens or Bronte. Yet, to those Italian/Americans, those Germans and New Yorkers…I had the accent of an ‘English Man’.
Prejudice I think is the word I’m looking for.
Plain old fashioned, lazy, safe, ‘tar all with the same brush’ prejudice. Fu*k the fact that I’ve worked with some of the best in the business, my Spotlight CV page has a tiny little asterix next to the word ‘Liverpudlian’, followed by the word ‘Native’ and as far as some are concerned that simply means a big fat ‘no’.
Thankfully, although rife, not everyone in this business is quite so narrow minded and with a mixture of good management and wise choosing, it is possible to avoid stereotype and out manoeuvre the dreaded typecasting, which to a certain degree I have done.
Having said that, I can still list many occasions, here in my own country, when the mere ‘location’ of my birth has played a part in whether I ate that month or not.
It’s not just Liverpudlians that are unfairly labelled of course. I’d hate to be accused of being just another victim from the ‘Self Pity City’.
No, this prejudice goes on across the board. As far as some film makers are concerned all black kids deal drugs and shoot people, all females from Essex are slags, all Brummies are as thick as shit, Oxfordians eat swan sandwiches and sleep with their cousins, Cockneys are all cheeky chancers and Mancunians live on cobbled streets and a diet of Lancashire hot-pot.
If the Welsh aren’t singing they’re shagging their sheep and all Geordies work down mines. Mackem girls go out barely dressed in sub-zero temperatures, Glaswegians are violent smackheads, Irishmen desperate drunks, all travellers are bare knuckle fighters, all Muslims too busy making bombs and as for us Liverpudlians… why we’re all curly haired dole scrounging jolly, witty thieves of course! “Keep your hands on your wallets fellas!”
Box, shelf, kind, group, class, sort, type!…When are people going to STOP generalising?!
Recently, I tuned into a certain long running British TV drama. The opening sequence was a single mother from Liverpool on the run from the local authorities with her kids down to London.
They ‘bunked’ onto the train at Lime Street without paying (how could they possibly pay? They were from Liverpool remember), the bruises on her face suggested she had a violent partner who probably drank too much, her wayward children were stealing things at every given turn.
Why is this?
And, more importantly, why do film and television makers from Liverpool itself feel the need to exacerbate this narrow mindedness and throw fuel made up of generalizations onto flames made up of Myths.
Is DEPERATE SCOUSEWIVES really representative of Liverpool people? Is that really going to help us in our quest to beat the bias?
Just look up “The Liverpool Accent” on Wikipedia and you will see a list of local fictional characters portrayed on TV and film. Don’t get me wrong, some are great characters, heroes even. But there does seem to be a common theme.
It is perhaps the sheer chauvinism attached to the Liverpool accent that has seen me and others like me spend many a day (and many a dollar) in the presence of dialect coaches.
These talented teachers can charge upwards of £100 an hour to teach you how to drop an accent and adopt another seamlessly. They fascinate me, help me to realise the importance of an accent’s volume, expression, evolution and how beautiful and individual each dialect really is.
They teach us of its history and the actual mechanics behind it. How the tongue moves, how the lips behave, how the breath can manipulate sound. (For example, Americans almost hold their breath when speaking and have no explosions of air on their P and B sounds. Hold a candle up in front of an American’s lips and have him say ‘Puppy’ or ‘Bubble’ and the flame will never flicker!)
Thank God for these coaches, because if it was left to actual ROBOTS some sessions might end up like this…
It is perhaps because of this stereotyping that the ‘better known’ Liverpool actors (outside of the city itself) are barely known as such.
Some great Liverpudlian actors (or actors that grew up in and near the city) such as Rex Harrison, Jason Isaacs, Tom Baker, Alison Steadman, Derek Nimmo, Malcolm McDowell, Daniel Craig, Patricia Routledge etc. might not have had an accent to begin with of course, but I’m willing to bet that most just chose to drop them in a bid to beat the bigotry. If not ‘chose’ then encouraged, perhaps by drama schools or repertory theatre?
The fact remains, that in 2012 I can list very few Liverpool actors with strong regional accents that have broken through into an ‘International Audience’. Scouse actors that have said “D’you know what…f*ck it, this is me and this is how I sound, take it or leave it”!
