Call for volunteers as Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 kicks off

  • East London’s rivers and canals set for Spring clean ahead of 2012 Games
  • Teams of canoeists will tackle hard to reach rubbish

Olympic Gold medallist and 2012 hopeful Mark Hunter will today launch a call for volunteers to roll up their sleeves and help clean and green East London’s rivers and canals ahead of the London 2012 Games (Wednesday, February 8th).

The new campaign aims to involve at least 4000 Londoners in more than 80 events, transforming over 50 waterway locations along 30km of rivers and canals by July 2012 when the eyes of the world turn to the capital. Events will include walking waterway litter-picks, wildflower meadow planting and non-native invasive weed removal.

The campaign has wide support from political, sporting and charitable individuals and is part of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s plans to support widespread clean up events to ensure visitors during the London 2012 Games are welcomed to a grime and litter-free city.

British rower, Mark Hunter, who won Olympic Gold in Beijing and who is going for Gold again in London, has signed up as an ambassador for the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 campaign, which will be kicked off by Waterway Minister Richard Benyon and the Mayor of London’s Environment Director Kulveer Ranger today as they litter-pick along the banks of the River Lee Navigation. They were joined by eager local volunteers and children from Gainsborough School, as well as a team of canoeists who skimmed the river of hard-to-reach rubbish.

Mark encouraged people of all ages to get involved and help put the best of the capital on show this summer, saying: “The rivers of London are what first inspired me to take up rowing and are now obviously a huge part of my life. I feel quite privileged to have such access to rivers, and I think we have a great responsibility to look after them. I urge all Londoners to get involved in the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 and help improve these amazing spaces and create an example for the world this summer”.

Minister for environment and fisheries Richard Benyon said: “Rivers are a much loved part of where we live and the Big Waterways Clean Up is an excellent example of how communities can turn their local environment into an area they can be proud of.
I am delighted that I have been able to give a helping hand to clean up what will be a focal point for visitors when they come to London to visit the Olympic Games.”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Cleaning up London especially in this historic year, is a key priority for me but also for the hundreds of volunteers who put in their time and effort to keep the city in tip top condition. Our waterways and canals are some of our most precious assets, so supported by my Team London volunteer programme, I am backing this call to swell the numbers of people donating their time to keep them free of grime and alien vegetation.”

Seb Coe, Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games said: “The Inspire programme is ensuring the legacy of the 2012 Games starts now as projects like the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 are enabling people in east London to make positive life changes.”

The Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 has been developed hand in hand with local communities and aims to allow as many people as possible to take part in and share in the green legacy of the London 2012 Games.

It aims to inspire and support the next generation to care for their water spaces, with planned hands-on ‘waterway discovery days’ and an education pack developed especially for school children.

Thames21’s training programme, which will run alongside the programme, will ensure the sustainability of the campaign, by equipping volunteers who want to lead their own events with the skills, confidence and support to do so.

There has already been a huge upgrade to canals near to the Olympic site which has created a fantastic legacy for the capital and now we want to build on this to clean-up more of East London’s waterways.

The Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 is a partnership campaign, led by environmental charity Thames21, between London Waterways Commission, Environment Agency, British Waterways, London 2012 Changing Places programme, Mayor of London, Team London, British Waterways, Olympic Park Legacy Company, Port of London Authority, London Councils, City of London Corporation, and the Inland Waterways Association.

For more information on the campaign and to sign up click here: or contact Ben Fenton: 07920 230 970

Other quotes:

Murad Qureshi AM Chair of London Waterways Commission:
“This campaign was inspired by the Olympics but its ultimate aim extends far beyond.  London’s waterways are a vital, yet sometimes forgotten part of the city landscape.  If we all do our bit to keep our rivers and canals clean, then they will reap huge benefits, not only for ourselves but also local wildlife.  I wish the campaign every success and would encourage anyone to get involved in the clean-up and rediscover their local waterways as some of the most valuable and rewarding spaces in London”

Lord Chris Smith Chair of Environment Agency: “We’ve all been rightly proud of the improvements we’ve seen in the River Thames during the last ten years or so. But let’s not forget all the other rivers that thread their way through London – just as important – and needing our active stewardship if we’re to make them fit for our Olympic city today and for future generations tomorrow. Campaigns like the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 will help us to achieve this all important legacy for London.”

