Health festival drops 'Burger Boy' sculpture

A CONTROVERSIAL sculpture known as the Barnsley Burger Boy will not be part of a health festival later this year after council chiefs said it should be scrapped.

The 40ft effigy was to be burned during the Heart of Barnsley event in July, but attracted severe criticism from weight loss workers who said it "humiliated" fat people.

Barnsley Council and local primary care trust NHS Barnsley were responsible for the project, which was supposed to represent an obese child eating junk food.

Under the original idea the sculpture would have been paraded through the streets before it was set on fire in a ceremony to be called Bye Bye Burger Boy.

Health workers said the burning of the piece had been designed to symbolise the "shedding of unhealthy elements of our lifestyles" and encourage people to eat better food.

As reported in the Yorkshire Post on Saturday, the sculpture would have shown a fat boy in tight clothes sitting in an overflowing ashtray facing a table weighed down with burgers and cakes.

Council leader Steve Houghton admitted last night the idea had been badly thought out, and said staff had now realised it could have caused offence.

Coun Houghton added: "Like a great many other people I was astounded to read and hear about the proposed sculpture part of this project and, following discussion with senior NHS Barnsley colleagues, the project has been withdrawn with immediate effect.

"We recognise there is a real health issue regarding obesity in Barnsley and we need to continue to find ways to address it, but this is not the way to do it and, together with NHS Barnsley, we apologise for any offence that has been caused."

Nobody at Barnsley Council was able to answer questions last night about how much work on the Burger Boy sculpture had already cost, and who was footing that bill.

A Newcastle-based performing arts company called Dodgy Clutch had been engaged to develop the idea earlier this year, and it is thought plans were at an advanced stage.

Last week, workers at NHS Barnsley said they had come up with the Burger Boy idea after Department of Health statistics revealed they had a big problem with heart disease.

Figures show that the town and the deprived former mining communities that surround it have some of the highest death rates from heart problems in the entire country.

The Heart of Barnsley campaign was proposed in a bid to raise awareness among the public of the dangers of overeating, smoking and drinking with the sculpture as its centrepiece.

Public health workers at Barnsley Council had said the burning ceremony would have marked the climax of the festival on July 10 in an evening of "fire, performance and stunning pyrotechnics".

Helen Ball, head of culture at Barnsley Council, last week defended the burning event and said it was a "culmination of a programme of events to raise awareness of cardio-vascular disease".

Elaine Ogden, NHS Barnsley's Fit for the Future Co-ordinator, also issued a statement on Friday defending the Burger Boy.

Nobody at NHS Barnsley was prepared to comment last night about the decision to scrap the effigy, and the trust was also unable to say how much money it had spent on the project.