London Bridge

Free Hugs Friday a First at London BridgeA warm early evening in London, what better way to spend it then to offer free hugs to everyone on and around London Bridge? The guerrilla team settled them selves at the corner of Duke Hill Street and London Bridge and awaited the approach of people wanting hugs. A good point was raised by someone on Twitter who was watching us:

“I’m watching you at London Bridge. I see no gorillas, and you’re not forcing hugs on people – your name is terrible! ;)”


I replied:

The Big Squeeze“Why thank you! Come & have a hug!”


“I’m enjoying watching the terrified/confused looks on most peoples faces WAY more!”

He was right lots of people look worried, curious, suspicious as they pass us by, is this because we have created a culture of fear? Considering how important touch is and how difficult for some people to give or receive touch is, we are mindful in how we approach ‘free hugs’, I suppose the bigger concern is that touch or comforting children at school is off limits, is this a form of neglect? I would argue that the children, older people, those in care of any sort need touch from people other than medical interventions. Instinctively comforting another human being is an important part of building communities, generating loyalty and bonding behaviours, reducing aggression and increasing human thriving.

We can all make a difference by reaching out to others, being open to connection and by challenging inhuman policies.

Although lots of people didn’t stop for a hug on Friday, rushing for the train etc the one thing that we always notice is that people smile, laugh and something shifts. We don’t need to jump on people, dress as gorillas or even get one hug when we do guerrilla hugs if we have a positive effect on one person’s day then that’s good enough. Although in fairness I love the idea of dressing as a gorilla and hugging people – if you know anyone who has a beautiful gorilla suit – not those nasty plastic smelly ones – please let me know!

RSA Events – Flourish

Martin Seligman the author of Flourish and one of the people who coined the term Positive Psychology gave a talk on the aspects of his book on the 6th July 2011 at the RSA. The room was packed and the event was podcast live. The RSA always put on great events, this one is close to my heart. I am familiar with Seligman’s work, his early research into learned helplessness led him to developing learned optimism, and evolving more of a balance within the psychology field more emphasis on flourishing rather than repairing or fixing problems.

Flourish – Can you flourish without touch?

Seligman manages to explore human flourishing without actually exploring human touch, this I find disappointing, how can people thrive or flourish without physical contact?

Martin Seligman gets a Hug at the RSA On the 2nd July in Newcastle Under Lyme some first time huggers got busy offering free hugs in the town centre. A new outpost of Guerrilla Huggers has now been formed. I travelled with a friend who has been an observer of our hugs before but had never offered free hugs. She was still unsure as to whether she would hug or not. When we arrived she decided to go for it, what happened had a significant impact on her mood and shifted her well being up a few notches.

Newcastle Under Lyme Hugs

As she was offering hugs her confidence grew, she smiled more, her stature was different and everything seemed to flow. Then an older man stopped for a hug, she duly hugged him, he said “I so miss being held, I haven’t had a hug since my wife died”. They stood chatting about the importance of touch and how to find ways of getting more platonic touch in life, it’s the one thing that everyone steers clear of and yet everyone needs touch in their life to thrive. I am writing this here to illustrate the need for positive psychology, policy makers and people in general to start recognising the obvious need to create safe touch in everyday life for people who live alone of any age, for people in care homes and hospitals to receive touch other than medical interventions. Since my friend came hugging she reports a significant shift in her own well being, she feels happier and life feels better for her, could it be that by giving hugs you increase your own well being by intention?

Man Hugs

I asked Seligman about the exclusion of touch from the notion of human flourishing, he agreed there is a need for more research into touch – you can listen here I ask it right at the end. Where does touch sit in the notion of human rights? The right to have connections with meaning and purpose not based on fear?


Guerrilla Hugs Newcastle Under Lyme

Sat July 2nd 2011 was international Free Hugs day as set by the original Free Hugger ‘Juan Mann’ so we brought Guerrilla Hugs to Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire. It was the first time we had done free hugs so were supported by Guerrilla Hugs Navigator who very kindly agreed to travel from London to show us how it’s done.

