October 9, 2018

Part 1: We are the World Record Holders for the Worlds Longest Group Hug! a positive protest at inactivity on the homelessness crisis in the UK

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A little late, but here’s my account of our World record breaking hug marathon, which we undertook just before Xmas in 2017 to raise awareness for the ever increasing homelessness crisis in the UK – and to promote our effort to bring communities together to support societies most vulnerable ourselves, as the UK government is ignoring them.

Everyone can get involved and find effective ways to help people who are homeless near them to begin building a better future on The Brighter Tomorrow Map


1) Is it an official World Record?
a) Maybe. Our main camera our GoPro was on low quality to save space, and the quality makes it difficult to see the clock. If anyone is good enough to clean the footage up and make the clock visible, then we can submit it, although it looks too poor to recover. You can see it, and the witness statements here. The record was always secondary to meeting politicians and raising awareness, and we all know we smashed the previous record.

2) A Protest, Doesn’t Focallocal Advocate Exploring Positive Alternatives to Protesting?
a) Generally yes, although we can totally get behind protests which are using positivity to draw attention to an issue. Positive Action is our hook, and the ‘hugging’ added enough positivity to make it fit (just) within our normal activities.. honestly, i was just soo frustrated living through another winter of complete inaction to solve this government created humanitarian crisis that i had to feel i was doing something.

Background and Prep:

More than 300,000 people in Britain – equivalent to one in every 200 are considered homeless according the the charity Shelter. Unless you went to a very small (or posh) school, someone you went to school with is currently on that list.

I decided i had to make a statement to try and be heard. Dealing with something that emotes so much anger in a positive way to fit with our communities ethos was difficult, in the end i found 2 brave volunteers to join me outside the Houses of Parliament and to stand together in a group hug for 36hrs so they’d all have to pass us and see our message as they went home to their warm houses for the Xmas break

…Giving us just 3 weeks to plan everything. It was a crazy few weeks!

It was insanely short notice, but i just couldn’t stand seeing another Xmas go past with politicians doing absolutely nothing about the catastrophic levels of homelessness which the UN describes as a ‘crisis’ in breach of our countries commitments to human rights. A Humanitarian Crisis which the government has created in complete neglect of their responsibility to look after the most vulnerable in our society.

We wrote to as many politicians as we could find and invited them to come and talk to us about why this issue was being ignored, tried to get media coverage. As normal in today’s ‘pay to play’ media world we got very few replies. A few news stations offered to come down but non showed up in the end.

The biggest challenge was that Guinness don’t want people breaking their records. Let me re-phrase that, Guinness don’t want people breaking their records without paying them a lot of money.. of course, like everything these days money is what they are interested in, meaning a volunteer community exploring alternatives to fundraising to create change like Focallocal have no chance.

They wanted 2 professionally trained time keepers there, with each only allowed to do 2hrs total. 36 x 2, that’s 72 professionally trained time keepers. Unless The UK Referees’ Association joined in (i did ask), or we paid Guinness ££thousands££ that wasn’t going to happen, so we knew going in our attempt might be rejected.

We decided just to find the 72 volunteers from our community and film everything, in the hope they approved it anyway. Tbh, we were there for the cause rather than the record so it wasn’t essential anyway. That was the hardest part of the hug.. rather than resting up i found myself getting 9hrs sleep over the last 5 days. I reasoned that would be fine so long as i slept 10hrs the day before.. that it turns out was a huge mistake, last minute panics about volunteers and reporters, with my phone buzzing all night i ended up getting 3 hrs, then grabbed the big box of supplies with the car battery and power inverter and rushed onto the tube to get there in time.

Part 2: The Hug Day 1

Also published on Medium.

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