By HARRIET ARKELL
City workers and tourists did a double take this morning as a giant 50ft-tall rubber duck sailed up the Thames.
The bright yellow duck, weighing half a ton, looked quite at home amongst the shiny towers of the City as it set sail on its mission to make people laugh in the capital today.
It was launched to publicise a new £250,000 bursary designed to encourage people in the UK to have more fun.
The oversized bath toy was launched from West India Dock in the Isle of Dogs, east London, at 8.30 this morning.
It floated along the Thames past the O2, the glittering towers of Canary Wharf, and on towards Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast as part of a publicity stunt organised by a website.
Former Carry On and EastEnders actress Barbara Windsor, who saw the duck off at West India Dock is patron of Jackpotjoy.com's new Facebook FUNdation, part of a marketing campaign to grant funds to people who have good ideas to make people laugh.
She said: 'We thought a giant rubber duck floating down the River Thames was a great way to kick the FUNdation off, and it definitely raised a smile and a chuckle from everyone who saw it.
'After the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant, the floating Olympic rings and David Beckham jetting into the Olympic opening ceremony, the Thames really has seen it all this year.
'The giant duck was a perfect way to round it all off and it certainly cheered everyone up.
'No one could suppress a smile as they saw it sailing past on its way to HMS Belfast.'
Miss Windsor, who is patron of the FUNdation, said she hoped the duck stunt would encourage people to come up with their own ideas.
'We now want people to send us their own entries of wacky things they'd like to do, and we'll provide funding for the best ones.'
A team of eight people spent more than 800 man-hours cutting and welding together the parts for the duck to ensure it was airtight before it took to the water this morning.
Michael Saunders, managing director of Jackpotjoy.com, said: 'We want to make sure we get the laughter quota back where it belongs and are hoping the FUNdation will help people have some daft fun.