Purpleman is preparing to leave his peaceful Stonegate pitch and cycle into war-torn Syria. But he won’t be alone. Winnie The Pooh and Nemo will be going in with him.
Touched by the plight of children who are the victims of the violent civil conflict, the York street performer is to take 1,000 soft toys over there to give them some hope and happiness.
Fully aware that the British foreign office “advise against all travel to Syria” owing to the “full scale military operations involving the use of small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft” he is determined to go anyway.
“If we listened to everything the government told us to do this would be a very boring place,” he said.
“Those children deserve some smiles and love, just like our children do.”
Purpleman is best known for sitting motionless on his purple bike on Stonegate and claims to be the most photographed cyclist in the world.
In March the Pyramid Gallery on Stonegate held an exhibition of his art, For The Love Of Purple.
Owner Terry Brett is now collecting soft toys for the Syrian mission at the gallery – all donations welcome.
His daughter Susie lives in Turkey, within 13 miles of the Syrian border. It is Purpleman’s plan to fly out there where he will pick up a new purple trailer and bike (the one he uses in York is 40 years old and has two flat tyres).
He then plans to cycle across the border into Syria. Purpleman said it would be too risky to give away any planned route or destination, although he would like to get to Aleppo.
The largest city in Syria, it has been the site of some of the fiercest fighting. Many lives have been lost and ancient buildings including Great Mosque of Aleppo destroyed.
“Imagine York Minster being reduced to rubble,” he said. “No Shambles, no Stonegate, no shops. Fear of going out.
“You can’t imagine what it would be like here. We live in paradise but don’t really appreciate it.”
Photographs: Richard McDougall. Click on an image to see it full size
How the idea began
Purpleman first hatched the idea of the trip when a man who had fled Syria and now lives in Harrogate encountered him on Stonegate.
The man, who “had lost some members of his family”, has since has given him lots of advice and guidance about the trip.
Purpleman stands out in colourful Stonegate, let alone Syria. But he is hoping “even the bad men have children” and will recognise his mission is all about peace and love.
Does he fear for his safety? “I’m not focusing on anything negative at all.”