In 1970s Wimbledon, a gang of furry, pointy-nosed creatures used to spend their days meandering around SW19 collecting and repurposing human litter and rubbish. They lived inside a cosy burrow and made recycling their life’s mission. They were the original sustainability warriors, long before ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ came along. They were the Wombles.
Fast forward nearly 50 years later, a Wombles statue has just been unveiled in Wimbledon to celebrate the history of the area and promote a greener lifestyle to its residents and visitors.
The cult animated TV series ‘The Wombles’ was an adaptation of author Elizabeth Beresford’s children’s books, originally published in 1968. It first aired on BBC1 in 1973, following the lives of the Wombles on Wimbledon Common as they cleaned up after untidy, wasteful humans and recycled their waste in creative ways. Like all great TV series, it came with an iconic theme song, where the Wombles sang the lyrics: ‘Making the most of everything/Even bottles and tins/Pick up the pieces and make them into something new/Is what we do’. They were far ahead of their time, clearly.
The new artwork, titled the ‘Orinoco Womble Bench’, depicts the Womble with his iconic ‘tidy bag’ and his signature hat and scarf combo at one end of the bench, while a rubbish bin full of fast-food waste sits at the other. For the unveiling, Orinoco was joined by fellow furry activists Wellington, Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory and Tomsk (all the Wombles are named after places in a nod to proto-globalism).
Crafted by award-winning artist Lorraine Botterill, the £40,000 wood sculpture was unveiled by Galliard Homes to honour the Wombles’ forward-thinking sustainability legacy, outside their sales office at their new development Wimbledon Grounds, adjacent to the AFC Wimbledon home stadium.
The bench has been constructed out of fallen and replanted oak, harking back to the Wombles’ own recycling mission. The sculpture uses the Wimbledon Football Club colours, royal blue and yellow, to remind its residents of the cultural importance of the area. Organisers hope that the artwork encourages Wimbledon residents and visitors to consume sustainably and recycle waste where possible.
So, why not take a trip to Wimbledon and see the Orinoco bench for yourself? You could even break into song.
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