If NINE-year-old Martha Payne was unaware of the true power of social media when she went to school yesterday morning she certainly knew all about it by bedtime last night.
• Council overturned ban following widespread anger at decision
• Martha Payne posts pictures of her school dinners and rates them nutritionally
• The ‘Never Seconds’ blog was started as a writing project with her father
• Argyll and Bute Council banned the primary school pupil from photographing her school meals after a newspaper headline
As she was tucked in, the Argyllshire schoolgirl could reflect on an extraordinary day that had seen her popular school lunches pictures on her blog NeverSeconds banned by Argyll and Bute Council then resurrected after a storm of protest forced the local authority into a humiliating climbdown.
Argyll and Bute Council performed its hasty U-turn after Martha wrote on her blog that she had been told to stop posting pictures of school food. The announcement sparked outrage among her followers and ignited a nationwide debate on censorship.
Martha’s propulsion to internet stardom began six weeks ago when she began writing her NeverSeconds blog, on which she posted photographs and opinions of the meals served up in her school canteen in Lochgilphead, Argyll.
Her observations on the blog attracted more than two million views and the admiration of the celebrity chiefs Nick Nairn and Jamie Oliver, who sent Martha a signed copy of his book Jamie’s Great Britain.
Meals at Lochgilphead Primary were given a score out of ten, a “health rating” and even the number of hairs found was noted.
Martha had used the site to raise more than £3,000 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. Such was the interest generated by her blog, donations to the schoolgirl’s JustGiving site rose from £3,000 yesterday morning to more than £16,000 by the end of the day.
Having attained cult status on the internet, it was almost inevitable that the blog would be picked up by the mainstream media. When a Glasgow-based tabloid ran an article with the headline: “Time to fire the dinner ladies”, the council became concerned about the distress caused to its staff who prepare the meals. Yesterday morning the council released a statement saying headlines had led catering staff “to fear for their jobs”.
It said: “The council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the NeverSeconds blog for obvious reasons, despite a strongly-held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils. However, this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from distress and harm.
“The photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.”
Education secretary Mike Russell and the local MSP entered the fray tweeting: “I think the decision is daft and I will be asking the council chief executive to reverse it.”
Oliver tweeted criticising a “shocking” decision.