An extract from the book 40 Strange Groups which is currently on sale.
After a rainstorm the one guaranteed sight is a profusion of broken umbrellas strewn around on the wet ground. Most of the time these items are thrown into the rubbish. However, in Leeds this is not the case. Members of the local BUMA collect these discarded umbrellas and fix them with a combination of welding gear and hammers, so that the brollys are stronger than they’ve ever been.
The head of the Leeds BUMA, Brian Farr, explains: “Some of the umbrellas are inherently weak, so we strengthen them with wire and occasionally old stair rods and then they wouldn’t turn inside out in a hurricane. The best thing is we then sell them in our shop and we know we sell the umbrellas back to the very people that discarded them, but they don’t recognise them because we’ve changed them so much. 50% of our profits go towards providing bus shelters around the city and so far we’ve helped build 14 of them.”
BUMA started in Leeds and has since spread to Motherwell, Pudsey, Barnsley, and Dundee. It’s estimated that BUMA has rejuvenated over 14,000 umbrellas since its inception, 15 years ago, a number which provides a solid amount of work. As Farr says “We’ve had one or two of the lads retire, but their sons, and in one case their daughter, come into the business and carry on the family tradition. Long may it continue to be rainy and windy – that’s how we like it.”