Stratford's own 'Wombles' and The Tempest

Whisper #177

Claudine Pearson is a tidy, organised when it counts, mum of three and a member of the Rubbish Friends group, which has helped us source some of the props for The Tempest. Rubbish Friends has been getting together to keep Stratford-upon-Avon clear of rubbish for residents and wildlife since 2017. Claudine has been with the group since it started - paperwork isn’t her favourite thing, but someone had to do it.

Rubbish Friends meets regularly for picks in residential areas of Stratford, provides equipment and advice to other groups and businesses to run their own litter picks and supports anyone who wants to reduce waste and improve the environment.

We are quietly pleased that the RSC has chosen us to source local and unscripted rubbish for The Tempest. I think creativity is at its best when constraints are introduced and can’t wait to see how the RSC’s team have incorporated our finds into authentic "flotsam and jetsam" into The Tempest.

We brought abandoned trolleys, pieces of cars, and a lot of food packaging, crisp packets, bottles and cans. These are the things that make up much of the litter found in residential areas. The bigger items are often plastic bags, broken toys, scooters, prams, sunglasses and fly-tipped items.

People standing on a grass area by houses in hi vis jackets sorting rubbish
Rubbish Friends at work in Stratford
Photo by Charlie Budd the Tall Photographer © The artist Browse and license our images

Litter picking is a low cost, low key, curiously addictive and surprisingly sociable activity for all ages and abilities. It sparks conversations about our local area, about recycling and about the environment.

The Great British Beach Clean looks at type of litter found, then standardises it to how many items are found per 100 metres of beach. In 2018, in England, there were 215 small pieces of plastic or polystyrene and 46 cigarette stubs for every 100m of beach.

Litter also costs local authorities £699 million or £30 per household every year ( 2018-19 figures) so we are making a positive difference both to the community, the environment and the taxpayer.


Bottle tops, a shoes and other bits of rubbish on a tarmac path
Some of the items collected by Rubbish Friends
Photo by Charlie Budd the Tall Photographer © The artist Browse and license our images

We are quite modest and practical volunteers – much like the Wombles – but it’s nice to be noticed. It’s an opportunity to connect with other environmental groups over a shared interest in recycling. It’s also a chance to promote partners such as Biffa and Stratford-on-Avon District Council. What would we all do without organisations like Biffa, who quietly take away so much of our household and street rubbish?

We love that the RSC is using its platforms to highlight the mountain of waste that surrounds us, and challenging audiences to think about the by-products of mass consumption and our disposable culture. We literally cannot afford to keep throwing stuff away, thinking that someone else will pick it up and sort it out.  We would love for that challenge to continue – through a legacy of “rubbish sculptures”, reminding residents of the town to “Keep Stratford Tidy”. It doesn’t have to cost the earth to do so.

Propero and Miranda on a tiny island amid a storm

Making a green tempest

Our 2023 production of Shakespeare's The Tempest is inspired by the climate emergency, asking us to examine the delicate balance in our personal relationships as well as with the fragile ecosystems that surround us. 

These blogs explain how everyone behind the show, from scenery builders and prop makers to the actors on stage is working together to create a sustainable Tempest that responds to and reflects the climate emergency.

Go to The Tempest

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