With the United Kingdom mired in the second week of an unprecedented lockdown over the COVID-19 outbreak, Andrew Baldock, a children’s martial arts teacher in England, and his friend, Jason Baird, had an idea.
“I’ve had [the Spider-Man costume] for ages because I used to work in retail. I used to work in computer games so when games were released I would always go in dressed up so I have been various characters throughout the years from Batman to Darth Vader,” said Baldock.
Not shy about dressing up, he has even put on the Spider-Man outfit a few times before while teaching his martial arts classes which has always been a hit with the kids.
This led to the idea of both Baldock and Baird using their one hour of allotted exercise time per day under the current U.K. government guidelines to don their costumes to try and cheer kids up who are bored and stuck inside.
“As soon as you put the outfit on, you kind of forget who you are. You just become the character. You just unleash the inner child,” said Baldock who has now been going for hour long runs around different neighborhoods in the city of Stockport, England, for more than a week.
Their Spider-Man runs have become so popular, they have become known as “Stockport Spider-Man” and there is even a social media group on Facebook of more than 1,000 people – and growing by the day -- who have been putting in requests for them to come to their neighborhoods for a visit.
“It’s fantastic. Absolutely fantastic,” said Baldock. “It makes it worthwhile. You get a little bit hot, a little bit sweaty in it. You’re running around and you’ve got a mask but you don’t even think about how uncomfortable you might be in it because you go around and you just see these families and they are just happy. It is what we need. Right now it is what we need. Definitely warms your heart.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has killed 179 people and infected more than 22,000 across the United Kingdom so far.
But their Spider-Man runs have snowballed quickly with hundreds of comments and requests on their Facebook page.
“[The kids] jump up and down shouting ‘Spider-Man, Spider-Man,’ waving, big smiles on faces. Just joy, which is fantastic because I think we all need a bit of joy at the moment,” said Baldock.
Louise Stockton’s son Dexter dressed in his own Spider-Man costume when the Stockport Spider-Man paid the Stockton family a visit.
“Today we saw Spider-Man and Spider-Man cheered us up,” said Dexter as his mother said this is now the third week they have been stuck under quarantine.
But It isn’t just the kids who are getting a kick out of seeing Spider-Man running the streets either.
Said Baldock: “I have had lots of adults beaming and laughing and I am going to see an elderly lady tomorrow who has been going through chemo and she has requested a visit from Spider-Man so I will be waving to her as well.”
Spider-Man, being the superhero that he is, also makes sure to follow strict social distancing guidelines while the U.K continues to battle the coronavirus outbreak.
“Spiderman follows strict government guidelines when out and about and always keeps social distancing in place. When you see him please shout from your window but do not come outside,” the Stockport Spider-Man Facebook page says.
When asked what he wants to get out of all of this, however, Baldock was clear.
“Just a moment where [the kids] can forget they are stuck inside, a little bit of excitement for them. Just a moment in what otherwise might be a dreary day.”
As Spider-Man fans know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Said Baldock: “There is nothing like helping the community.”
Matt Graveling contributed to this report.