Some have succeeded of course, my friends and ex-colleagues Stephen Graham and Ian Hart have smashed through the prejudice with sheer talent and tenacity, but this is very rare and with respect to them they’re predominantly character actors – I’ve yet to hear a leading Scouse man.
In my own personal experience, most directors, casting directors and producers would prefer I performed in a non-native accent (i.e. not Liverpudlian), unless the role was written as such.
I had an audition for a certain well known ‘Cockney Crime Movie’ once, directed by a certain well known ‘Cockney Crime Movie’ director (no, not that one).
The casting director called me in for a preliminary meeting and said to me…
“Scot, I think you’re great, but there’s NO WAY this ‘well known Cockney Crime Movie director’ will cast you if he gets even the tiniest ‘hint’ that you’re from Liverpool. Is there any chance you could go into the meeting tomorrow and conduct the conversation in a South London accent?”
But that’s ridiculous I thought… you don’t have to be a Cockney to play a Cockney. I played a heroin addict for two years, I didn’t have to shoot up before each take for fu*k’s sake!
“Yes, ok,” I said reluctantly.
The next day I walk into the casting.
“Awight Guv,” I said in my Bermondsey twang.
“Hello Geez,” said the ‘well-known Cockney crime movie director’. “Av a seat fella…So, where’s your manor then?”
Where’s my manor? Shit!! I hadn’t thought of that one! Think on your feet Williams…
“Erm?! Well I bin all over inn-eye! Caaaaaamberwell, Caaaaamden, Kensal Riiiiiiise, Tooooootin…”
“Triffick!” said the director, still none the wiser. “What school d’you go to then?”
School? Bollocks! I didn’t Google schools!
“School? Me? Erm…I went to a comprehensive school called Dee Olt.”
“Dee Olt?” he replied. “I ain’t ever heard of Dee Olt?! How you spelling that?”
“Dee Olt…you know, T.H.E. H.O.L.T.”
“Ohhhhhhh Dee Olt!! Right okay. And where IS Dee Olt?”
I looked at him straight in the eye and in my flawless London accent replied…
“It’s in LIVERPOOL mate”
“Liverpool?!!” he said, with a scowl. “Why Liverpool?!”
By now the game was up and I could pretend no longer, furthermore I didn’t want to.
“Because dat’s where I’m from geezer innit!” I replied with a wink.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the job!!
Would you conceal YOUR accent to land a dream job? Take a look at this…
So who are the worse culprits of this stereotyping? The media of course, but today’s modern stand-up comedians certainly have a lot to answer for.
Come December when this massively over-saturated, over-exposed profession brings out its crowd of clowns desperate to flog their Christmas DVD’s – well frankly they’d offend anyone….
Take this bunch of ‘Hilarious Arseholes’. Yes, Jimmy Carr I’m talking to you!
According to Jimmy Carr, offence cannot be GIVEN, only TAKEN. Well Jimmy, if you’re reading this… a very hard slap across that very weird face of yours cannot be given either!
And what about the ‘side splitting’ Michael McIntyre!
And the ‘I think my head might fall off he’s so funny’ Lee Mack!
What about the ‘pissed myself laughing’ Jason Manford!
Or the ‘roll around on the floor laughing’ Russell Howard…
However THE worst Scouse accent of all the stand-up comics surely belongs to THIS man:
(a shocking example of stereotyping if ever there was one)…
Now, knowing you lot as I do, you’ll still be laughing from those clips, because let’s be honest if there’s one thing we’re good at it’s laughing at ourselves.
But in all seriousness, this generalisation has to stop. Give these blinkered folk an inch and they’ll take a folking mile!
However, to get any idea of when it might end, we need to learn when it began. Judging by this next clip, it was something even The Beatles had to put up with way back in 1962…(skip to 28secs and the BRILLIANT reply from John Lennon).
So, what’s the answer, what is the solution?
Well, as in all cases of ignorance and prejudice, this surely lies in education.
Do the narrow-minded know for example, that the word ‘Scouse’ derives from the Norwegian lapskaus and the Low German Labskaus?!
Both words for a meat stew. The next time you meet Jimmy Carr, tell him that it was people who ate “Scouse”, such as local dockers and sailors, who became commonly known as Scousers, especially in the north end of Liverpool and the Wallasey Pool.
