28 March 2012

Cleaning up the South Bank

Leaving the Royal Festival Hall and walking up the stairs to the northern side of the Jubilee Bridge a few weeks ago I was disgusted (of Hollloway) to notice how filthy the 'clear' side panels were. And I noticed that the metal strips that run either side of the whole length of the bridge(s) are also grimy.
It reminded me that when I was in Roturua, NZ, a few years ago I saw a woman cleaner, armed with a trolley full of sprays, cloths and sponges, ambling up the street cleaning the street furniture by hand quickly and efficiently. No noise, no machines, no fuss; just a bit of elbow grease.
Here in London, and perhaps the whole of the UK, we build iconic structures and 'modernise' our public transport, but then let it all get filthy within weeks. For instance, I have often witnessed electric-powered rotary cleaners being used on areas with square corners. Need I say more?!
Specifically, on the underground, the lovely yellow and blue tiles at Kings Cross were replaced with small silver grey tiles that have, within just one year become dull with patchy areas showing exactly where new batches of grout were mixed. These same badly-laid grubby little grey tiles have also been used on linking sections of other platforms, especially within the Jubilee line, whose concrete utilitarian design now just looks like the builders upped and left without finishing anything – and on a Waterloo platform recently I noticed that the leaning bars along the platform were only clean in the places that people lean on them. Ugh.
Don't get me wrong; I am not a cleanliness freak (just see the build up of dust in my house!) but the above seems to contradict all the health and safety nonsense we see and hear – don't touch this/that; wash your hands etc. The government, our councils and LRT are sending out mixed messages. Surely we ought to be keeping things looking the best they can be, and especially so this year with all the extra people expected for the Olympics?
Let's get cleaning... in the case of the Jubilee Bridge(s), I reckon it would take less than a day for a handful of people to get them looking all sparkly again.
So, to the promo bit.... I am glad to report that there is a clean-up incentive happening along the South Bank at the moment. A group of 'clean artists', headed by Moose Curtis, are creating reverse/negative graffiti along various stretches along the Thames. See more here and watch a short vid about it here.
A great idea. Some promo pics of the event are at the bottom of this post but, in Jane's London style, here are some of my own rubbish photos:


  1. Actually London is so much 'cleaner' than it was. I grew up believing the stonework and bricks in buildings were actually black!
    Good on the South Bank project. Please may it continue post Olympics.
    Finally, if people didn't drop litter there might be more money for cleaning.......shame on us as a nation.

  2. Yes to all of that... and you have just reminded me that I went to the Gabriel's Wharf / Oxo Tower area last Thursday and met Moose Curtis, the artist... a good man with a good idea, doing a good job!


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