I spent most of my teens and childhood in a little village called Grove, attached to the South Oxfordshire town of Wantage. I spent the other bits of my childhood in Birkenhead. As you will see from the below documentary, nothing I experienced in Birkenhead was nearly as terrifying as Wantage life.
Anybody who knows Wantage and its surrounding villages will find this documentary hilarious. It was intended as serious investigative journalism from the late 80s. When I first heard about this documentary, my Dad told me it was big news when it came out. His take on it, ‘it was all the lads from Pangbourne.’ The documentary seems to blame a lot of it on blokes from Faringdon. Just take a moment to consider how ludicrous both those sentences sound. Pangbourne famed for its horse training stables and Faringdon on the edge of the Cotswolds.
Personally, I think Wantage life is better summed up by Half Man Half Biscuit in their song about Chaterris.
It seems worth pointing out that I am straight outta Compton. I went to secondary school in Compton, W. Berkshire. NWA badly misrepresented it in my opinion. There was certainly a lot of drugs floating about but that was more because it is the kind of place where people can easily afford them. Wantage is similarly replete with narcotics but, again, a product of much money and little else to do.
When you compare it to Oldham, things aren’t all that different really. Sure, Oldham has a much higher proportion of ethnic minorities around. But, Wantage majored on May Day which is pretty similar to what goes on in Oldham at Whit. Wantage has silver and brass bands just like Oldham. We’ve had a few stabbing incidents of late in Oldham, one fatal. During the time I lived there, Grove and Wantage had a few with one fatal too. Both towns are far enough away from the nearest major city that both are viewed by the more influential as slightly odd backwaters. Whilst Wantage is rural, Oldham is more built up on the West but becomes more rural to the East. Both places are in close proximity to hilly scenery.
The main difference, then, is that Wantage is sought after and Oldham is not. Wantage is affluent and expensive, Oldham is deprived and cheap. But both have social problems and both have things to commend them. My point, here, is that perhaps there isn’t so much to fear in moving from a place like Wantage to serve in a place like Oldham.