'Inappropriate, jingoistic' - Council's Covid poster met with backlash

Sprowston Town Council's Covid poster has come in for plenty of criticism 

Sprowston Town Council's Covid poster has come in for plenty of criticism - Credit: Tom Lamb

A town council poster calling on people to "enlist in the fight against Covid" has been slammed as inappropriate and offensive. 

The poster has been put up in Manor Park by Sprowston Town Council in which a boy is captioned asking his father "what did you do to help when Britain fought coronavirus in 2021". 

Below the wartime reference is a message of caution from the council to continue thinking about social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.

Town mayor John Ward said he would be discussing the poster with town clerk Guy Ranaweera when the latter returns from annual leave on Tuesday after numerous complaints to the authority. 

County councillor John Ward. Pic: Julian Claxton.

Sprowston mayor and county councillor John Ward - Credit: Archant

Mr Ward said he was unaware the poster had been on display until he was contacted for a comment.

Natasha Harpley, district councillor for Sprowston Central, described the poster as "resorting to jingoism and misogyny". 

While she is mindful that the the town clerk may have been "just following instructions or not thinking things through", Ms Harpley has asked for the poster to be removed. 

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She said: "A lot of people find it offensive to veterans. Some have commented saying that to suggest most people were tucked up safely during the pandemic unlike the war was not the case.

"It depends what angle you are coming from but it is clearly inappropriate. A pandemic and a war are two very different situations.

"You can't compare the two and I get annoyed with this conjuring up of the Blitz spirit. I do not like the jingoism and stiff upper lip as you can't bravely soldier on when you have lost someone and perhaps other haven't." 

Natasha Harpley who reprsesents Sprowston Central Ward on Broadland District Council. Picture: Betha

Sprowston district councillor Natasha Harpley - Credit: Archant

Ms Harpley also said the boy asking the father insinuates it is men leading the charge while women are sat at home.

She referred to the efforts of women helping with foodbanks, emergency services and home schooling during the pandemic. 

Town councillor Barbara Lashley said the poster was inappropriate and unreflective of the council's "modern and forward-thinking approach". 

She added: "I thought we had moved on from going back to the wartime mentality. 

"The message of consideration to others is the right one which we did discuss at the last council meeting where we agreed to continue to put a message across.

"I think everyone has helped to combat Covid in their own way but harking back to the war is inappropriate." 

Mrs Lashley has also written to the town clerk asking for the poster's removal, saying anything which could insult or offend anyone in the town is wrong. 

Fellow town councillor Bill Couzens has criticised the message of the poster. 

"'I'm not sure what the poster is trying to say," Mr Couzens said.

"It says to enlist, but in what? We now rely on volunteers not enlistment - which suggests payment. It's clearly related to enlisting in the armed services of World War Two.

"I totally agree with comments online that suggest it is an insult to veterans." 

Mr Couzens added that hundreds of thousands already have volunteered their services for free in various roles whether at Covid centres, local community support initiatives, foodbanks or are dutifully self-isolating when required to.

Bill Couzens, deputy chair of Sprowston Town Council. Picture: Bill Couzens

Town councillor Bill Couzens - Credit: Bill Couzens

He referred to the work of the Sprowston Supporting Our Community Together scheme as an example of people stepping up to help during the pandemic. 

Many people in the town have criticised the poster after Tom Lamb, of Rackheath, posted a picture of it on Facebook. 

Mr Lamb said: "I personally feel it is an insult to wartime veterans. How can being locked down, getting paid, furloughed etc. compare to what people went through during the wars?

"I feel it's a subtle, unfair way to guilt parents into having the vaccine when people's choices should be respected in this matter." 

He also said the park should be a place to forget the troubles of the world as an escape from Covid in the fresh air.

The town council's clerk and deputy were contacted for comment, but no one was available for comment.