Educate these funny bastards! Tell Michael McIntyre that despite originally being a fishing village, Liverpool developed as a port, trading particularly with Ireland and in the 19th century internationally.
Tell him that it therefore became a melting pot of languages and dialects, but primarily Lancastrian, Irish, Welsh, English, Dutch, Scandinavian, German and Scots and that as a result the Liverpool accent often had more in common with accents from other port cities such as Glasgow and Dublin than it did with neighbouring towns.
Educate the funny bastards! Tell Lee Mack that it was the influence of these different speech patterns that became apparent in Liverpool and coastal Wirral, distinguishing the accent of its people from those of the surrounding Lancashire and Cheshire areas. Tell him that it is only recently that Scouse has been treated as a cohesive accent/dialect and that for many years, Liverpool was simply seen as a melting pot of ‘different’ accents without having one of its own.
Educate the funny bastards! Pull Russell Howard aside. Remind him that the accent of the 50s and before was more a Lancashire-Irish hybrid, old fashioned Liverpudlian if you like, a little like the Beatles used to speak. Tell him that since then, as with most accents, Scouse has been subject to phonemic evolution and change and that over the last few decades the accent is no longer a melange but has in fact started to develop. Tell him big changes have taken place in Scouse vowels, which show astonishing length and exaggeration at times. Tell these funny, funny bastards to compare the way George Harrison and John Lennon spoke with modern day Scouse speakers such as their fellow funny man… John Bishop!
To be fair, I’ve been quite methodical in my career choices. In 20 years I estimate that only 50% of my roles have been played in my native tongue.
Furthermore I’ve played very few Liverpudlian roles that one might deem ‘stereotypical’, only four in fact. It’s true I have had to decline one or two that painted a vulgar picture, but you can’t turn down every rogue.
It is my personal belief that the greatest actors bring ‘themselves’ to the part and not the part to they. You don’t need a French accent to play an old romantic; you just need passion in your heart. You need only look to the De Niros, Pacinos, Hopkins and Caines of this world to see that.
The fact is, acting in my own tongue allows me to be more instinctive and if there wasn’t such negative stereotype attached to the Liverpool accent, I’d rarely choose to alter it at all.
But, alas, there is and so I do!
I’m going to leave you with an exclusive peak at my new film. Set in Southend Essex, I play a career criminal, fresh out of jail and looking to steal a whole lot of money. Did I play the part in a Liverpudlian accent or not?
You’ll have to wait and see!
HARD BOILED SWEETS in selected cinemas from March 9th and on DVD from April 30th.
Great piece Scot, no mention of Stephen Graham in the list of great Scouse Actors though? Not a slight, just an observation.
As a businessman myself and raised not to far from Garston Park, I’m fortunate (depending on how you look at it) that my parents drilled into me the practice of speaking well as opposed to “lazily slurring your words like your friends” as they’d put it.
It’s interesting to me how different my accent is from some of my childhood friends who grew up a stones throw from my home, my accent is more akin to that of Daniel Craig’s accent or John Lennon even than Harry Enfield’s cult characters “The Scouser’s”.
Stereotypes will follow us wherever we go, and most of the time I laugh it off – somewhat perversely, many people on first meeting have no idea I’m a Scouser, I find myself telling them I’m orginally from Liverpool often deep into the conversation – their mood sometimes will change, often accompanied with the “Oh, really?” whilst padding themselves gingerly to ensure I’ve not freed them of their wallet during the conversation.
I’m proud of my heritage, proud to call myself a Liverpudlian; I’m educated and fortunate to have been raised by two, intelligent and well educated ardent Liverpudlians…alas to put it in a context the xenophobes will understand, If you don’t like it, you can f**k off.
Great article that. Particularly liked the Nick Luck anecdote (who else could it have been?)
Just to say the McGann brothers have largely kept their own accents and been very successful with it.
*Nick Love, obviously :)
Fab fab piece scot and so very I 2 no by personal experience that once people hear the scouse accent there mind is already made I got turned down 4 a job because I was a scouser then our head of security wouldn’t look at me or acknowledge I was there and after about 6months I asked him what his problem was and his reply was I can’t stand scousers because 15-20 scouse lads put him in intensive care I replied were not all like that please don’t tar me with there brush it took a while to get there I felt as if I had sumthing to prove to him obvs I didn’t can’t wait to c hard boiled sweets xx.
