Ban lifted on blogger, 9, taking photos of her school dinners

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A ban on a nine-year-old girl blogger taking photos of her school dinners was lifted yesterday after sparking widespread controversy.

Martha Payne was told on Thursday that she could no longer take the photos to illustrate her NeverSeconds blog, which has notched up more than two million views in just six weeks and won the support of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

She said she was “sad” not to be able to carry on her daily reviews of the meals served for lunch at her school’s cafeteria in Lochgilphead, Argyll.

Her father Dave said the decision, taken by Argyll and Bute Council, was “a shame” that she was being forced to end a blog which had already raised £3,000 for charity.

But yesterday the council backed down on the decision after publicity in the national media.

Council leader Roddy McCuish told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I have just instructed senior officials to withdraw the ban on photos from the school dining hall.

“It is a good thing to do, to change your mind and I have certainly done that.”

News of the photo ban sparked a massive surge in interest in Martha’s blog. By lunchtime the story was one of the most talked about topics on Twitter and NeverSeconds had attracted more than 2.75 million page views. Martha has used the site to raise money for Mary’s Meals, a charity which runs school-feeding projects in communities around the world where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education.

Donations through her page on the JustGiving website yesterday rocketed from £3,000 to almost £20,000.

Mr McCuish said the council had been concerned about criticisms of dining hall staff in an article about Martha’s blog in the national media, but accepted that it should have raised the issue with the newspaper concerned rather than taking action against the schoolgirl.

Martha’s blog gives a score out of 10 to each meal, a “health rating” and even the number of hairs found in each meal – only one so far.

It impressed Jamie Oliver, who tweeted: “Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going. Big love from Jamie x.”