Graffiti-busters in Sheffield urge volunteers to join fight against spray can vandals

Councillor Dave Ogle (far left) with fellow graffiti-busters Gary Lakin, Councillor John Booker and Terry Bawden
Councillor Dave Ogle (far left) with fellow graffiti-busters Gary Lakin, Councillor John Booker and Terry Bawden
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The founder of a volunteer graffiti-busting team has called on others to follow its lead and take action themselves to clear the tags scarring Sheffield.

Dave Ogle, a parish councillor in Ecclesfield, has spent many hours with fellow volunteers scrubbing clean walls around High Green, Chapeltown and Grenoside since deciding to take matters into his own hands around four years ago.

Councillor John Booker clearing graffiti

Councillor John Booker clearing graffiti

He estimates that between them they have cleared hundreds of tags during that time, totalling some 700 square metres - the size of nearly three tennis courts.

READ MORE: Graffiti in Sheffield 'getting worse' - here's how you can play your part in tackling scourge

"It all started when I took my daughter to the park and was shocked to find it in such a mess. I started litter picking but every time you returned it would be as bad as it was before," he said.

"I decided that if I was going to spend hours volunteering I should at least do something which would make a lasting difference, so I thought why not shift the graffiti?"

Terry Bawden clears graffiti at a skate park in Sheffield

Terry Bawden clears graffiti at a skate park in Sheffield

The Army veteran, who now fits security equipment, says he invested around £500 in his kit, consisting of a jet washer, gloves, goggles, domestic scrubbers and a biodegradable gel which he says breaks down chemical bonds in the paint without damaging the surface beneath or harming the environment.

READ MORE: Spray can ban demanded to tackle graffiti blighting Sheffield

Mr Ogle says he only removes graffiti tags, leaving anything with artistic merit.

He gets one or two requests a week for graffiti to be removed and the service is free, though he sometimes accepts small donations to cover the costs.

Not everyone is a fan of the team's work. He says Sheffield Council has in the past threatened to take legal action, citing concerns over safety and insurance which he says are unfounded.

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Mr Ogle has also been targeted by the culprits, who have taken to spraying his name alongside insults, sometimes on the same surfaces from which he has previously cleaned their work.

But he remains undeterred and he and the team were back in action over the weekend clearing the latest build-up of graffiti tags at a local skate park.

He wants to see more voluntary groups like his launched around the city, with financial backing from the council to help them keep graffiti at bay.

"Graffiti is getting worse and the council doesn't shift anything itself so that's the only way we're going to keep this city clean," he said.

"It's cheap and very simple to do, and if people are given the money to buy the equipment and do the work themselves it could make a dramatic difference at very little cost to the council."

Mr Ogle advised anyone wishing to follow his lead to form a constituted group and invest in public liability insurance before applying to the council for a small grant of up to £500 from their ward pot.

He invited people to contact him for more information on getting started.

He also backed the creation of dedicated graffiti walls where people could express themselves without damaging property, and said young people could be rewarded for cleaning graffiti with prizes like free driving lessons.

* You can email Mr Ogle at davidalanogle@yahoo.co.uk.