Anfield Oracle – He did mention Stephen Graham.
Good article, I don’t get the generalization with Liverpool accents. I love the accent, along with the Irish, it’s by far my favourite accent ever. My son constantly speaks in a Liverpool accent too! I’ve been to Liverpool loads of times and rather than being the stereotype, I’ve found that most people I’ve spoken to are the complete opposite. They’re probably the friendliest people I know and rather than being wallet thieves, I had one chase me for 10 minutes because I dropped my purse in a pub.
I think the generalization goes with anything Liverpool though, regardless of whether you have an accent or not. I don’t live in Liverpool but when people hear I support them I get the usual dole & thief jibes.
I like to generalise… I think that Russell Howard is generally a cunt.
Iv lost all respect for the “red” that is Stephen graham after accepting that award off the s*n.
Excellent article that deserves to be published more widely.
My mother will love reading this! She always blames Cilla Black (truthfully!) for the current John Bishop-esque stylised Liverpool accent. Certainly when I was a kid in the mid- late 60s in south Liverpool, the accent was indeed mainly that of Paul McCartney. I am not an actor, but wherever I have lived / worked in Britain when people “find out” I’m Liverpudlian, without fail I hear “But you can’t be from Liverpool, you haven’t got the accent” or some such. They look at me disbelievingly when I tell them that actually my accent is normal. Even worse, unless they already know me, more often than not I know that they are judging me as a lesser being than they had thought. Not paranoia, you really can see it in their eyes.
Ah well, really looking forward to “Hard Boiled Sweets” – that’s if they show it in little Okehampton!
Lee Mack is from Southport too….you’d think he could do the accent a LOT better!
So he did Jo, my sincere apologies Scot!
Nice one, Scot.
As a fellow Liverpool born actor, I completely empathise with the accent dilemma. My natural Scouse accent was finely honed in Gods Own City. For the last thirty years I have lived in South Warwickshire and my mates down here reckon I’ve got a ‘thick’ Scouse accent.(Which I haven’t) But when I go back up to Liverpool, my mates there reckon I’ve developed a ‘Southern’ accent (Which I haven’t either!) So I suppose in accent terms I’m stateless! However, having relaunched my career two years ago I am now wondering: Do I market myself as a ‘Liverpool’ type actor and say ‘F*ck you’ to everyone or make more of an effort to lose it and – God forbid – get more work!
Enjoying your work very much though – keep it up mate!
Having never had what you might call a “strong” scouse accent myself, particularly compared to most of my friends (and I still have the mick taken out of me by my family for once (as a young kid) trying to pronounce “cushion” with a “g” on the end – i.e. cushing), I was surprised on starting an acting degree to be told in my first vocal class “We don’t want to change your accent, Neil, we just want to make you understood…”
Which gave me the pleasure of being thought a scal by some of the other actors, yet accused of “trying to sound posh” by my mates back home!
In addition to that, while I was studying, I worked in a bar for a couple of years and would often get asked which part of Ireland I came from… To which their usual response to me correcting them would result in the boring “wallet” gags… I even had an Irishman once ask me “Where about in Ireland are you from?” At which point I started to respond by saying “The capital” and waited for them to work it out!
Good piece this Scot, and -although as Mike says in his comment above me and my brothers have ‘largely’ (?) kept our accents- I’ve seen and heard all the prejudices and jokes above at several points in my career. I remember oncer being told not to bother auditioning for the RSC as ‘your type could never play a King or do justice to the verse…’
I think he got the gist of my reply, even though I come from the wrong Kensington.
My brother Paul remarked recently that Drama schools were becoming finishing schools for toffs again- as they were in till the 60’s and he’s quite possibly right- who else can afford the fees?
There are still, however, a few directors, producers and casting directors who are willing to look at experience and talent as criteria for a job and to get past simple box ticking stereotypes. I’ve always said that it’s not the audience who typecasts us but the lazy twats in the business who can’t see further than any of the muppets you’ve cited above.
Good work lad, keep it up.
