About me: teacher, lecturer & tutu-clad long-distance dancer

My story is probably best represented by this short film.  It encapsulates all my dancing adventures right up until the point I started dancing my merry way across the USA in 2018.

Edited Life Highlights

(for the more complete picture!)

I wanted (and received) a wheelbarrow for my fourth birthday.  I was always an outdoors kind of person.

For my seventh birthday I held a penguin party where attendees (and my dad) had to dress up as penguins.  I liked dressing up.

On discovering the plight of the tropical rainforests in the late eighties, at my middle school I helped to co-ordinate a fundraising campaign to protect 40 acres of Belizian rainforest.  I loved every minute of working for a cause I believed in.

In 1991 I moved from Newport Pagnell in Milton Keynes to Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire.  It helped to get rid of some of my shyness.

In 1995 I travelled out to Romania with a group of sixth form students and our school.  We collected donations from our local community and drove out there.  It was my first experience of seeing people in real need.

I became the equivalent of Head Boy at my secondary school in 1996. I messed up my A-levels that year through a combination of (thinking I was) falling in love and the social and self-esteem effects of really bad acne.  It brought me down a peg or two.

At the same time I had been running the school ‘stationery shack’ for half a year – selling discounted stationery and, on the side, things that definitely wouldn’t pass a school’s healthy eating policy.  We had queues longer than the official school dinner queue.  The head teacher came up to me one day and said ‘what are you going to do with all your energy?’  I love a good project to get my teeth into.

In the summer of 1996 I cycled from John o’Groats to Land’s End in 10 days, unsupported, to raise further funds for Romania.  Despite forgetting my walkman and having to sing to myself to make it up the hills, I had discovered a love of challenge and adventure.

I realised I loved dancing at a school prom at the Limpley Stoke Hotel at the end of the sixth form.  I danced all night and loved every minute.

I took a year out in 1997 to retake those A-levels, raise funds for a Romanian street children’ centre and travel back out to Romania.  The fundraising didn’t go well – I organised a fashion show which never materialised and I lost a lot of my own money.  It’s a failure that’s motivated me ever since.

I went to the University of Durham from 1997 to 2000 and secured a first in BA Sport in the Community.  I initially wanted to become famous through being really good at a sport, and use my fame to change the world.  Unfortunately I wasn’t that good.  In the first year I donated my student loan to help pay for that street children’s centre – I was ridden with a lot of guilt about that fashion show.

I studied an MA in Development Studies at the University of East Anglia in 2000/01 after spending a year raising awareness of Fairtrade among schools across Wiltshire.

I hung around in Norwich for a couple of years afterwards – working in a convenience store, becoming a baker in a supermarket, living on a boat on the Norfolk Broads and co-ordinating a university campaign to promote Fairtrade throughout Norwich using (wait for it) dance – called the Fairtrade Funkathon.

After deciding teaching was the career for me, in 2004/5 I spent a year working as a teacher in Mae La Oon refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border.

In 2005/06 I returned and became a qualified teacher in London. During my training year I organised a 100-mile charity walk through the night with my good friends Ian and Aimee.  We called it ‘Nightstrider’ – and it reminded me of my love of physical challenge.

In 2006 I got myself my first ‘proper job’.  I began working as a Citizenship teacher at an inner-city comprehensive called Deptford Green School in New Cross, South-East London.

In 2007 my teaching was rate outstanding by OFSTED when they came to inspect the school.  That was nice of them, but in truth I was very lucky – they happened to come to my class during a particularly good 20 minutes featuring a filmed lesson introduction, voting pods, a class simulation of The Weakest Link and lots of ice cream.

In 2010 I found out that one of my best friends from my time working in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border had died. I quit my job to set up a charity (LearnBurma) to raise awareness of Burma among young people in the UK.  This led to me using dance as a means to symbolise the freedom we have but which is denied to so many worldwide.  I also began working part-time as a tutor on the Citizenship PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education.

In 2011 I began training to set a world record for the world’s longest dance – part of which meant that in April of that year I took on the London Marathon, and became the first person to dance every step of it.

Later that year I danced the world’s longest ever dance at The Scoop at More London on the banks of the Thames in central London – 5 days, 15 hours of non-stop dancing.  7000 people came along to dance with me and much fun was had (despite the pain).  We raised over £40,000 for LearnBurma.

In 2013 I reached Land’s End after dancing the full length of Britain from John o’Groats – 1,350 miles of dancing interrupted only after being run down by a drunk driver 200 miles from the finish.  In total we raised more than £100,000 for a range of charities working to make Burma freer and fairer – including the Burma Campaign UK, Amnesty International, Partner’s Relief and Development and Prospect Burma. The hit and run had brought me considerable media attention and on the day I was known as ‘crash dance man’ on the BBC News homepage!

Between 2014 and 2016 I became Subject Leader for the Citizenship PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education, got injured a lot, fell in love, bought my first house and got engaged to be married (so there wasn’t a lot of time left for dancing!).

In 2017 I underwent surgery for an unknown knee problem. It spurred me into wanting to dance again – who knows how long we’ll have left to do the things we love?

In October 2017 I announced that henceforth all my dancing adventures will raise funds for Anti-Slavery International. They work to end all forms of modern-day slavery – one of the biggest evils and most searing injustices of the modern world, which reaches into every corner of that world. I believe that everyone should have the fundamental freedoms and rights to be able to chase their own dreams – it is an indictment of our economics, politics and societal priorities that globally 40 million people cannot call themselves free.

In January 2018 I was listed on the New Year Honours list, receiving a British Empire Medal (BEM) for ‘services to dance and charity’.  It means I can put the letters BEM after my name, which, given my first name, turns me into the male version of BAMBAM from the Flintstones.

In late March 2018 I began the next leg of my dance around the world – a 4,000-km dance across the USA from LA to New York City. I had to fit it around my day job back in London so the idea was to complete it in chunks during my holidays.  I began in Santa Monica following Route 66 and danced up into the middle of California’s Hi Desert.

That summer I was back and ready to take on my biggest solo challenge – continuing to Dance America solo but this time through the Mojave desert in the middle of summer, and then on through the mountains, thunderstorms and off-roading of Arizona. I made it a total of 700+ miles to Gallup in New Mexico, raising circa £10,000 in the process, and CNN made a great little film about my exploits.

In 2019 I took a break from America to get married to the love of my life Trishna. I did manage though to squeeze in a charitable dancing escapade as I led a plucky entourage of friends and family in a dance all the way up England and Wales’ highest mountain for my ‘Snowdon Summit Shuffle’ stag-do!

Copyright © Ben Hammond 2022