Hull’s ‘grimebuster’ white van man cleans vandalized city streets

A graffiti and grime cleaner for businesses in Hull that has already removed a tag from the top of Debenhams is ready for an equipment upgrade with new funding.

Martin Foster, HullBID’s cleaning and maintenance agent, starts his job at 7 a.m. removing tags from private properties smeared the night before and jetting dirt from outside businesses.

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HullBID Executive Director Kathryn Shillito said it will now get a new, larger, greener van and replacement jet washer with funding from Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Jonathan Evison.

The funding comes after Mr. Evison agreed to support HullBID ahead of its member firm renewal ballot which ends at 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 23.

BID members asking Mr. Foster to be sent to remove graffiti, wash sidewalks and do other chores are covered by their royalty payments.

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Ms Shillito said the future of Mr Foster’s services would be in doubt if HullBID’s 840 member companies voted against its renewal. She added that Mr. Foster’s work went a long way in preventing graffiti on private property and helping Hull City Council street cleaning crews.

The general manager said: “It was really easy to see that there was a lot of graffiti in Hull, it was the bane of the city.

“The council cleans graffiti from its buildings but not private property and businesses, the authority provides street cleaning services but we are improving that with Martin.

“Martin is a fairly low-key man but a hard worker, he can usually get a job done within 24 hours of calling a company.

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“He works alone and has no support, he’s just a man and his van.

“He’s had to remove thousands and thousands of labels over the years.

“Most of what he cleans up are nuisance labels where people just spray on something random like signing their name.

Look to see previous examples of East Yorkshire graffiti:

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“Some of them can be very difficult to remove, I don’t know what the taggers are hoping to achieve.

“Martin starts at 7 am, he usually goes to places he knows to be bad for graffiti first to check them out, or he may have already been given a job.

“It removes graffiti in alleys and alleys leading to businesses before they open.

Martin Foster Removed ‘Thousands And Thousands’ Of Graffiti Tags In Hull, Says HullBID Executive Director

“Sometimes he spots him earlier than the companies, he’s already gone when they arrive, so he leaves them a card to let them know he’s gone.

“He also picked up hypodermic needles left in business doors by sleepers on the street.”

Ms Shillito said Mr Foster’s job saw him cleaning up graffiti in hard-to-reach places, even scaling the old Debenhams building on Prospect Street in one case.

“As you can imagine, those who work in companies don’t want to come in and be greeted with trash or a mess.

“One place that gets a lot of graffiti is the underpass that leads to The Deep.

“There is work going on there right now, but taggers tend to target hidden areas like that and they can climb in difficult places as well.

Mr Foster once climbed to the top of the old Debenhams in Prospect Street to remove the graffiti

“Martin is very brave when it comes to going to these places, about five or six years ago he went up to the roof of Debenhams to clean up graffiti from the top of the building.

“He was safe but it made me a little uncomfortable, I was so worried I told him not to do something like this again.

“He lends his hand to all kinds of things, when the bars and cafes with outdoor terraces in places like Humber Street after the lockdown was lifted, Martin was spraying the sidewalks.

“Another time, the Double Tree Hilton wanted the outside sidewalk to be remodeled because there were VIPs, so he went to do it for them.

“If businesses were to sort this out on their own, there would be the cost of renting the equipment, time and other factors involved, but they can just call HullBID and we’ll do it for them.

“It also helps get booths and other things that we loan out to businesses for events.

“If Martin or HullBID didn’t do these cleanups, we would see a re-emergence of graffiti in downtown Hull.

Butler Whites in Humber Street
Mr Foster jet washed the sidewalks outside the Humber Street sites to reopen after the lockdown

“It would affect Hull’s economy, investors would come in here and see that it looks messy.

“People may look around now and think Hull doesn’t have a graffiti problem, but a big part of the reason is Martin.

“HullBID works closely with City Council because we all want the same thing, to make Hull the best possible city.”

About Genevieve Swain

Genevieve Swain

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