Nice article. I grew up in Liverpool in the Netherton/Bootle district in the late 60’s early 70’s and I have a soft scouse accent that, like Mandy above, I consider to be normal. I don’t know where this new stylised accent came from, but if you’d have talked like Jamie Carragher or John Bishop round Bootle in the 70’s people would have thought you were daft.
I did notice the accent getting thicker in the 80’s alongside the City’s managed decline, so perhaps it was an attempt to preserve a cultural identity that was being rapidly eroded. Who knows?
Great podcasts btw, really enjoy them.
Having lived in the USA for some 32 years, my accent is less noticeable than when I first arrived, what has remained strong is my sense of humor (my iPad refuses to allow humour) I call my family at least once a week, and inevitably spend the entire conversation in convulsive laughter. My children, though born in San Francisco and Seattle respectively, are fiercely proud of their paternal connection, visit Bootle often and have a real love for the city. One time, visiting with my( American) wife and young children, we left the kids in the charge of my mam, and took off upstairs to try and sleep off the jet lag. As we got down to our undies, two ladders slapped up against the window, two shaven heads appeared and one said nonchalantly, ” alright Billy, back from America?” After a brief conversation, I introduced my wife, in her underwear, then told them of our intention to nap,and pulled the blind. When we later told my parents of the incident my mother said,” awe, god love em, they,re smack heads but they,re trying, mind you, there’s no water in their buckets, your dad will have to get up there and finish them!” Love it!
I have spent time in almost all the big cities in the ‘states, thanks to the beatles, most people know of the city and are gracious and kind. The only time I get any stick is in “English” bars. I put it down to jealousy.
Thanks for the great comments so far. Some wonderful anecdotes and shared experiences. Laaaaaaaaaaa
I think having a strong accent, whatever it is, can be disadvantageous for actors. It’s obviously better being generic, to be easily imagined in various roles. If those casting can’t easily see you in the role they just skip to the next person. That process is seldom ‘prejudice‘ though, it’s just the nature of the business. It’s normal that actors are encouraged to present themselves generically. The pointedly generic photos you send out are a great example of this.
Looking at what you’ve been in, you’ve chosen a lot of very Liverpool-heavy jobs and obviously your identity as a Liverpudlian is very important to you. Seems like you’re being typecast more than anything. Even though various British accents don’t have the same connotation in the US, there is still equivalent stereotyping of US accents there.
Of course, maybe they just didn’t want you for other reasons. I know a lot of actors much prefer to think it’s outside factors that prevent them from being a star and result in them struggling in no-budget dross, rather than it being down to any lack of talent.
As far as scouse-based humour. I think it’s prevalent, not just due to stereotyping (like you said, there are many accents carrying negative and funny stereotypes), but because Liverpool is probably the most self-regarding and sensitive city in the UK. So I don’t really think there’s any need to educate people about the the accent of the 50s, words for meat stew or historic fishing…. The more seriously you take it the funnier it is to make fun.
Having spent 17 years in London I’m still amazed at the prejudice that is out there (“she’s from Liverpool, hide your wallets”) – and I have a really mild accent too. My way of dealing with it now is to smile sweetly and ask “I’m sorry have we met before?”, to which of course they say no. Still smiling and being uber-polite I ask “I don’t understand – if you don’t know me, have never met me and don’t know anything about me, I wonder if you could explain why you are alerting the group to hide their wallets?”. What can they say to that? Any defence of their position is just going to show them to be the tossers they are, and on more than one occasions my way of handling it has elicited an apology. I find this more effective than getting angry and defensive , which just makes them think they are right about us being aggressive (calm down, calm down).
Like TH though, I too thought that an actor is meant to be more ‘generic’, so I’m not sure I really understand the gist of it – though I’m not in the business so don’t really understand the subtleties of it. Anyway, best of luck Scot.
An excellent article. I’m a comedian and recently did a gig in Brighton. The other comedians were women, and I assumed that this would lead to a nicer, more friendly atmoshpere. The compere was from Brighton, she was also a recent winner of a national competition which would have led me to believe she was funny, yet the minute she heard my accent for the first time, she began to mimic it, making ‘jokes’ about whether her car was safe.* Needless to say, her set was equally disappointing, relying on lots of other old jokes and cliches. I cant say I was surpirsed.
