Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Scouting for Boys Girls. Everyone; Mobile Phone Company Phones4u This Week Scrapped a Television Advert That Depicted Scout Leaders as Balding, Friendless Bores. JOANNE BUTCHER Explores the Reality of the Scouts Today

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Scouting for Boys Girls. Everyone; Mobile Phone Company Phones4u This Week Scrapped a Television Advert That Depicted Scout Leaders as Balding, Friendless Bores. JOANNE BUTCHER Explores the Reality of the Scouts Today

Article excerpt

Byline: JOANNE BUTCHER

SCOUT leaders have hit out after being labelled dull in a new advert.

The Phones4u jibe, which appeared both on-screen and in print, pictured a grumpy Scout leader with a caption underneath reading: "You might be good with knots. You might be good with children. But there's no way you've got 50 friends in your phone." But Gwyn McKenzie (pictured right), chief commissioner of the Northumberland County Scouts, which includes Newcastle and North Tyneside, said the stereotype was outdated and offensive.

"We have worked hard to change that image," she said. "That is not what the Scout Association is about." With some 5,000 youth members and 800 adult leaders in the North East alone, the scouts are by far the UK's biggest youth organisation.

And Gwyn said the reality of hardworking scout leaders - who are all volunteers - is very different. After all, the newly-appointed chief scout is TV thrill seeker Bear Grylls. Bear, the youngest person ever to climb Everest, is an adventurer who has attempted to paramotor over Angel Falls and the Himalayas.

He even rowed naked for 22 miles in a home-made bathtub to raise funds for a friend who lost his legs in a climbing accident.

The 35-year-old daredevil is a far cry from the flabby, balding man pictured by Phones4u.

Gwyn said: "Bear Grylls is the youngest chief scout ever. We are a young person's organisation, and we have a lot of young volunteers." And, as Gwyn herself proves, scouting isn't just for boys. The movement became co-educational in 1991 and now has just as many girls signing up each year.

"We believe that males and females should work side by side," said Gwyn. "About 15% of our members are girls now, with more signing up all the time." She added: "There is something for everyone..

If you can think of it, there's a badge for it.

"All the traditional hairy-chest adventure is still there, but there are also chances for young people to sing and dance at the Gang Shows." Up-coming events for the region's scouts include survival weekends, a camp to mark the centenary of scouting in the area, and even entry into the Tall Ships race. …

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