We’ve had a great response to our Seven Small Ways To Make Liverpool Better feature – but one of the most intriguing is the beginnings of a campaign to rid Liverpool of the unsightly horror of our chewed-up, spat-out and gummed-over pavements.
Look down, and, on the recently spruced-up public realm of Church Street, Williamson Square and Lime Street concourse you’ll see glowing constellations of gum. Spat out signs of our unwillingness to care for the place we call home. Our ignorant inability to wrap it, and pop it in a bin.
It’s one of those modern miseries that’s become so commonplace it bypasses our conscious mind and we just don’t seem to notice it. Until, either we get the offending articles on our new Adidas, or we’re shocked back to reality. As reader Nick Riley was:
“I was walking up Bold Street one day, and for some reason, I suddenly noticed what I was walking on. I counted 61 gobbed-out blobs of gum on one stone slab measuring 50x70cm,” he says.
That’s when the rubber hit the road. Frustrated by Liverpool City Council’s apparent dithering over their promise to ‘make Liverpool gleam again’, Nick sent out a Tweet into the wilderness. Kirsty Allsopp picked up on it, and the gum went viral (ew). So far, it’s been retweeted over a thousand times.
“As a Landscape Architect I’d love to help make Liverpool cleaner and more presentable, but I understand the financial constraints, so I thought about doing things bottom up instead – get the place tidy and cared for and folk will want to use it more and love it more?”
Because let’s not forget it – gum is litter that just sticks around longer. Yes, it can be turned into miniature pavement art. But mostly, it sticks and it sucks. And Liverpool’s always had a massive litter problem. We were mentioned, grimly, in Bill Bryson’s Notes on a Small Island, as a city that seemed to be celebrating ‘a festival of litter’. That was written twenty years ago. Have things, really, changed?
“Every city faces the same gum problems,” says Nick. “Big street washers do remove it but also remove the paving grout which gives a huge problem, paving destabilises and causes trip hazards, so we need to think smarter. People need to know how this impacts on us all, our perceptions of place, the costs to Councils…”
What’s the next move, for Nick, is to fundraise for the cost of a next-generation gum-eradicating machine. These 21st-cenutury gum-blasters use a sugar beet-based solution which, when heated, turns gum into a powder that can easily be dusted away with a bruch. Simple. Ingenious. Safe.
“I want to buy a machine and start cleaning but set the company up as a Social Enterprise, staffed by formerly unemployed people or NEET’s and champion the cause,” he says, getting into his stride. “It starts with education. And I want to take on Wrigley or work with them or tax them to fund this, and education projects.”
So far, Liverpool BID and Merseyrail have expressed interest.
It’s worth chewing on, yeah?
Follow @rileynick for updates.