A scarecrow dressed as a soldier by children as part of a school project has been removed from a Midhurst supermarket after some of its customers complained it was offensive.
Commander S Crow was one of ten scarecrows designed and made by pupils at Conifers Prep School, Easebourne, as part of a science and art project studying modern and traditional ways of increasing crop yield and was also part of their harvest celebrations.
The children worked in groups, designing, naming and dressing their ‘dream’ scarecrows. These were then displayed in Midhurst shops and included Farmer Geoffrey who went to Cowdray Farm Shop, Hayawatha who guarded the door at Caffe Verdi, Mr Hardy, modelled on a Conifers teacher, who took up residence at The Midhurst Gallery, glamourous Super Ga Ga in the window at Pizza Express and jewel-bedecked Sparkle at Allnuts jewellers.
But it was Commander S Crow on duty outside Budgens supermarket who took the flak.
“The range of scarecrows was varied and certainly representative of the broad range of children’s dreams and aspirations,” said head of Conifers, Jennie Peel, however the soldier scarecrow caused offence to a member of the local community, who, said Mrs Peel, considered it to be ‘an effigy of a British soldier and inferred a connection to the Taliban’.
“Commander S Crow was made by a team of boys who decided on a soldier because this was what some of them aspire to be when they grow up. They decked him out in army camouflage jacket, trousers and hat, which was one of the boys’ own play outfits.”
Mrs Peel added: “We were shocked to receive angry calls from this gentleman suggesting a number of people were offended even when a sign was pinned to the scarecrow highlighting he was made by a group of children from Conifers Prep School.
“It certainly wasn’t meant to cause any offence and we felt we should remove him and return him to school so as not to continue to cause the gentleman offence.
“It is a great shame that a simple project like this, in which groups of children were given the creative freedom to produce a scarecrow of their choice, has caused an outcry by one member of the community.
“Even in today’s society, boys still dream of becoming soldiers, sailors and pilots and we should allow them the freedom of expressing such innocent dreams. We at Conifers are always hugely proud when our ex-pupils serving in the forces visit us and hope some of our current pupils have been inspired to continue this tradition and achieve their dreams.
“Clearly the boys are upset their scarecrow is the only one to be returned and misinterpreted in this way.”
Manager of Budgens David Laight told the Observer: “We were pleased to take part in the project, unfortunately we had a number of negative customer comments and we felt it would be best not to put the scarecrow on display, although we were quite happy to have another one.”
He added: “We do not seek to give offence and we try to be sensitive to comments from people who come into the store.”
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