Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Take a Walk on the Dark Side; Charlie Scott Talks to the Author of a New Play Which Takes a Walk on the Dark Side of Street Fundraising

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Take a Walk on the Dark Side; Charlie Scott Talks to the Author of a New Play Which Takes a Walk on the Dark Side of Street Fundraising

Article excerpt

MOST people will have encountered a "chugger". In fact, the chances are you either see or are approached by one every day.

The term, coined to describe "charity muggers", has ingrained itself in the English vocabulary in recent years, with some street campaigns accused of adopting increasingly aggressive tactics in the name of fundraising.

Main shopping streets are littered with volunteers clasping clipboards, normally decked out in bright rain jackets as they hop between puddles to intersect the path of a member of public to collect their signature, and, for all the good intentions, the methods employed by some chuggers to hit sign-up target figures are alarming.

It's these that are explored in eye-opening new play, Chugger, produced by Newcastle University Theatre Society which delves into the psyche of the people at the centre of it all.

Painting the world of charity fundraisers in a negative light gives pause for thought. As soon as something has links to charity, it becomes almost taboo to criticise it, perhaps because it feels wrong to criticise a group who are, essentially, helping those in need.

But the play is not afraid to peer into this dark side.

Set in Dagenham, Chugger opens a door into the world of four street fundraisers working for fictional charity Gesture, examining their behaviour and techniques used to hit targets.

Ahead of the play's opening at Northern Stage in Newcastle on Monday, we caught up with the writer, Dale J. Pearson, who said of his decision to tackle such a sensitive subject: "Like others, I always thought of street fundraisers as annoying, but ultimately a force for good.

"However, I interviewed people who used to 'chug' for a living and all of them described it in the same way - 'like a cult'.

"Because all the fundraisers live together in shared accommodation, it becomes a very insular world. You would do whatever was necessary to get sign-ups and hit targets because the job became all that mattered."

At first the 23-year-old imagined his play as more comedic, in a similar vein to his 2012 Edinburgh Fringe work The Ride of the Bluebottles, which cast a satirical eye over the plight of an unsigned band. …

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