THE fountains in Middlesbrough’s centre square recently turned bright green and in the process, perplexed many a passerby.

For those who have wondered why the town’s water feature was temporarily transformed to resemble something stolen from Oz, the answer does not lie at the feet of Middlesbrough’s legendary smog, nor is it related to a virulent form of algae.

Instead, those vibrant waters were flowing with good intention, the technicolour makeover rooted in an attempt to raise awareness of sexual violence, but it took days before Middlesbrough’s council explained that the rivers ran green “to highlight the work of Arch North East, which gives support to victims and survivors during Sexual Violence Awareness Week”. The colour, the press release went on, was chosen to match Arch’s logo.

You wouldn’t know that, of course, unless you were in receipt of the council’s missives, avidly read the local papers, or were so curious about the neon fountain that you made it your mission to hunt down answers.

The eye-catching display undoubtedly prompted conversations from those baffled by the unexpected splash of colour. But the sight of a green fountain is not enough to inspire anyone to think about sexual violence and its horrific consequences, let alone become aware of the invaluable services offered by Arch.

The gimmick, well-meaning though it undeniably was, arguably failed in its attempt to draw attention to the good cause at its centre. A more successful effort could have been accompanied by hard-hitting statistics and Arch’s contact details being broadcast on the giant screens just feet away from the fountain.

In this instance, time constraints were apparently to blame for the omission of any useful signposting. The lack thereof, however, rendered the attempt at awareness-raising reminiscent of a phenomenon common to social media, where cryptic posts and messages are ten-a-penny.

Not a day goes by without a contact attempting to coerce me into sharing something inane in a misguided effort to ‘raise awareness’ of one life-threatening disease or another. “Here’s the time of year when we try to raise awareness of breast cancer through a game…Two years ago, we had to write the colour of our underwear on our wall…This year we make references to your love life status. Do not answer this message, just post the corresponding word on your wall and send this message privately to all the girls in your contact list!”

In case you were wondering, ‘cherry’ would have been my word, had I not immediately deleted that particular message. There’s not a person in this world who would have been better informed about breast cancer after reading a status from me referencing fruit, rather than, for example, ways in which to check your boobs for lumps.  

Like Middlesbrough’s newly green fountains, such posts inevitably come without context, absent of anything remotely informative. No matter how viral they become, they serve absolutely no purpose.

If you really want to raise awareness of a good cause, if you think the world should know something, don’t hide it behind cryptic conversation starters or silly games - shout about it, be obvious, be informative, be useful. Otherwise, what’s the point?

For more information about Arch North East, which offers counselling and support to those affected by rape or sexual abuse, visit or call 01642 822331.