The Big Help Out: volunteers clean up Oxfordshire
Volunteers tidied local spaces during The Big Help Out - but we need to keep up momentum
On Monday 8th May, people across the UK volunteered in community projects as part of The Big Help Out. The initiative, which took place over the Coronation bank holiday weekend, aimed to raise awareness of volunteering and provide opportunities for people to make a difference locally. The Big Help Out showed an appetite for volunteering and cleaning up local spaces; in a poll of attendees, 16% of all respondents said they were more likely to volunteer in their area as a result.
The benefits of volunteers clearing litter are evident. Littering in Oxfordshire is a known problem. During recent A40 carriageway litter picks, West Oxfordshire District Council collected one ton of rubbish from a given mile stretch in just five days. According to Oxfordshire councils, the cost of street cleaning continues to rise each year. In the four years since 2018-2019, street cleaning costs have risen by 4.5% for South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse combined.
Source - South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils
Litter is also consistently identified as a perceived source of anti-social behaviour. In a recent Crime Survey for England and Wales, most people identified litter as a noticeable problem in their area.
Source: Office for National Statistics - Crime Survey for England and Wales
The good news is that people are interested in volunteering in their community. Organisers are now planning how to make the Big Help Out an annual event, after 6,510,000 million people participated. Matt Hyde, CEO of the Scouts said:
“These figures show the scale of that enthusiasm and it’s now our task to keep up that momentum."
Interestingly, out of all English regions, people in the South are the most likely to volunteer:
In addition, young people and families are the most likely to volunteer in their communities. On average 19% of 25-34-year-olds and 24% of 18-24-year-olds were planning to participate in The Big Help Out. Those with children were more than 50% more likely to participate than those without children (17% vs 7%).
Part of this may be due to communities effectively engaging young children and families. In Kidlington, volunteers encourage children to litter pick by making it a family friendly activity. Cherwell Collective, an Oxford-based group aiming to reduce food waste and increase wellbeing, held a litter picking event in Park Hill recreation ground. Most of the attendees were families with children, who were involved in a community project to build a giant unicorn statue using household waste.
Cherwell Collective programme manager S.J. said litter picking was important for woodlands and green spaces in Kidlington. The organisation hosted a litter picking event with volunteers ahead of the statue unveiling, which programme manager, S.J., said was important for woodland in Kidlington.
"There's a lack of space for people to do things in public for free, so we do see people having a nice time in the woods and then there's no sufficient facilities for clearing up after themselves - it is a problem and impacts the local wildlife."
After litter picking the group returned to Park Hill recreation ground to see the finished unicorn statue, which will be a permanent fixture in the park, which S.J. says will be "a nice way for the community to remember the legacy of this coronation period."
“It's a good day to get everyone together because people are united by the issue of waste and consumption. We've made this sculpture entirely out of things that look like fly-tipping basically, so half an old sofa and insulation and building rubble and things. We've put that all together as a sculpture of a unicorn to show that our waste, which is permanent and damaging for the environment, can be something beautiful.”
The benefits of volunteering to clean the streets of Oxfordshire are numerous. Litter picking can be a family activity, and one which young people are keen to engage in. The costs of litter picking to Oxfordshire councils and, by extension, residents, are on the rise each year and UK residents see litter as the most noticeable form of antisocial behaviour.
Cherwell Collective’s S.J. is urging locals to try litter picking. They said:
“It’s a good way to take responsibility for our own communities. We’re the people that live here and we’re the people that care about this environment. If we think there are needs that aren’t being met, people should feel empowered to do those things themselves.”
To find out how you can volunteer to pick litter in Oxfordshire, go to:
And for more on The Big Help out, visit: