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We asked ice cream men the song they'd most like to play from their vans

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Spare a thought for the ice-cream man, cocooned in his portable confectionery palace. Be it Teddy Bears’ Picnic, The Entertainer or Yankee Doodle, he is forever doomed to listen to the same godforsaken jingle. What if, for just one day, for just one glorious day, he could play his own tune? What enchanting melody would he choose?

Cemal Osmanlilar: Abra Cadabra ft. Krept & Konan, ‘Robbery

Cemal Osmanlilar

“We go to all the festivals – that’s where this track would work. When we go to festivals, we’ve got eight vans and we drive in convoy. It looks gangster anyway, so we’d need a gangster track to go with it. It’s a social job – you get to meet a lot of people. That’s the best part of it. I don’t like families: that’s the worst thing about this job. I was nearly punched at Glastonbury. Everyone’s high. I’m actually not an ice cream man [by trade]; I’m an interior designer. I was jobless for a while and my cousin asked me to help for the summer season.”

John Donnar: Pavarotti, ‘Nessun Dorma

John Donnar

“It’s catchy. I sing along to it when it’s on. All my vans have the same one – that’s ‘Yankee Doodle’. You get sick of whatever you’re listening to. Years ago, if you liked a certain ice cream you’d know what van was coming round by the music. I like everything, from opera to rap. I’ve got 20 vans. I’ve seen everybody in concert and people say to me, ‘What was that one like?’ I’ve never looked up at them – I’m here to work, not to look at the sites or to look at concerts. That’s what we do, we go to work.”

Richard Makin: Mariah Carey, ‘Fantasy

Richard Makin

“It’s how I feel about ice cream. That song in particular reminds me of being a teenager in summer. It’s care-free; it’s very nostalgic for me. Hopefully it would bring about that same kind of vibe in the customers. Mariah Carey on a swing, over a lake? Yes! That’s exactly what I want when I’m eating ice cream. This is my third year. I trained with the Ice Cream Alliance. It’s been much more stressful than I imagined it but also way more rewarding than I imagined it. I’m told a particularly chipper ice cream man. I honestly can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.”

Attila Toth: Quasar, ‘October

Attila Toth

“I prefer house, techno, deep house, stuff like that. This the song I used to set on my phone as an alarm. It’s really lovely – starts slowly but then you can dance to it. I think music is a really big part of our life; our social life. This is my third season. This was my first job here in England. As you can see, there are lots of people around me and it’s interesting to see what they’re doing. I’m surrounded by people.”

George Paskaran: Ilayaraja, ‘Un Kuthama En Kuthama

George Paskaran

“I don’t understand English songs. I like the job but it’s not easy. Saturdays and Sundays we can make a lot because a lot of people come outside but during the week, very little. I can speak Italian as well. I was in Italy for ten years. The only thing is there’s no job in winter.”

Roland Toth: Richie Hawtin, ‘Close

Roland Toth

“I would scare the people with this music, I think. Children don’t like this kind of music. I like techno music – every day; in the morning, when I’m coming to work; in the evening, when I’m going home; at home as well. I like to dance to it. I don’t like to sing. I’m just relaxed when I listen to music like that. I’m from Hungary. I don’t really like Hungarian music. I work on my own; no bosses around me; I enjoy the summer. I think it’s my last year; I don’t know what I’m going to do but this is my last year. I don’t like to work, to be honest.”

Photographs by Jamie Drew and Ralph Jones.

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