Humbug Bear breaths a breath of fresh air into Fleet Library

When the call went out to ‘please look after these bears’ the community of Fleet stepped up and Fleet library is now the home of the hugely popular Humbug the bear statue.

Humbug, so named because of his black and white stripes, was designed by Ant and Dec. He is one of 50 unique Paddington Bear statues designed by a variety of celebrities and public figures. Prior to Christmas they could be found taking up prominent positions in London close to museums, parks, shops and key landmarks, many of which were Paddington’s favourite places. The bears were auctioned off and raised more than £950,000 for the Children’s Charity the NSPCC, Childline and Action Medical research.

Ant and Dec  (Photo by Dan Matthews of DM Photography)

Henry Douthwaite, a local actor, came up with the idea of buying one of the bears and, as a result, the auction captured the imagination of the people of Fleet. Businesses, locals and schools, through various fund raising events, raised the £6,500 needed to buy Humbug.

After the Fleet community voted that Humbug should live in the library, award winning TV entertainers Ant and Dec themselves appeared in Fleet on 29 April, to unveil him and welcome him to the town.

Visitors come to see him from far and wide and his residence in the library has seen an increased footfall of more than 200 people at weekends, and #humbugselfie on Twitter (@FleetLibrary and @BearHumbug), has seen hundreds of people take photos of themselves with their beloved bear. In addition, a large quantity of Paddington books have been issued introducing a new generation to the adventures of Paddington Bear, and people who have not previously been members of the library are joining up and borrowing books.

Mr Douthwaite said: “I floated the idea of the community buying a bear. Enough people convinced me it was a good idea so I set up a fundraising page. It was only supposed to be a bit of fun, I didn't think we'd do it! Eight days to raise £4,000 in my experience is nigh on impossible. It was thanks to the schools that word spread and we went over and above to raise £5,500 and thankfully we continued raising afterwards. The charity aspect of it is what matters and shows the strength and generosity of the Fleet area!!”

                                                         Sally Hamerton

Sally Hamerton, Library Assistant at Fleet Library and Learning Centre, and guardian of Humbug, said: “I have to say, when I finally saw Ant and Dec on the stage I wanted to shed a tear as I couldn’t believe that we had pulled it off. The looks of the faces of the children was something I will never forget! Fleet really is a remarkable place to live and work. The community spirit is something quite unlike anything I have experienced in any other town and am incredibly proud to be a part of it. Humbug represents everything that is possible when a community works together.”

Mr Douthwaite added: “The first time I went to the library to see him settled gave me a lump in my throat, just to see his popularity, what he's given to the community and the fact that Library attendance and the numbers now registering is all a bonus and has actually given impetus to want to do more with him. We have charity screenings of Paddington planned and he's bound to sit somewhere in the carnival.”

Councillor Keith Chapman, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, said: “It is wonderful that the people of Fleet chose the library to be Humbug’s home and I am pleased his presence has captured people’s imaginations and encouraging more people into the library, especially those who had not been to the library before.
“Hampshire’s libraries are the epitome of modern, vibrant community spaces which encourage and promote high visitor numbers. We are honoured that the community of Fleet chose the library to be the permanent home of Humbug.”