It is a Sunday afternoon in Thessaloniki’s New Waterfront. The summery weather is suddenly interrupted by a short rain and the team "Los Lampicos" ("lampico" is a Greek slang word meaning pristine) sits under a shelter to protect its materials. Today’s target, cleaning two central sculptures of graffiti, is almost over. The recorder is on.
"The idea arose when a friend posted a photo on Facebook of a smudged bench at the new waterfront, a few days after the project’s completion. After reading the comments, we realized that something needed to be done, and this is how the conversation about creating the group was initiated."
"We were searching for the group’s name, at the beginning more denotative of our activity, for instance ‘stop wall-pollution,’ ‘ we’ll make everything lampico … the lampicos,’ and finally we came up with Los Lampicos. We liked it because it's humorous and the the message is clear. We came to make everything lampico," mentions Souzana Kailari, one of the group’s founding members.
"The initial team consisted of around ten people. We were friends or we shared common interests. As time passed, we connected more and more to one another. Now there are many more people on the team. In every activity that we organize, new people show up who want to participate. We are working people and every one of us has their own responsibilities, which makes it a bit more difficult to schedule our meetings. On the other hand, there is joy and everyone is always in a good mood, so we overcome this problem."
"The first step was to hand out flyers in order to make our actions and our Facebook page known. This was the only way to get people to know us without any cost. We have to admit that the speed that this venture happened pleasantly surprised us," says Giannis Nisyrios.
What is the situation of Thessaloniki regarding rubbish and graffiti in public spaces? "We should make it clear that we leave graffiti. These are a form of street art. We are annoyed by the frumpy scribbles and the tags. Those are the one which we try to wash off. As far as the rubbish is concerned, anyone could see the situation on the waterfront. Although there are several bins along the seafront, everywhere there is grass you see the holdovers of some uneducated Greeks. After all, everything is a matter of education."
From our point of view the White Tower’s defilement was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was after this incident we took action. The majority of the spots we cleaned have remained clear. There is still, of course, a lot of work that needs to be done, but we hope that someday our actions will assail those who tend to defile public spaces and they will stop being successful.
We must try to redefine the way we treat public spaces. We would like things to be different, but the facts contradict our hopes. There are hundreds of examples, from the gum and garbage that are thrown on the street, although there is a bin ten meters away, to the rubbish thrown out of cars, and the posts and trees where advertisements are hung. If one thinks about it more, there are many other examples.
"We would like, in one of our next meetings, to clear sayings that are written on walls together with football team supporters. We are also thinking of organizing some activities in schools that appeal to students in September. Until the next generation, who we hope that will have adapted a better attitude towards the surrounding environment, grows up, the rest of us, who are annoyed by this situation, can stand up for what we believe and react when someone behaves improperly," adds Maria Papadopoulou.
What is the range of Los Lampicos’ activities? "We have cleaned the information signs at the archaeological site in Archaia Agora. We think that the places that tourists visit should be clean and anything written must be legible. It is a pity to boast about our ancient culture when we can’t behave in a civil manner. Several services have requested our help in order to clean their building’s facades, but we haven’t visited these places yet. For the summer, we are planning to visit a nearby beach and clean it," says Nikos Maridakis as he describes what a group’s activities consists of.
"We meet at a spot in the new waterfront, after we have announced our activity on Facebook, and we start cleaning spots that we have previously specified as needing attention. We have brushes, water and cleaning materials to use, which are kindly provided by the production and exporting company of construction and industrial materials Tsantilis S.A., which has its head office in Volos. At this point we would like to thank them for their valuable help. Other than the fact that the cleaning materials are expensive, these people offer technical support for their right use of these tools. We would also like to thank the people in charge at Thessaloniki’s Municipality, who have also supported us."
"We are here and we will keep the new waterfront as clean as we can, and we hope that more people will be inspired. We hope that they will not only participate in our activities, but also that more people will realize the importance of active participation in civic life.
Volunteerism is, from our point of view, the absolute exercise in democracy. Individuals typically don’t vote often, but when you participate as a volunteer, you have the opportunity to vote everyday for the type of society in which you want to live.
As long as we receive warmth and approbation from the citizens of Thessaloniki every time they see us, we will keep making the city ‘lampico,’ and if we can, we will also be able to change some of the people’s mindsets about how to treat public spaces. This is the most important."
Are there any groups of volunteers in the city you live that have taken the liberty to clean up the city? Would you join a group like that?
The original article, published in Greek, can be found here.
Credits: Images by Aggeliki Mavromati. Data linked to sources.