Petition calling for rainbow bows to be returned to Hebburn Cemetery tops 1,400 signatures - as council denies removal claims

A petition calling for the rainbow bows at Hebburn Cemetery to be reinstalled has received more than 1,000 signatures – but the council says it never asked for the decorations to be removed.

There has been an ‘outcry’ in Hebburn after rainbow bows which were tied to the gates of the cemetery were moved to Hebburn Sports Club.

However, the council has denied ever having requested that the bows and decorations be taken down.

Pictures of the bows on Hebburn Cemetery gates. Bottom left: John Stewart.

A council spokesperson said: “The council has not taken a decision to remove or relocate the display.

“Earlier this week, both South Tyneside Council and the Friends of Hebburn Cemetery were made aware of a number of complaints by users of the cemetery. These were in relation to the number of decorations that had been placed at the cemetery gates and entrance.

“Both parties discussed the volume and tone of the decoration and the council and Friends group agreed to adapt, but not remove the display. It was agreed that a display would still be in place but that it would strike the balance and aims to reflect the expectations of many cemetery users for quiet reflection, whilst showing continued support for our Key Workers.

“Subsequently, the Chair of the Friends of Hebburn Cemetery approached the neighbouring football club to take the full display which is where it was relocated. The council had not taken a decision to remove or relocate the display.”

The display has been moved to Hebburn Sports Club

But John Stewart, chairman of the friends group, says he was told to take the bows down from the gates and says the council had suggested he decorate the waiting shelter inside the cemetery.

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“I explained to them exactly what the bows meant and that I didn’t think the people of Hebburn would be happy,” said John.

“They said they’d received complaints about the bows on the gates and suggested we decorate the waiting shelter instead.

The council has denied forcing the bows be taken down.

“I told them to leave it with me and that’s when I got in touch with the sports club.

“I don’t think they had realised the extent of the public outcry about this.”

John says after he was told to remove the bows he contacted the sports club who were happy to hang the rainbow tribute there.

A spokesman for Hebburn Town FC posted on Facebook: “After hearing that our neighbours at Hebburn Cemetery were forced to remove the rainbow ribbons from the gates the club along with Hebburn Sports Club have made the grand gesture in the name of all our frontline workers and NHS friends.”

In less than 24 hours, more than 1,400 people have signed an online petition to get them reinstalled at the cemetery.

Helen Stoker, who set up the petition, says the response shows how strongly the town feels about the bows.

“I’m just a lass from Hebburn, to get this many signatures in less than 24 hours, it’s overwhelming.

“I feel it proves a point, in my opinion, that one, or a few people’s, complaints don’t speak for all of the town.”

The 45-year-old added: “It’s about uplifting people, this is a horrible time – do we really want children having nothing but horrible memories about it.

“I’m so glad the people of Hebburn are as amazing as they are. I just think it’s an amazing community to have support. Even if this doesn’t go our way it shows we are all there for each other.”

The grandmother has also thanked Karen Collins, who has been creating the bows, Friends of Hebburn Cemetery, Hebburn Sports Club, and NHS and key workers.

The council spokesman said: “We thank residents for showing their support for key workers.

“It is always difficult to strike the right balance with issues relating to our cemeteries and we thank everyone for their comments.

“The council is working with the volunteers to ensure any mark of respect is fitting, is sensitive and can remain in place during these unprecedented times.”

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