Viv the Spiv has been offering dodgy goods for 25 years - and he’s still getting away with it.
In fact, he’s welcomed wherever he goes.
Come along to the 1940s weekend on 19th & 20th May at the Kent & East Sussex Railway and there’s a pretty good chance you'll meet him yourself, trying to flog nylons, corned beef and even knicker elastic.
Viv - real name Iain Dawson, a father-of-two from Tooting - plainly loves the role which has made him such a popular character at wartime re-enactment events.
"Most of the time I get a great reaction from people,” he says. “They tell me things like 'My Mum bought some nylons off a bloke like you and one leg was longer than the other!’ Or 'A spiv sold my Mum a tin of sockeye salmon and when she opened it, it was a tin of carrots - they'd changed the label over’.”
Ian joined the 1940s dance scene more than 25 years ago and was involved in a 40s weekend on the Bluebell Railway.
“They needed a spiv,” he recalls, "so a chum of mine said: ‘You can do it, you're a bit of a geezer.’
“So I thought, why not? My Grandad was a spiv during the war, so I've grown up hearing all the stories about his dodgy deals! It all took off from then, really. I was asked by a few people to go along to their events and I've not stopped since.
"Before I knew it, I was flogging nylons all over the place.”
His list of heroes is not surprising. Private Walker (James Beck) from Dad’s Army, George Cole from Minder and the early St Trinian’s films, Arthur English and Sid Field. “All tip-top spivs,” he chuckles. Iain’s been called Viv since his schooldays, after a footballer named Vic Busby who played for Fulham.
"I wasn't any good at football, but I had the same barnet (haircut) as him.”
This will be his 14th visit to the Tenterden event, which he rates as one of the best on the WW2 re-enactors’ calendar.
"One of the best things about the 40s weekend at the Kent & East Sussex Railway is seeing everyone, young and old alike, having such a great time. There is so much to see and do and get involved with. The entertainers, the food, the beer, ice cream, re-enactors. The girls can get their hair done 40s style by Laura at Belles Parlour and, of course, there's the wonderful steam trains."
"All the staff are brilliant, they all enjoy the weekend and you can't get better than that. Plus there's never any punch-ups either. It's proper smashing. We have such a laugh, especially when I show them my line in silk knickers made from German parachute silk. I call them Messerschmidt knickers,`cos you can get `em down without a fight!”
He relishes the chance to get involved with the railway’s ‘Evacuation week' for schoolchildren, a magic mix of education and merriment.
And as he prepares to stay one step ahead of the coppers, he admits he doesn't always come off best in his exchanges with customers.
"I said to a chap "`ere Mate, want some nylons for the wife?” and he said to me 'That sounds like a fair swop!'"
The 1940s weekend will take place at the Kent and East Sussex Railway on 19th and 20th May. Details and tickets are available to pre-book at kesr.org.uk. : Magnificent steam trains will be joined by a Spitfire flying display, vintage military vehicles and even an appearance by Winston Churchill. Visitors will be given their own identity cards and can enjoy unlimited travel for the day, with steam trains running every 45 minutes between Tenterden and Bodiam. There is a packed programme of events at both stations and parking is free at Tenterden and Northiam.
A specially designed coach called Petros is fitted with ramped wheelchair access, wide aisles, moveable seating and an accessible toilet. There is full wheelchair access to the gift shop and Station Refreshment Rooms at Tenterden Town Station. The Colonel Stephens Railway Museum has level access with 42" aisles. TheTenterden ticket office is fitted with an induction loop.
To book and for additional information about the railway visit www.kesr.org.uk/40
Tenterden Town Station, Station Road, Tenterden, Kent TN30 6HE
Telephone 01580 765155
Press enquiries to Helen Douglas at Kent & East Sussex Railway on 01580 765155 email [email protected]