Sunday, 15 May 2011

They call me the Womble...

...and I can think of worse nicknames! If I had to be a Womble, I'd choose Bungo.

I probably ought to explain who the Wombles are for the benefit of any non-Brits reading this. I'm not sure if the rest of the world has them! The Wombles were a fictional band of... wombles, I guess, who have featured in TV series, books and novelty songs on and off since the 1970s. They live on Wimbledon Common in London, litter-picking. They were eco-pioneers and early advocates of the upcycling movement:

"Making good use of the things that we find
Things that the everyday folks leave behind"
If you are British (or the rest of the world has Wombles after all) you are no doubt cursing me now, knowing that the theme tune will now go round and round your head for at least the rest of the week. It came as a huge shock to me when I discovered that there were only about sixty episodes ever made; I swear it must have been on TV at least once a day throughout my youth. Wombles are a part of our culture, our shared history and our common currency.

Which is why I don't understand why upcycling is still seen as so eccentric, why otherwise logical people become suddenly squeamish when you suggest that rubbish can ever become anything beautiful, or useful. Recycling is fine, because all you really have to do is dump your rubbish in a different bin and it - and the problem - magically disappears. It seems that generations of us have 'owned' the Wombles without ever really considering their whole point. Just as we happily remind one another that "one man's trash is another man's treasure" as we list items on Ebay or pack them off to the charity shop, feeling slightly smug that we can afford to consider it the former.

Mind you, it seems that the Wombles are pretty cool at the moment.  Like all Ivor Wood TV programmes - all good kids' programmes full stop - it feels slightly hallucinogenic and is easy to enjoy in an kitschy, ironic way. (As if to reinforce the trippiness, the Wombles' favourite food is mushrooms. Yikes.)  In fact, they're even playing Glastonbury this year! Maybe their message is beginning to get through after all...

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