*i wouldn’t have robbed her car. It was rubbish.
Dear T H
You can’t kid a kidder kidda! ;)
….but, I still successfully make some pertinent observations ;)
What other section of society suffers such negative stereotyping ??. If Harry Enfield’s stock characters had blacked up faces and spoke in phoney Jamaican patois would any of the chattering classes found it funny ??
Good article, but although it goes without saying there is still much negative stereotyping where all things Liverpool are concerned, I perosnally don’t have a problem with a bit of accent piss-taking. Taking the Lee Mack video for example, he’s not drawing on any thief/scorunger stereotypes – it’s just a strung out gag about the accent. He used to do a skit in his live shows about the Cockeny accent and Cockneys in general (and this skit was actually funny).
Being able to laugh at yourself is a virtue so let’s not get overly precious about this sort of stuff. Christ knows there’s plenty of *genuine* anti-Liverpool prejudice and bigotry to go around.
“What other section of society suffers such negative stereotyping”
The Irish? The Scots? The Welsh? I live in East Anglia where, aparently, we all f**k our sisters and have 6 toes on each foot.
Great article and recognise the points. I moved to Saudi 8 years ago and i run an operation with the client being Aramco. I have had to slow down my talking and find myself pronouncing each word without running into the next. Not to hide my origins of course but more to be understood and realised this during my first meeting with about 12 Saudis looking at me with a glazed look.
There does remain an accent and for some reason persons never hearing it before link me with Irish or Scotish. I then proudly give them a history / geography lesson on my roots and still get a laugh when they try to repeat the word scouser.
Yes i remain proud of where i am from and it is refreshing to mix with Saudis with no prejudice……..except when i meet up with persons from the expat commmunity and end up with the………”watch the hub cap gags”. My response is usually a …….”do you know what i have never come across that before, it is so funny”‘.
We have a DNA that is unique an identity that we can associate with, wherever we are away from home………and long may it last. If others dont like it then they can go an f*ck themselves.
Madforit you have got to the nub of it IMO. It is the raipidfire delivery when we scousers speak that causes most of our problems with non English speakers. I wonder whether the morphing of the accent into Cillaspeak is actually the result of voice coaches working on our latter day celebrities? When public speaking I have concentrated on speed and articulation and let the accent take care of itself.
Hey Scott – spot on article my friend. Really good and great response from everyone as well.
I suffer the prejudice in the business world as well.
I’m lucky enough to have a job that enables me to travel all round the world working with different colleagues and clients (I’m a conference organiser) all the time and I’m sad to report that every single time I go away, I get at least one negative jibe thrown at me from the British colleagues that I work with – and not just from blokes, mostly from the women I’m working with: “watch your hubcaps girls”, “he’s from Liverpool, he’ll rob us something” etc etc. Light hearted but it drives me crazy inside.
The other side of the coin is that I don’t suffer any of these prejudices from the European or american people that I work with. Like 0%. Never, ever…in fact, the complete opposite – especially from americans – they really love a scouse accent!!
The hardest thing is dealing with those comments when they are chucked at you. On the one hand if you say nothing, they think you’re ok with it and they keep coming. On the other, if you bite, they think you’re all highly strung and they get even more negative about you. I seriously haven’t got a chip on my shoulder but after 15 years of it, every week it just get tiresome!
Answers on a postcard on how to deal with it please :)
great article scott,i left liverpool 20yrs.ago,i come from the south end lodge lane ,toxteth….gasp!!.my accent was never a gerrid in gerrid out one,and over the years has got softer due to the pain of having to repeat myself,however having well travelled around the world,my scouse accent hs proved to be a great asset,its got me model girlfriends in scandinavia,got me drunk in many a bar,met so many people who just love the way i speak,i could go on and on.im so proud of our city and its acredhievements,music,footie,humour,etc,etc.the only time i ever get a bit of that steriotype shite is when i go to england,its a load of crap,lots of it are jealous jibes,we can always rise above them and give a smart answer if we can be arsed!with this old hat shite,all the best with your acting career scott,i done a bit myself in liverpool in the80’s,keep on keepin on,paul. syd.aussie.