Come Here Give Us a Squeeze

It was an amazing heart-opening experience which left me on a high for days after. We hugged all ages & were especially delighted at how many young people were happy to give & receive hugs. Even those who weren’t confident enough to have a hug were smiling as they watched. A local shop keeper came out with lovely fudge to share; the sun shone brightly, we all felt very blessed. Here are some of the comments from both huggers & the huggees!


“It was amazing – a real heart opening experience; I was on a high for days after!

“It was fantastic – I would love to do it again!

“It was a joyous experience…. Just like one big family hugging each other.”

“It was quite challenging being so open & being turned down by some people, but it felt as though we’d changed the energy of the space after an hour”.


Give One Get One Free GOGOF

“I loved the hugs day and couldn’t stop smiling about it for the rest of the day. I was amazed by the number of children who were sent over by their parents for hugs – so lovely in this ‘do not touch’ society we have now – when I taught in infant and primary schools we were not permitted to hug a child!! It was also lovely to see the onlookers, who were too shy to approach us, walk by with a smile on their faces. The happy feel good energy was palpable in Newcastle that day.”

Saturday Shopping Hugs


“It’s so important to spread some love.”

Hugging is Good!

“I’ve just spent £600 so I really need a hug!”

One lady said she didn’t want a hug as ‘it would make me cry’

One bloke sat on a bench who refused a hug but said ‘I’m just enjoying watching your antics’!!’

A business man coming out from the bank in a suit who said ‘How can I resist that?!’

Several elderly ladies who said ‘that was lovely, I haven’t had a hug like that since my husband died’

Hug to the Left to the Left!

“I had some lovely comments, but the resounding comment was that we should do it more often. One lady said we should do it every week. Another said it should be on the NHS, particularly for lonely elderly people.”

One elderly lady said “Where are the beefy men?”

One elderly guy asked “Will you marry me?”


Guerrilla Hugs – Picnic

Hello Huggers & Friends!

We are going to be offering free hugs on the 15th May and after having a picnic! If you would like to come email: for details!

Double Hugging – Check out the girl running in for a hug in the background! Lovely!

We will only have 5/6 dedicated huggers but everyone is welcome to come to have a hug and join in the picnic!

Happy Saturday night!


South Bank Hugs!

Hugs for Free!

A serendipitous meeting at Brick lane with the film’s director, maker and driving force Menelik Shabazz resulted in a dream come true for me, I was to be in the same room as Janet Kay the singer of, yes, my all time top favourite tune Silly Games! Not only that but to have some intelligent conversation with Menelik about the importance of touch and hugs in relation to a whole music genre that I personally love and recognise to be at the forefront of breaking down racial barriers. Wow is really an understatement!

I’m not hugging – I’ll jut take photos! Yeah – right Phil!

Saturday 9th April a gloriously sunny day, Guerrilla Huggers met at the riverside bar to discuss our hugging in support of Lovers Rock The Film. So there we are discussing the rules, boundaries and expectations of free hugs, excited and thrilled to be able to endorse an inspirational documentary, that may reignite the whole Lovers Rock scene.


Sunshine Hugs!

Our team Levi, Jazzy, Paula, Paula (yes that’s two Paula’s), Phil, Maren, Maymay, Livia, Kris, Phil, Kym, Imelda, Lynsey and photographer Clara Copley! All at ready!


People watched, hovered round the edges, smiled politely and some even came in for a hug! Young men on their bikes doing tricks came in for hugs, small children got stickers and hugs,

Pretty in Pink!

people chatted as they looked on and some of our huggers even had queues forming, young women, older women and others made a b-line for Kris! Phil “I’m not hugging” grabbed a free hugs board and started hugging, converted he has vowed to come along and do more free hugs. As I looked up I was amazed at how many people were watching, taking photos and video clips and smiling, even without being hugged they were able to get some joy from the free hugs.


Group Hugs!

Many photos were taken by my trusty camera, alas iPhoto crashed and I lost them, if anyone knows how to find my lost images please get in touch! Images taken on the day by Clara Copley are great and we really appreciate her support!


Next hugs at the Action for Happiness launch event!

The Choir With No Name – