Thursday, 20 January 2011

Dagenham divas

Thinking about Dagenham after my recent visit, it's bred an inordinate amount of talent. A week ago Billy Bragg, born in nearby Barking, explained what made him a singer to the Guardian: “A desire not to go and work in Ford factory in Dagenham. That’s what everyone where I lived was being educated to do. To get out of it, it seemed I needed to be a boxer, a footballer or a rock star. I didn't want to get punched on the head, and I’m not that good at football so I went for the music.”

Sixties legend Sandie Shaw worked for six weeks as a punch-card operator at Ford, and at the end of 2010 revealed to Desert Island Discs that escape propelled her entire career. Dudley Moore was another who left to achieve stardom, along with the great Peter Cook, managing to combine cleverness and filth in some memorably obscene recordings such as the filthy Derek and Clive Live before becoming an unlikely Hollywood star in Arthur.

Like the coalfields of the north-east, Dagenham has unleashed an extraordinary amount of footballing talent.

England manager Sir Alf Ramsey, the man who won England the 1966 World Cup, came from Dagenham, although it didn’t sound like he did. Sir Alf famously had elocution lessons that resulted in him sounding like a bizarre combination of Parker from Thunderbirds and Bertie Wooster, and all with a Captain Mainwaring-style air of pomposity. Throughout the swinging sixties he maintained his upwardly mobile received pronunciation indicating a deep insecurity about his working class origins.

Ramsey’s captain Bobby Moore was raised in Waverley Gardens off the lorry-strewn River Road in Barking. Hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst was also a Barking lad.

Former England gaffer Terry Venables was born at Valence Road and through a variety of business schemes such as selling thingmywigs, setting up Scribes West bar and buying Spurs, demonstrated the eye for a deal beloved of a self-made Essex Man.

Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves grew up in Daggers and during my childhood, according to local gossip, moved down the road to a house near Upminster Common. After recovering from alcoholism — West Ham suffered his final season — he used his Essex wit to create a new career as the cheeky half of Saint and Gravesie on ITV’s On The Ball. The walruss-moustached Greavesie also became a beloved Sun columnist.

Arsenal and England’s Tony Adams grew up at 6 Foxlands Road, the son of an asphalter, playing for the youth side Dagenham United alongside West Ham’s legendary Steve Potts.

Chelsea’s John Terry is another son of Dagenham and so is Liverpool’s Paul Konchesky. Paul’s mum Carol displayed the more abrasive side of the Dagenham resident when she made the headlines defending her son from stroppy Scousers on Twitter.

Dagenham has also featured in song more than most towns. The Stranglers wrote Dagenham Dave about the eponymous character Dave, a Mancunian scaffolder who once worked at the Ford plant. Dave followed the band everywhere and eventually committed suicide jumping off Tower Bridge. Morrissey also penned a song called Dagenham Dave, this time with more homo-erotic tones.

More recently we’ve had rapper Devlin and I’m a Celebrity winner Stacey Solomon, complete with her Malibu and pineapple celebrations down the pub.

Is there a bigger talent factory anywhere in Britain?


  1. you forgot martin peters

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. According to Wikipedia he was born in Plaistow. I shall do some research on whee he grew up. Would be nice to add him to the Dagenham hall of fame...