In the news - Ben Hammond

21st January 2011 at 00:00

Ben, 32, lectures one day a week on the PGCE course at the Institute of Education. He spends the rest of his time fundraising and raising awareness of the situation in Burma. This September, he plans to break a Guinness World Record and dance for five days to raise money for the country. For the next three months he will tour schools, dance groups and youth clubs.

Why dancing?

"I wanted to do something that was open to mass participation. I thought about our freedoms, what we enjoy that the people of Burma can't, and I thought dancing. I love to dance, but I've always been rubbish at it. I looked at the Guinness World Records, at the dancing, and thought, I can't do any of those challenges, so instead I'm going to dance for ages, really badly."

Happy feet?

"I'm dancing for 125 hours with just a five-minute break every hour. That's it. The challenge will be in central London this September. For the next three months, I plan to visit two schools a day, doing an hour-long talk on the challenge. It's more like a show - I involve the audience, get them participating. I show them different films of dance, tell them how the flashmob started - by one guy at a festival who got everyone else dancing with him - and then I tell them about Burma. I'm dancing the London marathon in April, which will kickstart the campaign."

What triggered your interest in Burma?

"It all started three years ago when I took a year out to get teaching experience. In that year I got involved in Burma-related things, including working with teachers in Burma. Then I got a teaching job at Deptford Green School in London. We ran campaigns about the country and the students started to lobby Parliament. It was then, in 2008, that I realised there was something in this. So I set up a charity, Learn Burma. This month, we gained registered charity status."

Biggest eye-opener?

"I remember, on my first night in Burma, I was staying in a refugee camp and was woken by chanting. It was very bizarre but I later found out it was the students chanting as they learnt for their exams, reading out what they had been taught. If we could link schools up, there is so much to learn from each other."

How are you selling it?

"I show photos of my time in Burma to the kids and I have a Facebook page. On my tour I'm encouraging whole-school flashmobs, street dancers and Thriller dances. I want everyone to join me on a five-day festival of dance. It's a different take on the issues of Burma - it's not depressing despite it being a depressing subject, and the concept of dancing for Burma makes it more upbeat."

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