Yesterday I saw a casting website urgently asking, on behalf of an agency, for a female VO with a “North East accent”. I’m a female Voiceover. I’m from the North East. My accent isn’t as strong as it was, but it’s still there in my normal day to day speech, most notably after a glass or two of wine or when I meet a fellow resident of my home town. It’s not very evident in my current VO work after fifteen years darn sarf, but can be called up when required.
So, I clicked on the link. They were looking for a Geordie accent. I’m not a Geordie.
All right, yes, fine. Geordie is a North Eastern UK accent. But it’s not the ONLY North East accent, despite what residents of the South may have been led to believe. Ant and Dec are Geordie. Jimmy Nail is a Geordie. But Geordie is an accent specific to Newcastle Upon Tyne; any other local accent may sound similar, but it’s NOT Geordie. Ross Noble is not a Geordie. His accent is close, but it’s not Geordie. Marcus Bentley, Big Brother Voiceover, isn’t, technically, a Geordie. He was born in Stockton, like me. Sarah Millican; not a Geordie. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are not Geordies. In, fact, you can probably name more people on TV and radio from the North East who are NOT Geordies than people who genuinely are. The “Geordie” accents we’ve been hearing, for the most part, aren’t Geordie at all.
And this is where the notice confused me. “North East Accent required”. The North East takes in Berwick down to Hull. The notice’s detail specified “Geordie”. OK, fair enough. But did they really mean Geordie, (Ant and Dec), Sunderland (Lauren Laverne, “Amazing Spaces'” George Clarke) or County Durham (Gogglebox’s Scarlett Moffat)? The North Eastern accents you hear on TV and radio at the moment, are for the most part, not actually Geordie. It may seem obvious – In the casting they’ve stated Geordie. But my Surrey-born and bred husband freely admits he can’t tell the difference between a Geordie accent and a Middlesbrough/Teesside one (for example, Reeves and Mortimer) and when my own accent surfaces, people are genuinely confused. They can tell I’m not Geordie, they know it’s Northern, they just can’t work out why or where. To avoid further confusion I was born in Stockton-on-Tees and then I moved to Hartlepool when I was nine. I am indeed part monkey-hanger and my natural accent falls somewhere around Teesside.
So please, casting folks; make sure you know what you want when you ask for a North Eastern accent. Otherwise it’s bit like suggesting all Londoners are Cockneys…