gillI was just the right age to enjoy the Wombles first time round. This is a picture of me (on the left) and my sister at a strange Womble Burrow exhibition at Morecambe in Lancashire, UK, December 1974. We’re holding home-made Madame Cholet soft toys, and in danger of being dwarfed by the huge womble models!

Well, of course, growing up in the 1970s, the Wombles were the children’s TV of choice, and their environmental message of recycling and reusing rubbish made a huge impression on me. They were eco-warriors ahead of their time! The pop songs were everywhere for a few years, and I remember going to see the stage show at Preston Charter Theatre sometime in the mid 70s.

Then in my mid-teens, I rediscovered the records, and was struck by just how funny and charming the songs were. I found they were subtly witty, with great humour, and were fantastically knowing pastiches of every musical genre under the sun. It has never been fashionable to like the Wombles music, but I’ve stuck with them since then nonetheless, and have on occasion even persuaded friends to sing along.

elvis gill

This warm glow of nostalgia, coupled with my growing environmental awareness, made the Wombles more relevant than ever. While the stories are about pesky human beings leaving their litter behind them, the deeper message is about how we as a species are trashing the planet. It’s not an exaggeration to say that their cosy eco-living lifestyle has influenced my life ever since.

My academic career in environmental sciences is concerned with working out, essentially, how we can all live a little bit more like the Wombles. In Neil Matthews’ book ‘Journeys from Wimbledon Common‘, I talk more about this, and how the Wombles’ philosophy of low-impact living, thrift and creativity has shaped my career.

Here we are in full-size Womble outfits on our way to Sing-along-a-Elvis (dressed as ‘my teddy bear’ of course.)

Keep On Wombling!