The banning of the blog

Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent
@BBCRoryCJon Twitter

image copyrightScience Photo library

Argyll and Bute, I think it is fair to say, isn't often in the news. But now local councillors have come up with a brilliant scheme to put their region in the west of Scotland on the map. They've reportedly banned a primary school pupil's blog.

UPDATE 13:57 BST: The ban on Martha taking photographs of her school meals has since been lifted.

The blog in question is called NeverSeconds, and describes itself as "one primary school pupil's daily dose of school dinners". The idea is simple and brilliant. The author Martha, who calls herself "Veg", takes a picture of her meal each day and writes a review, coupled with a few thoughts about her day.

Very quickly, a community has grown around the blog, with other pupils from far and wide sending in pictures of their own meals. It has attracted attention from national newspapers and even from Jamie Oliver.

But yesterday Martha was called out of a maths lesson and told that her blogging had to stop. The decision, according to her father, was not taken by the school, which has been very supportive, but by the Argyll and Bute council.

It's not quite clear why - perhaps there is a ban on taking photos inside schools, or maybe there is some concern about the damage to the reputation of the school meals service.

I prefer to think there is another explanation - and that this is all a cunning plan by the councillors to draw attention to their beautiful region with its dramatic coastline, and fine cuisine. It seems to be working - the case of the banned blog is rapidly becoming a cause celebre, with emails, tweets, and presumably phone calls arriving at council headquarters from around the world.

Amongst the many tweets this morning as #NeverSeconds became a trending topic, I spotted this from Twitter user @Marshallmedia: "A classic example of local government failing to grasp the power of social media @argyllandbute could have made PR gold from #neverseconds."

But surely that is to underestimate the smart people at the council. Without the ban, this excellent blog would have received far less attention. I imagine that a couple of weeks ago one of those well-paid social media consultants arrived at the council offices in Kilmory and laid out a strategy which would generate "PR Gold " - a global Twitter storm, and mentions on national radio and TV. It seems to be working...


A couple of things I should make clear. A few people have been in touch to point out that Argyll and Bute council has not banned Martha's blog - just banned the taking of photos in the school canteen. As the whole point of the NeverSeconds blog is to show pictures of school food, the effect seems to me to be the same, but I'm happy to clarify that issue.

Oh, and some people have taken rather too seriously my suggestion that the whole affair was just a PR stunt got up by the council. I forgot to include this warning:

Caution - May Contain Irony.

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