Remember you’re a Womble !

Christmas Eve this year saw the sad passing away of a little-known but highly influential person – Elisabeth Beresford, the creator of The Wombles, who died aged 84.

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with The Wombles, they are short, furry animals with pointed snouts. They live on Wimbledon Common and their mission is to “make good use of bad rubbish”. They are dedicated anti-litter activists and the fore-runners of the recycling movement.

Elisabeth Beresford tells how she was walking on Wimbledon Common one Christmas Eve (what a wonderful coincidence) and “my daughter said to me ‘oh ma, isn’t it great on Wombledon Common?’ and I said ‘That’s where the Wombles live.'”

So was born a story and a message that is alive even today. The first Wombles book appeared in 1968 and was followed by a TV series 1973-1975 with the characters voiced by Bernard Cribbins. The fascinating thing is, though, that it was Mike Batt (who wrote the theme tune for the TV show) who suggested the recycling element of the Wombles story.

Elisabeth Beresford’s passing reminds me what a powerful message The Wombles sent out to young (and older) people in the 1970s and how important it is to look after where you live. It also makes me think how we clearly lack such an engaging set of role models for young people today. Shouldn’t we be thinking hard about either updating and reintroducing The Wombles or designing their successors ?

On a related note, I attended the launch of Defra’s and Keep Britain Tidy’s new litter campaign in London a few days ago – the message is “Love where you live” which, I think, sums up perfectly the lines along which we should all be thinking. If you love where you live, you take care of your neighbourhood not only in terms of keeping it free of litter but also in terms of looking after each other. It is good for everyone.

Elisabeth Beresford would, I think, have approved.

A very happy Christmas to you and a clean and contented 2011 !

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