The Big Beach Clean-Up returned to Brighton yesterday for a second year to champion our lauded seafront. The event was aimed at ridding the beach of rubbish while setting an example to tourists, day-trippers and residents of how we want to keep our city clean. BEN LEO joined hundreds of other volunteers who rolled up their sleeves yesterday morning.
Hundreds of people donned high-visibility jackets and grabbed litter pickers for the successful return of the Big Beach Clean-Up organised by The Argus.
Politicians, traders, charities and residents took to the beach yesterday morning to collect a lorry-load of rubbish left behind on our city's famous shingle seafront.
Around 200 environmentally-conscious volunteers spared an hour-and-a-half of their time to collect anything from bottle tops and beer cans to nappies and discarded plastic.
But the event was more than just a clean-up operation. For the second year running, the Big Beach Clean-Up sent a clear message to tourists and residents alike that leaving rubbish on the beach will not be accepted.
The event was the first official project of the City Makers initiative launched by The Argus - a scheme that mobilises an army of volunteers to undertake projects in our communities.City Makers, which aims to make the city an even better place to live, work and play, is backed by Southern Water, Legal & General and American Express.
Michael Beard, editor of The Argus, praised yesterday's volunteers and called for readers to come forward with ideas for the next City Makers project.
He said: “I'd like to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who turned up to support the beach clean - the first project for our City Makers.
“What really struck me was the willingness and desire to carry out something that makes a real difference. This is just the start. We'll be looking for a number of projects we can carry out to make the city an even better place to live and work in.”
Yesterday's clean kicked off with free sizzling bacon sandwiches and steaming cups of tea and coffee courtesy of Buddies restaurant.
After volunteers wolfed down their breakfast, the litter-picking army congregated at the Palace Pier at 8.30am for a pre-clean briefing before setting off onto the beach equipped with litter pickers, bags and protective gloves.
They included representatives from all of Brighton and Hove's political parties who, after a hectic European Election weekend, put their differences aside for the morning clean.
Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas was one of the volunteers.
She said: “What you want to do first of all is make it clear to all visitors coming down that our community cares about the beach and we want other people to do the same.
“The ready availability of bins and notices and so forth will help. I think the number of people who have come out today really demonstrates how people locally do love the city and want to see it at its best. And I think the more we can challenge one another - in a good way - to keep it as nice as it can be will also help. The turnout today has been fantastic.”
Simon Kirby, Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “This is my second year doing this. What we're doing is sending a message to people that if you come to Brighton and Hove and use the beach, you should take your rubbish with you.
“The second message is that volunteering is a good thing, as demonstrated with the City Makers initiative. It encourages people to get involved and I'll do what I can to help with future projects.“City Makers is a great idea because it's a special place this city - but we need to make the most of it.
“Fines are possible, but apparently no one has been fined in the last 12 months for littering. But actually, in all honesty, I think it's better to encourage people to be more thoughtful instead.”
The clean comes ahead of what weather experts are predicting will be a red-hot summer. If the predictions are true, Brighton and Hove beach will inevitably be packed with thousands of day-trippers and residents.
In July last year it was estimated the city welcomed more than 50,000 visitors over a two-week period. But they left behind a total of 21 tonnes of rubbish including nappies, cigarette packets, empty beer cans and wine bottles, old barbeques, toys, plastic bags and more.
Warren Morgan, leader of Brighton and Hove Labour Party, said: “Our beach is where people from Brighton, London and most of the South East come for a Bank Holiday so we must make sure it's clean and free of anything dangerous.
“I was here last year and I've returned because it's important to set an example.
“Another point is that this is the first project of The Argus City Makers project. If we can do this, we can tackle other projects around the city where I and other Labour colleagues will be happy to get involved again.”
The problem of litter isn't just an issue of concern across the political spectrum. City traders from corporate businesses to independent firms rallied to reinforce the Big Beach Clean-Up message.
Andy Cheesman, managing director of City Cabs and Buddies Restaurant, said: “Rubbish affects us as a business because the seafront is our shop window to the city.
“For us a clean beach is going to bring people down and stimulate the economy. I'd like to see fines but more importantly I think more bins are needed. On a busy, hot, sunny day the bins are full. Cityclean work very hard though - they're out at five in the morning each day.
“I'm glad to hear everyone enjoyed the bacon sandwiches too. We were pleased to help.”
Mr Cheesman joined other volunteers from South Downs Solar, Powerdiverter, Fugu PR, Swim Trek, Brighton Watersports, Albion in the Community, Ohso Social, Legal & General, Southern Water, American Express, Sea Life Centre, Man Bites Dog, Midnight Communications, Sea Haze fishmongers, The Grand hotel, Baggies Backpackers, Regis Events Limited and more.
Among the sea of bodies was six-year-old Euan Lawes and dad Daniel, managing director of solar electric firm Powerdiverter.
Mr Lawes said: “Euan was really excited to come out here today. He has a show-and-tell kind of thing at school so this will be a great way to let his whole class know about the problem of litter on the beach, and litter left elsewhere for that matter. He's been scampering about and is happy to get involved which is good to see.
“I come down here a lot with my friends at weekends so it's nice to know we've done our bit to keep it clean.”
Michael Edwards, chairman of Martlets Hospice and chief executive of charity Albion in the Community, reminded Brighton and Hove beach users how lucky they were to have the beach.
He said: “For someone like me who was bright up near Birmingham, where we went to the seaside once a year, it's fantastic. For me it's really important that we keep it in the best possible condition."