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Home > Culture and Society

Where the Streets Have No Shame

14 March 2006

If you were to conduct a survey in your average urban neighbourhood and quiz residents about what really irks them most about living in their area, the chances are 'the streets are paved with the excrement of poorly tended dogs' will likely appear in the top five. Probably somewhat behind marauding gangs of youths, lack of proper parking facilities and, depending on the area, drugs, child prostitution and murder. But it'd be up there nonetheless. Because everybody hates dogshit. And dogshit is everywhere.

Apparently there are over 7 million dogs in the United Kingdom, and together they produce something approaching a thousand tonnes of excrement every day. Apparently. We have no idea how much that is in real terms, but we're fairly sure that if it was all in the same place, you'd need some expensive equipment to scale it. But sadly, it isn't all in the same place. Sadly, it's all over the place, scattered across the country's pavements and parks, lying in wait for unsuspecting feet and picnic blankets, crying out to be trailed into front rooms or, in worst-case scenarios, into your bouncing baby's body where dirty roundworm rob them of their eyesight. Is it any wonder then, that people get angry?

In South East London, one group of piqued residents has been waging a campaign of direct action against those that refuse to scoop their pooches' poop for at least six months. It began with crudely grafittied signs pinned to trees along an ordinary, shit- sprinkled street. Signs like this.

They then took to daubing the same trees that already bore their rather amateurish signage.

More recently, they have upped the ante with regard to protest professionalism, but lost whatever respect anybody else might have had for their cause in the process, by disfiguring every street corner in their area with the following graffito.

However, the stark staring mentalists of SE22 are not the only concerned citizens attempting to shame the inconsiderate into keeping our streets clean. There is also Terry Wells. Friend to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, full-time new media designer and dedicated husband and father of two, Terry embarked upon his campaign just three weeks ago, more recently setting up this modest site from his home in North Lincolnshire.

Since then he's been getting a lot of press attention, including a 'Campaign of the week' piece in the Guardian. This week TFT caught up with Terry Wells and asked him about his newfound role as spokesman for those who pooh-pooh the poo. 'To be honest I am totally unprepared for the support and media attention I've had,' he says. 'I had no idea this would spark national interest from placing *six* small stickers around the village 3 weeks ago. It's obviously an issue which disgusts everyone.' But, he is quick to point out, 'It's not just dog crap the campaign is about.' Terry is also keen to target litter louts, fly-tippers and those that pollute the environment with cigarette butts, and, slightly controversially, horse manure.

For a decade Terry produced the official web site and fan club applications for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in his spare time. Now he spends his spare time - considerably less of it because of his growing family - fielding emails from supporters from around the world. Most comments on the site are glowingly supportive, many informing Terry that he has inspired them to set up their own cack-busting campaign. There's also this from Jacky Dimech: 'In my opinion dogs should be banned from playing fields and beaches. I know of one person who lost a leg, after getting injured on a rugby field covered in dog mess.' Oh, well. Every cause has its extremists.

'All I want to do,' says Terry, 'is discreetly make the irresponsible aware... Modest marketing with a simple message.' And despite the amount of time at his disposal, he hopes to take the site further. Last week he had a pixel ad scheme in place, but took it down 'as it gave the impression that I was simply after a fast buck'. This week 'a new site is in the works' - the first having been rushed off in 'two hours, from domain name registration to being online' - plus he is in talks with a financial advisory company about the funding of merchandise.

Sadly, no amount of fine intentions or media exposure is going to free our city's streets of the tyranny of canine excrement, let alone the ceaseless clutter of fast food packaging and coke cans because people - well, because they're people, and a lot of them are too small-minded or self-absorbed to ever give a fuck about something they consider utterly trivial. Happily, baby steps like this do make a difference. And the more politicised decent ordinary people become, the less likely they are to take less decent ordinary people's self-centredness lying down. So let the shit-shirkers beware. Or this could be you.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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