THEY are unlikely advocates for a public health campaign. One of their number is notorious for his voraciously unhealthy appetite, while one classmate is, in the words of his creators, about “as bright as a power cut in a coalmine at midnight”.
But today, some of Scotland’s best known pupils will set out to show they are a class above when it comes to healthy eating.
The Bash Street Kids, the unruly pupils who have entertained generations of young readers, are to spearhead a campaign designed to encourage children to ditch junk food for healthy treats and take regular exercise.
The class of 2B, one of Britain’s longest running comic strips, are among several much-loved Beano characters who are teaming up with a supermarket for the active-lifestyle initiative.
The campaign, which will see the comic join forces with Sainsbury’s to promote healthy cooking and fun ways to keep fit, represents a culture change for the children of Bash Street.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
One character, Fatty, has long been portrayed as taking pride in his corpulent frame, devouring anything put before him at lunchtime by Olive, described by the comic as the “world’s worst dinner lady”. Not even Olive’s distinctly suspect curry could curb his appetite, despite the fact it gave him an upset stomach.
But in today’s edition of the comic – issue number 3,769 –the children realise the reason they keep losing sporting challenges against their oldest rivals, the Posh Street pupils, is due to the stodgy food they wolf down each lunchtime from a snack van parked outside the school.
Together with two other Beano characters, Dennis the Menace and his trusty companion Gnasher, the pupils resolve to change their fortunes and get fit for their looming sports day.
The strip shows Dennis and the gang running around Beano-town gathering Sainsbury’s Active Kids vouchers. Once collected, they exchange them for cooking and sporting equipment that helps them overcome Rupert Brightly-Smugg and his upper crust chums.
For a comic strip that has long portrayed the pupils as cheeky ne’er-do-wells, the shift seems a curious one, but those at the helm guarantee the pupils’ hellraising days are far from over.
Mike Stirling, editor-in-chief of the Beano, said: “Dennis and the gang are joining the thousands of children up and down the country in learning about eating well and being active.
“With all of the extra energy they will have, I am in no doubt that they will cause even more havoc and set up even more pranks on unsuspecting grown-ups and the Posh Street Kids.”
It remains to be seen how readers of the Beano will react, especially given previous changes have prompted controversy.
In a 1994 edition of the comic, school inspectors closed down Bash Street School and sacked all the staff. As part of the overhaul, help was offered to the children, including plastic surgery for Plug, sunlamp treatment for Spotty, and a diet for Fatty.
It provoked an outcry from readers, who sent petitions and hundreds of letters to the publisher, DC Thomson. In the end, those in charge of the Beano put things back the way they were.
Since its 2005 launch, more than £150 million of cookery and sporting equipment has been given to 50,000 organisations through Active Kids.