A proposal to portray the Jolly Fisherman as a muscular, fitness fanatic in a viral health campaign has provoked angry opposition from Skegness councillors and residents.
Personal trainer and software designer Nathan Hague sought Skegness Town Council’s permission to ‘remix’ the iconic image as a ‘buffed up’ Jolly for the new generation.
Speaking at last Wednesday’s council meeting, Mr Hague said: “The idea is we have this health and fitness initiative which we have Jolly spearheading to get the message out to the rest of the UK and beyond.
“I want to take the Jolly Fisherman and remix him for the new generation - it’s not bastardizing him, it’s making him more accessible to the people.
“I want to make this quite viral - not just for Skegness but for every other town in the UK - it starts here and it’s very exciting.”
Mr Hague said the initiative was about doing ‘something nice’ for the town in which his mother lived until her recent death and claimed he wasn’t interested in making any money from it.
He believes Skegness is a ‘great backdrop’ for the campaign, which could position the town at the centre of national fitness initiatives led by GPs and health professionals.
The project would feature a series of images of Jolly as he grows increasingly muscular by following a fitness regime, eventually baring an athletic torso while striking his traditional prancing posture.
“That’s the viral thing - the whole world will see this,” said Mr Hague.
A number of angry residents, aware that Mr Hague would be seeking the council’s permission to use the image at the meeting, attended to express their views.
One resident, speaking in the public session said: “As a Skegness man born and bred, I am passionate about the Jolly Fisherman’s image being used for what it’s supposed to be used for.
“We’ve got a world famous icon that no one else has and then this person comes to Skegness like the Pied Piper of Hamelin who wants everyone to sing to his tune and changes the Jolly Fisherman to ridicule him and turn him into a Popeye figure.
“I don’t think we should change the Jolly Fisherman for anyone - we have a council to protect that figure and the copyright to look after it and keep our Jolly, Jolly.”
Town councillors, as custodians of the image’s copyright, reacted with shock and indignation upon seeing Skegness’s ‘sacred’ mascot so altered.
Though supportive of Mr Hague’s fitness campaign, they could not condone using an altered image of Jolly to promote it, which they feared could set a dangerous precedent to other business.
Coun Steve Kirk said: “We have this iconic figure that has suited this town well for more than a 100 years and I don’t think any of these images look any better than the Jolly we already have - there are certain things in this town that are sacred.”
Coun Phil Kemp agreed that the regular Jolly didn’t look bad ‘for an old feller,’ Coun Binch feared that images of Jolly wearing a dress could be published if this one was permitted and Coun George Saxon felt Mr Hague ‘needed Jolly more than Jolly needed (him).’
Considering the new image was to promote a fitness campaign, Coun Danny Brookes thought it odd that the one thing remaining from the original Jolly, was his least healthy feature - his pipe.
Town clerk Steve Larner has delegated authority to permit businesses or individuals to use the Jolly Fisherman’s image but as the nature of this request was ‘somewhat different to those that have gone before it,’ Mr Larner called the meeting to gauge the council’s view.
He is yet to make a final decision but said he had listened to the discussion.