Profile: Clean-Up Crusader - Bill Bryson, President, Campaign to Protect Rural England, and Author

Article excerpt

Bill Bryson is as much in love with our 'small island' today as when passing through as a backpacker 35 years ago.

In fact, the best-selling author and anglophile would award National Park status to the entire country if he had his way. But when asked repeatedly on a book tour if there was anything he didn't like about England, the Iowa-born author soon realised his biggest bugbear was litter - in particular, litter in the countryside.

'At the end of the tour, I had 1000 emails on the matter. So, I had an army of supporters, but then came the panic - I didn't know how to organise a campaign. I thought: 'What do I do?'.' Bryson, 56, says he has never been one to sit 'bitching' about a problem, and he soon found himself accepting an invitation to become president of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Bryson has chronicled his travels across the US, continental Europe, Britain and Australia since the late 80s, but returned to England five years ago to make Norfolk his home.

He blames the scourge of rubbish on the increasingly frenetic pace of modern life, with many people eating on the go and tossing the remnants from their car windows. CPRE estimates that 25m tonnes of litter is dumped across the country each year, five times more than 40 years ago. Bryson also indicates that social issues and standards are to blame: 'In the US, people don't throw their stuff out the window. They put it in the bin when they arrive at their destination; that's just doing the right thing. Something has gone wrong here in England.'

Bryson clearly takes his responsibilities seriously and he is now spearheading CPRE's 'Stop the drop' campaign, launched last week. Celebrity status will always draw attention to a cause, but Bryson, for all his fame, has no trace of celebrity in his manner and, despite admitting during his first presidential address that he has much to learn, he appears extremely knowledgeable about the litter issue.

He has found time to pen a cinema ad for the campaign in a bid to reach young men, whose co-operation he identifies as being key to solving the problem. He now hopes suitable brands will step forward to provide commercial assistance. 'The problem is how to reach a young male audience, and we thought amusing, witty ads could be a way. It would be wonderful if some enlightened firms would like to join us in this,' he says. …