The Legend of Foodidoo

Local Public Health Education Mascots of the 1980s

If you remember the joys of a typical primary school assembly, you may well remember singing All Things Bright and Beautiful or Sing Hosanna. Sometimes, fellow pupils would have been invited to stand on a ‘birthday box’ where 200 or so pupils would sing the world’s most performed and profitable song known to man (Happy Birthday that is).

On odd occasions, there may have been a visit from the fire service, a local police officer or an ambulance porter. On these occasions, they would warn children to avoid playing with matches, talking to strangers or trespassing onto railway lines. To lighten the mood a little, they would often have a mascot, an identifiable friendly face of the operations as a counterbalance to the boring and important.

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Welephant

Few people would release that Welephant was born in Lancashire. The red elephant came about as an idea among firefighters and ancillary staff at Bury’s fire station, in order to warn children over the dangers of fire. Launched in 1978, the portly elephant would be subject of many a cautionary tale. He, Rupert The Bear fashion, would be supported by his relatives and best friend Spiky the Hedgehog.

By the mid-1980s, Welephant would be popular outside Greater Manchester, with a number of other fire and rescue services adopting him as their mascot. It would be seen in many a carnival or fun day throughout the country. Today, he is in the care of the Children’s Burns Trust, and Welephant has become Britain’s answer to Smokey Bear. His uniform, in line with present day watches has changed. As well as being on the back of a fire engine in Bury Carnival, he has his own website.

Furthermore, few public health mascots have cut a single. Graham Walker, a.k.a. The Singing Fireman, also gave Welephant his own signature tune in 1987. It got to Number 87 in the UK singles chart, selling 40,000 copies. Which is double the number needed for Eric Prydz’s UK Number One spot in the summer of 2004. The video, seen below, includes Claire and Friends, his wife Denise, and is filmed at Moss Side Fire Station. Notice the guest appearance by Crow from BBC One’s Saturday Superstore.

Bobby Bug

Not to be outdone by Greater Manchester County Fire Brigade, Greater Manchester Police had an approachable mascot. Bobby Bug was an insect dressed in full police garb. Though he was supposed to be an insect, his face was ‘tantastic’ years before the phrase existed. Like his elephant counterpart, Bobby Bug would also be seen at carnivals and school assemblies.

Bobby Bug’s phrase was ‘Remember, A Policeman Is Your Friend’. One which today’s twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings may think otherwise if caught by a speed camera.

Foodidoo

Supposing this blog article was a Pointless subject, Foodidoo would be an answer in the minuses, let alone zero points. Foodidoo was a walking advertisement for ‘five a day’ before its time. The mascot perpetuated the tantastic head theme with a pumpkin for his head and cucumbers as arms.

Foodidoo was launched in March 1987 by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, as part of the borough’s healthy eating campaign. I saw the said mascot outside Ashton Town Hall en route to catching a 409 for Oldham. In its school canteens, there was a healthy option dish as well as the usual chips. These had a green label which read ‘Choose Me – Go For Health’.

Though seemingly in obscurity, Foodidoo was the subject of in-school training packs – available via NHS Manchester’s resource centre today, aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils.

Tameside Ted

Shortly after Foodidoo – and more memorable today – is Tameside Ted. He was launched in the mid-1990s to promote healthy living and safety in the home. The friendly brown bear is often seen at carnivals, council events and fairs. He also opened the Arcades Shopping Centre along with Su Pollard and a now disgraced Hydonian sports reporter.

The Tameside Ted suit is available for hire from Tameside MBC’s website, a snip at £25 per day.

Wally Walrus

Just to confuse things a little, there are two Wally Walrus characters. One is a cartoon character from the 1940s and 1950s who featured with Woody Woodpecker. The other, instead of having a Swedish accent, is barely seen outside of Tameside Leisure Pool.

Launched in the early 1990s, its remit was, and remains today, is as the mascot for Tameside Sports Trust’s pre-school swimming lessons. Assisted by parents, pre-schoolers would be entertained by Wally Walrus whilst learning to get used to the water, with a mix of play and lessons. Today, lessons are undertaken at Hyde Leisure Pool, with a new generation of toddlers being told to ‘jump in the water’.

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Did You Foodidoo?

There must be more than one person on this planet who remembers Foodidoo and Bobby Bug, so feel free to double the numbers at the very least. If you’re able to sing Welephant’s matches song verbatim, feel free to comment.

S.V., 26 May 2014.

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3 thoughts on “The Legend of Foodidoo

Add yours

  1. I was foodidoo! I worked for Tameside council’s publicity department as an office junior and one of my roles was to dress up as foodidoo and walk around the market and visit schools etc. Sadly I haven’t got any photos and would love to find one.

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    1. Hi Paul,

      Welcome to East of the M60. It is a great honour to hear from the man who was Foodidoo himself.

      The best place to find any photographs on Foodidoo would be the Local Studies Library, next to Ashton Central Library. There’s half a chance you may be able to find yourself (as the said mascot) in the Reporter and/or The Advertiser on the microfilm archive.

      Furthermore, you could ask a few people on Facebook via one of the local history groups for any sources. Ashton Under Lyne Then and Now could be a good place. The Ashton-under-Lyne.com web forum could be another good source. Introducing yourself as The Man Inside the Foodidoo Outfit would also be a good idea in each of your requests.

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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  2. Oh wow, I remember foodioo – we didn’t have the OPTION of having the healthy meal at Leigh street primary school – it was the only option, and it was disgusting! Plus we had to chant the saying in assembly “eat right, feel bright, says foodidoo”. it still gives me bad memories. I didn’t realise it was just a Tameside thing though – hence I got so little luck when i googled it just now (I wanted to be sure it was a memory and not a hallucination) but hey – it led me to this site, so, every cloud has a silver lining.

    Liked by 1 person

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