Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sorting rubbish. Things take a new turn with a comedy litter pick

Volunteers gather at the start of the litter pick and councillors Pat & Frank Warby, regular litter pickers themselves, stop by to show their support. Other people joined in throughout the day.  Unfortunately, Claire the event's organiser was unable to make it due to illness.

Ever since the launch of the 1000 Bins Challenge, Shedwyn the campaign's mascot has been a busy bee, not least travelling around the country to find out all she can about recycling on the go.

However, yesterday, she took a break from proceedings and got involved with Bury St Edmunds' first ever Comedy Litter Pick in a manner that was more like recycling on the go-go.

Organised by Claire Lowe of the Bury Fringe Festival team, the litter pick was created under the theme of Soaper Heroes, encouraging people from across all generations to take an interest in keeping the community clean and tidy.  Today was the first event of its kind, with many more planned, the aim of which is to inject a huge dose of fun and comedy into an activity that many find uninteresting, by providing on-tap entertainment and encouraging folk to wear their fancy dress garb and join in..

So equipped with litter picking grabbers and Big Tidy Up bags for sorting rubbish and recycling, Shedwyn and I took it in turns to pick our way through the Abbey Gardens, having a go at the odd hula-hooping and chatting to onlookers while we went about our litter-picking business.  And what an interesting day it was too.  Just check out those hula-hooping skills for starters.

Shedwyn, getting a mini-lesson from Circus Freaks very own Lucia

I was privileged to have the company of Chris Holmes for the day, the local community manager at Bury St Edmunds' Asda store.

It was interesting to hear how Asda stores are working closely with local communities, and having recently been approached by Claire from the Bury Fringe, Chris is particularly keen on exploring ways in which his store can help the local community to reduce litter and recycle more.

The litter pick gave us a great chance to talk through ideas and opportunities and chat to a whole range of visitors, including the older generations and teenagers.   The teenagers were a very interesting group indeed, not least because they have gained a reputation for littering the areas where they regularly hang out, in particular around the Abbey ruins.

Teenagers clearing up their litter following a visit from the park ranger.

Some admitted that they have left litter and the key reason that they gave was that there aren't enough bins and that the bins in the local vicinity were often full.  While some offered self-acknowledgement that they were too lazy to go further afield and hunt out an empty bin, they also understood why adults took a tough stance and why it was their responsibility.  Some people also quoted that they were often told off for leaving litter when it wasn't actually their fault and felt aggrieved at having to clear up other people's mess, wondering why they should then bother themselves. 

This was a particular theme and it was very clear in our discussions that in their experience, many adults and those in authority appear to class all teenagers as the same and assume that they are going to be irresponsible, before even giving them a chance.  They quoted a number of incidents where they were targeted and told off where young families and similar-sized groups of adults would be left alone.

The feelings that were coming over seemed to be a mixture of defeat, ambivalence and a dose of rebellion, all of which I still remember from my own teenage years. There seemed to be no sense of hope amongst the majority of teenagers we spoke with, nor the immediate desire to change attitudes about litter.  However when I posed the question about whether they would welcome the opportunity to banish misconceptions and get involved with the comedy litter picks in some way, whether it be through providing entertainment, taking photographs or recording You Tube videos, there seemed to be a slight glimmer of interest. 

One thing's for sure.  I have learned a lot from today and if there are ways to engage young people in the Comedy Litter Picks in a way that benefits them and opens new opportunities for those involved, I will give it a real chance.  As well as wider concerns I admit to some self-interest.  In just three years time, my eldest son will be come a teenager and all too soon, he will be one of the many kids who'll be chilling out with his friends in the local park.  Having witnessed first-hand how the disparate groups of our community engage in conflict of responsibilities as well as misconceptions, (my opinions included), I think I need to be better prepared.   

The Soaper Heroes day was most certainly a taster event and a case of dipping our toes in the water, raising awareness of what's to come in the near future. The plan is to roll-out regular events throughout the year featuring comedy performances dotted around town and all sorts of entertainment to engage the public and participants.

Thanks to volunteers from the community, Chris Holmes from Asda, entertainers Circus Freaks and some positive role models from the younger generation, we did well on the litter count.  There were only a few of us, but we collected 5 bags of recycling as well as 6 bags of rubbish, with much credit going to Mr & Mrs Mills who targeted the Station Hill area.  Pictured below are some of the participants who joined in the fun in the Abbey Gardens. 

Entertainers & Volunteers, including Chris Holmes from Asda and members of the Circus Freaks performers.

More information about Soaper Heroes can be found at  If you would like further details or find out how to get involved in future events, please contact organiser Claire Lowe on 07545 286574.  In the meantime, check out Lucia's amazing circus skills where she shows off how she can pick up litter and hula hoop at the same time.   It will be a long time before I can do that for sure.


Rev. Peter Doodes said...

You wrote that "many adults and those in authority appear to class all teenagers as the same and assume that they are going to be irresponsible, before even giving them a chance".

Times never change do they Karen,I had the same problem as a teenager and perhaps you did as well?

The best way to teach is by example and your work in this area is surely doing just that; thank you!

PS. Hula hooping AND litter picking at the same time? Wow

Almost Mrs Average said...

Indeed Peter. It's so true. Glad you liked the video. It was fun.

Karin said...

Little did you know how much litter and debris would need clearing up in some other parts of the country when you wrote this. It seems a bigger scale version of this is now necessary, although the twitter campaigns seem to be helping.

compactors said...

They are cool people. I admire their personality.

Almost Mrs Average said...

I know Karin. That's something which has been on my mind ever since. The riot clean ups have been doing a marvellous job. Isn't it amazing what great things can be achieved amongst adversity. :)

Thank you compactors. Indeed they are ;)

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