That’s interesting to learn that Rex Harrison is a “Scouser”. I just saw him the other night in a screening of ‘Unfaithfully Yours’ at a local cinema. I’ve always liked him. On the heels of this post, it’s ironic to consider his role as the aristocratic, thinly compassionate linguist in ‘My Fair Lady’. He bears down on the poor Hepburn character to refine herself through speech and manner. A cornerstone of that story is language and accent, and he plays in very opposition to the derogatory Liverpudlian stereotype discussed here. Maybe it was just another layer of acting he applied in order to widen his net…
I see little evidence of a strong working class culture in Liverpool now. Just hordes of professional scousers (mostly from leafy suburbia) shouting “lad” every two seconds, whilst parking Chelsea tractors on the pavement outside overpriced bars / restaurants.
Excellent piece Scot..What an interesting and truthful read! x
Great article. In fact, that’s familiar to me and for every person living in countries with different accent per area…
Great article … and a fascinating breadth of responses … I’m from Manchester, with a Scouse dad … I think Boys from the blackstuff and Brookside, for all their real grit and implicit f*ck yous to London based drama, they also embedded a view of Liverpool that the city may have outgrown – sadly without most people noticing … or watch the Ealing Studio 1950 flick The Magnet stereptyping isn’t a new game in drama – the only people with Scouse accents are bad guys or the ones to watch out for
Going back to Brookside – isn’t that what Harry Enfield’s Scouser characters were satirising? Instead it got a life of its own and became received wisdom on all Scousers – see A N Other curly wig in the away end at Anfield LOL I think not … And then Reebok used it to market the yellow away strip … so in a way LFC helped to confirm peoples suspicions to sell shirts
I have just graduated from University which was an excellent experience, where I feel I have learnt a lot of valuable things about Acting. Having read this article I think I could have learnt more from this about Acting than I have in the last 5 years. I have even probably learnt more about myself reading this than I have in the last 5 years.
I have always relied on the fact that i’m a young SCOUSE actor, and if anything can get me through when performing is playing the “I’m a Scouser trick, you are now entitled to laugh at me and the exageratted sounds and actions associated with my accent.”
Scousers, as you mention, like to laugh at themselves, it’s a great quality that keeps us grounded, however I feel that I have in fact been doing myself and people of Liverpool a disservice and, worse than condoning these negative attitudes towards Scousers and the accent, I have been championing this negativity to help me move forward as an actor and helping to kill my city.
I was at this gig Lee Mack played in The Liverpool Philarmonic a few years back where he performed this exact piece. I went to see him twice, so when this segment of the show came around, for the second time, I knew what to expect. So when this section was performed everyone laughed their socks off (all being Scousers able to laugh at themselves) but then he asked “Do we have any Students in?”. I immediately tried to seize a chance to get noticed (being a young actor it’s hard enough for anyone in Liverpool to give me a chance to show what I can do never mind outside it’s borders) and waited for all the other students to finish shouting before I shouted (in my bestest stereotypical Scouse accent possible – I don’t think it was intentional I had just heard a great stereotype for 5 minutes before this, I just picked it up without thinking) and said “YEAAAA”. Lee immediately picked me out and managed to create 5 minutes of comical material from my comment (which is great because 1) I don’t take myself seriously 2) I was trying to get a bit noticed 3) comedians rely on GIFTS from the audience and thest accept and run with those gifts.
Lee then asked what are you going to do for a job? I couldn’t help but shout my dream role “Doctor Who” (Again in this stereotyped, ugly, monstrous, hideous accent). The audience loved it as there was another 5 minutes of comedy that skirted around Liverpudlian unemployment rates and being on the dole.
I can’t help now but feel slightly sick. To parody the accent wasn’t my intent but I have realised to stop giving these Scouse trick GIFTS to everyone I meet just illeviate tense atmospheres.
The whole point that I have realised from this Lee Mack event is that the focus will lie with me on how I conduct myself with relation to my own accent and acting. I have done well by parodying my background to gain Acting roles and my whole showreel is littered with it, I am sure you will see what I mean (It’s the top video):
Thank you Scott for opening my eyes into how I think I am helping bu in fact am making this situation worse. I need a brand new showreel and to revise my selection choices as an actor when approaching these scripted Scousers.