Chief Executive Olympic Park Legacy Company Andrew Altman: “The Big Waterways Clean Up is a great way for local people to build community spirit and improve their surroundings. The waterways will be an important part of life on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park after the 2012 Games so projects like these are an another example of how legacy plans are more advanced than any previous host Olympic city.”

Thames21 Chief Executive Debbie Leach:
“It is very excitin­­­­g to see so many people joining up with neighbours and friends to transform their local rivers or canals and turn them into somewhere people of all generations can use and enjoy.  Our rivers and canals frame our city – let’s get them ready to show to the world in July 2012”

Richard Rutter, head of enterprise at British Waterways:
“The waterways are not only an integral feature of the Olympics, they form the heart of the communities they run through.  The Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 offers the chance for local people to get involved and be part of a creating a green legacy that will keep the newly regenerated waterways somewhere to enjoy long after the Games have finished.”

Notes to editors:
Big W­­­­aterways Clean Up 2012 partnership
The Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 is being led by environmental charity Thames21 with the support of London Waterways Commission, Environment Agency, British Waterways, London 2012 Changing Places programme, Mayor of London, Team London, British Waterways, Olympic Park Legacy Company, Port of London Authority, London Councils, City of London Corporation, and the Inland Waterways Association.

Mark Hunter
Mark is a British Olympic squad rower and the reigning Olympic Champion in the lightweight men’s double scull. He was awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours list in recognition of his achievement.

Inspire programme
BWCU2012 is one of the outstanding projects granted the London 2012 Inspire mark, the badge of the London 2012 Inspire programme, which recognises exceptional and innovative projects inspired by the London 2012 Games.

London Waterways Commission

The London Waterways Commission (LWC) has been established by the Mayor of London to advise the Mayor strategically on waterways issues and to support the implementation of the Blue Ribbon Network policies within the London Plan.

Thames21 is the voice for London’s waterways, working with communities to improve rivers and canals for people and wildlife. It mobilises over 9000 volunteers every year to clean and green the capital’s 400 mile network of waterways.

British Waterways
In 2012 the canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks cared for by British Waterways in England and Wales will transfer to the ownership of the Canal & River Trust.  This represents the next exciting chapter in the history of the waterways.  When launched, the Trust will be among the largest charities in the UK.  It will give people a greater role in the running of their local waterways, secure investment in the historic network and open up new sources of income.

London 2012 Changing Places programme
The London 2012 Changing Places programme has been created to secure environmental improvements for the communities that surround the Olympic Park and other Games venues.  The programme is coordinated by the London Organising Committee but works closely with over forty organisations to deliver a range of inspirational projects.  For further information about the programme and our partners please visit the London 2012 website:

Team London
Team London is the Mayor’s ambitious programme to mobilise an army of volunteers across the capital to improve life in London through programmes that will reduce crime, increase opportunities for youth and improve quality of life by cleaning and greening London and building stronger neighbourhoods. Since 2008, the Mayor’s programmes have galvanised tens of thousands of Londoners into action and Team London is now seeking to encourage an additional 10,000 volunteers by May 2012.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company
The Olympic Park Legacy Company supports the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 campaign. The Legacy Company was established in May 2009 by its founders – the Government and Mayor of London – as a public sector not-for-profit company, responsible for the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Olympic Park.
You can find further information about the company on this website

Environment Agency
The Environment Agency is an executive non departmental public body responsible to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Its principal aims are to protect and improve the environment, and to promote sustainable development. The Environment Agency’s involvement with projects such as the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 is an example of its partnership work with other organisations to get a job done in priority locations such as East London, where the project is building on the environmental legacy work already achieved in preparation for the Olympic Games 2012.

Inland Waterways Association
The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is a registered charity, founded in 1946, which advocates the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways for public benefit.

City of London Corporation
The City of London Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation. It supports and promotes the City as the world leader in international finance and business services and provides local services and policing for those working in, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It also provides valued services to London and the nation.

Port of London Authority
The Port of London Authority covers 95 miles of the River Thames. It works to keep commercial and leisure users safe, protect and enhance the environment and promote the use of the river for trade and travel.