Random Acts of Kindness

Here's a link to an interview that student Jade Wight created whilst studying Radio Production at the University of Westminster. As part of her final project she created a 15minute radio documentary on random acts of kindness, which included an interview about Random Huggers.

random acts of kindness documentary

Random Huggers Day 2004 (the first one)

Big Issue, May 10 - 16 2004

Big Issue photo "You donít want to hug me - you donít know where Iíve been" exclaims a Covent Garden street cleaner as a young woman who was a complete stranger moments before tries to throw her arms around him. As he surrenders and she takes him in her arms for an unfeasibly large bear hug, he adds grinning: "These overalls are minging."
Nearby, a Big Issue vendor is watching in amazement as a group of around thirty people in matching T-shirts attempt to embrace bewildered and bashful members of the great British public on a rainy, cold Saturday morning.
"What are they doing this for?" the bemused cleaner asks no one in particular, and pauses briefly before passing judgment,"Itís brilliant."
Random Huggers Day, the brainchild of Mayella Johnstone (now Reynolds), a life coach from Collier's Wood, took place for the first time ever in London on May 1.
Johnstone was inspired to launch the event after hearing a presenter on London radio bemoan the fact you could find random terrorists on the streets "but not random huggers."I thought what a brilliant idea," the 47-year-old recalls. "It really tickled me to think of a group of people offering hugs on the streets of London, so I got together with a few friends and we created Random Huggers Day."
The day begins at 10am, when a disparate group ranging in age from seven to 76, and including students, administrators, and corporate strategists, arrive in Neal Street for "training".
They are visibly nervous as one of the organizers, Frank Jay, formally demonstrates how hugs are to be administered and volunteers role-play offering, giving and receiving.
It is only after some time that any of the would-be-huggers is brave enough to ask the question that must be troubling many: what to do if someone tells you to fuck off.
The answer - to smile, say 'thank you' and move on - clearly puts a few minds at rest and the team excitedly fan out in search of prey.
Claire Spillman, 22, a theatre technician and amateur trapeze artiste, explained her reasons for joining up: "There's so much meanness in the world and the hug is such a small but powerful thing you can do to make people feel better. Everyone wants a hug, they just might not know it yet!"
Frank Walsh, 42, an administrator at Kings College, has a background in mental health.
"Eye contact and physical contact both play a big part in people's well being and I want to encourage people to be a bit friendlier to one another," he says. "To start with there may be suspicion and even fear of what we're doing but we will overcome this. "Anything that makes the world a more friendly and less fearful place is valuable."
Minutes after the hugging has started, even the staunchest of hug-rejecters is finding it hard to argue. Ichane Frťdťric, 27, a chef from Rťunion in the Indian Ocean watched long and hard before submitting. "I resisted for a long time because I didn't know who this woman was, but I feel better now," he says. "Everybody needs hugs every day - it could bring world peace, it's amazing."
Simon, Big Issue vendor no. 4765, and another grateful recipient of a hug, is amazed by the scenes unfolding in front of his pitch opposite the Miss Sixty clothes shop.
"It's brightened my day up," he says. "A hug is one of the best things you can do for another person. I'm not going to try and join them though, there's only so far I can push my charm!"
Unlike other members of the public, teenagers Dane and Luke are totally unfazed by the offer of a hug "we get girls asking to hug us all the time" they claim. They deem the experience "weird, but alright."
Eva Campbell, singer songwriter and hugger, is delighted at the reactions she is getting. "We donít have to be related to people to build bridges between us - this is really working. Maybe we can inspire people to carry it over into their own lives."
Mayella photo But however much goodwill the team spread, a small percentage passers-be remain resolutely unmoved. Those who actually verbalise their rejection, like the woman who sneers: "Iím not into any of that cheesy rubbish" are in the minority, the others, in the best English tradition, fix their eyes to the ground, quicken their step, and mutter a polite "no thank you" in an embarrassed fashion. But the overwhelming response is positive, incredibly after an hour-and-a-half the 1015 stickers Johnstone thought would be "plenty" have run out. "It's amazing," she exclaims. "The British are melting."
By the time event is drawing to a close at 2pm, up to 3,000 hugs have been distributed, the harshest knock-back of the day has been "go away", and those who spurned the offer of a hug are sheepishly admitting it might be their own problem.
Steve Williams and his friend Phil Mooney have been watching from a pub window. "It's cool. I wish we could do what their doing but we haven't even got the balls to go and get a hug," they say. The whole group of huggers are elated with how the day has gone. "I'm speechless, it's extraordinary how the whole thing has captured people's imaginations," Johnstone says breathlessly. "Once they get over their initial reaction against stopped in the street, people really did enjoy it."
And ten-year-old Nathaniel Baker, is still glowing at the memory of lifting someoneís spirits. "One man we asked was on the way to his auntís funeral " being hugged made him really happy and you could see he really, really appreciated it. "I asked mum if I could join in because I thought it would be fun and it has been, Iíll definitely be back next year."
Later, after the group have retired to a nearby pub to relive their triumph, Johnstone spells out her plans for the future. Having had queries how to take the event to Luxembourg, Belgium and the USA, she is optimistic the seed for a worldwide movement has been planted. "If people want to believe we're just a bunch of hippies and that this was pointless that's fine, but I know different, the volunteers know different, and the thousands of people we hugged today know different.
It's sad because the people who refused to be hugged are probably the ones who need it most, it takes a lot of courage to open up and offer or accept a hug with a stranger.
Only love can conquer fear and at the moment there's not enough love in the world, and we want to mend that."
Mayella Johnstone is seeking sponsorship for the 2005 event from individuals or businesses.