Meet Viv Your Local Spiv

Richard Holdsworth bumps into a real live WWll Spiv and it brings back memories he’ll never forget!

How many readers of town magazine remember WWll? More to the point, how many of you remember the flashy Spiv with his pockets stuffed with nylons and ciggies and a truck-load of prime pork sausages for housewives suffering under the rule of the Ration Book?

For those who did not live through those troubled times as I did – or who have short memories – you will surely know the exploits of the Spiv through Private Joe Walker in Dad’s Army.

But now we have our very own WWll Spiv in the form of Viv the Spiv, based here in the South-East and very active at WWll events up and down the country where he is to be seen charming the ladies, cheering the kids and flogging dud watches, “Fell off the back of a truck, didn’t they?” Or having his collar felt by the local Constable. “I ‘aven’t nicked ‘em… just ‘aven’t paid yet!”

Viv is not the real name of the lad from Morden, South London, of course. He was born Iain Dawson, Christmas, 1960, and the name Viv came from Viv Busby the star centre-forward playing for Fulham in the mid-1970’ s who was something of a hero for the lads and a heart-throb for the girls. Viv says he didn’t quite have the goal scoring talents of the wizard of Craven Cottage but he combed his hair in a similar fashion and the name stuck with his mates at school. “You look just like that footie star, Viv.” And when the chance of a bit of Spivving came along, it was natural to take up the name. “It just stuck, Rich… Viv the Spiv and I’ve been ‘I’m ever since.”

“And this spivving thing,” I ask. “How did you get into it, Viv?”

“Well, you see Rich, I hadn’t been much of a scholar at school… But I was good at knocking up sick notes for the other school kids – and more than that I was ace at the old three card trick round the back of the bike shed. So I got a bit of a reputation of being what they called a Wide Boy and years later when a bloke said he were looking for a war-time Spiv for the Bluebell Railway 1940’s event, I ‘ad to give it a go, didn’t I?”

Author Richard Holdsworth with his evacuee book and Viv the Spiv with watches!

Another charity event for Viv raising money for Help For Heroes.

                         GIVING IT A GO!

That was in the year 2001 and “Giving it a go” was so successful that four other event organisers asked him if he could do their WWll weekends. Viv looks back, “It was the opening I wanted, wasn’t it, Rich? I went up to Town and got me the best vintage suit, flash tie, a pair of those shiny black and white patent leather shoes while the Trilby added the final touch.”

Viv says he looked in the mirror and couldn’t believe what he saw. “I ’ad George Cole from St Trinians in mind but most of all it was Private Joe Walker in Dad’s Army. And that was the guy staring back at me. I was away.”

Viv reckoned the usual nine to five could be given a miss and as for joining the queue at the Labour Exchange that was definitely the last thing he had in mind. Instead, Viv popped into his local W H Smiths and acquired a tiny appointment diary followed by a bigger one and bigger still!

Now that diary is not just filled with events where he parades his talents and a joke for every occasion. Viv has another string to his bow – stand-up comic and compare. He was the compare for the very first Wayne Hemingway Vintage Festival in the Torch Club, Boughton House, Northamptonshire, and has been ever since. And he is also Master of Ceremonies in the veterans’ marquee at the world famous War & Peace show just up the road at the Hop Farm in Kent. He’s done the Goodwood Revival weekends, hosted the Victory Ball at Worthing and more recently played host for the 1950’s Bandstand celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in Battersea Park. And if you want a hen’s party that goes with a bang and will be talked about for years to come, just get Viv to make an unexpected entrance with his briefcase stuffed with goodies no decent girl would be seen dead without including nylons of all colours and sizes. “Fitting service at no extra charge ladies..!

                        GERMANS PERPLEXED

This is no ordinary Spiv. Viv’s been on radio and on the telly plus the big screen numerous times but the most unlikely appearance involved a German television documentary where Viv got introduced to an amazed.

Viv with the briefcase full of “hard to obtain” nylons, ciggies and Ration Books.

Viv has an eye for the girls – Helles Belles 1940’s dancing duo.

German audience as Wif the Spiff. “Who is ziss man?” they asked, as Viv drove around south London in a JEEP, did a bit of Black Market dealing and slipped a copper a Fiver to look the other way as a whole leg of lamb slipped into this housewife’s shopping bag.

“The Germans couldn’t get a rope around this spivvery lark, Rich. Seems they didn’t ‘ave a Spiv to help feed ‘em when they were starving over there towards the end of the war.”

Viv with Rocket Rod at a South Coast WW11 event last summer.

What’s that Mister? It’s silk knickers made from a parachute that’s what.

Back in Blighty Viv appeared with the John Miller Orchestra, Ray McVey Orchestra and the Debbie Curtis Radio Big Band and while he hasn’t quite topped the bill at the London Palladium (yet), he walked exactly the same boards where his heroes of the past had done – Arthur English, Sid Field and Max Miller. “Just for a moment I was lost for words, not like me one bit, all those expectant faces staring up at me, the bright lights. I gulped… then found my voice, ‘If you want to throw tomatoes just make sure they aren’t in tins. It brought the house down and I was away.” Viv thinks again. “Oh yeah, don’t forget I did a great 15 minute spot when they brought back the Big Band Show at Her Majesty’s in the Haymarket.” I won’t Viv. I won’t.

Then it’s off to the Riviera Swing Band weekend at Torquay followed by Guernsey for the annual Liberation weekend where Viv is treated like Royalty, five star accommodation and stardom lavished on him. “I feel sorry for our Queen having to shake all those ‘ands and smile at every Tom, Dick and ‘arry. Must wear ‘er out.”

Viv has to cut short our chat. “Sorry Rich. Gotta fly Another overseas assignment – the Isle ofWight 1940’s weekend. I’ll bell you when I’m back in Blighty.”

And he will. Viv reckons the re-enactors are all one big happy family and one of the reasons is Viv himself. Spivs like him helped us through the last war and here’s our own Spiv doing it 70 years later. One feels if the Chancellor made clothes and food rationing part of his austerity measures, Viv the Spiv would just laugh and make the most of a bad job.

And we’d laugh with him!

You can read more about what it was like to live through WWll as an evacuee in Richard’s book – Six Spoons of Sugar – and you can meet him and Viv at many WWll events in the South- East this year. For details contact:

Everything about Viv is genuine down to the shoes, socks and garters.


e-mail: vivthespiv@


e-mail: holdsworthwrites@

Rye’s Own January 2013

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