Sunday, 15 September 2013


We've all seen them, the chugger (charity mugger) that lurks in the High Street with a clipboard dressed in a tabard with today's charity's logo emblazoned on it, harassing you for your personal information. The chugger will rave on about today's chosen charity, in a desperate attempt to solicit your bank details from you. It often reflects badly on the charity using the chuggers, as the chugger usually works on commission, so even if you do sign up, your fee won't actually start going to the charity until the chugger's wages and overheads have been paid. But if you sign up, they still won't leave you alone. They'll be back at you soon, because they'll swap the tabard for another tomorrow and harass you afresh again for the next charity. Having conversed with chuggers out of chugging mode, they often don't actually give a damn about today's chosen charity, it's just a way to earn a wage. Often all they know about today's chosen charity is what they've been told as they're bussed in by their bosses to your town. It is also quite brutal within the world of the chugger too, where high pressure tactics from supervisors ensure that there is a high turnover of staff, low morale and quibbles with wages (with at least one chugger I knew personally).

On a (now defunct) blog, I wrote some years ago about having to deal with chuggers at Bristol Temple Meads train station when I worked in Bristol. Often their opening pitch in such a transitory place was to ask what time a certain train would be; if you were to stop to respond or glance at a notice board, that would ensure you were trapped by them, having to justify your finances to them. I used to stop and respond in Esperanto (striking fear into their hearts at potential communication difficulties), or continue without stopping, saying: "Sorry, I don't know, but there's an information desk on platform three if you need train times."

Personally, when I give to charity, I give directly, and I do not give out my bank information to some random stranger wearing a tabard in the High Street. It is also with great interest that I note my local council is clamping down on them.

But enough about my experience with chuggers.

It is with interest that I learned of an independent short dramatic film "Chuggers" from Xtreme Productions (above). I was wonderfully privileged to enjoy an advanced preview. I should state that I have a vested interest, for a friend of mine, Simon Morgan, plays a leading role in the film (the businessman).

The musical score throughout is simple, but highly effective. The film begins with a delicious montage of a chugger's daily routine in one of those brightly coloured uniforms, rushing around the High Street with the devilish clipboard, and you almost feel sorry for the chugger. Almost.

Then the chugger's demonic persistence kicks in, of which we have all seem glimpses in the High Street as you try to side-step them and they chase you for a few metres down the street. The film then takes it up a level, and when the inevitable conversation begins, we recognise all the familiar elements of the chugger pitch, with the already strained over-enthusiasm and strained over-politeness taken to a new extreme.

By taking the familiar and unpleasant experience of the everyday chugger encounter, then exaggerating it to the extent that has been done in this short film, it adds a delicious dark humour to the experience. I thoroughly recommend this thought-provoking and funny film.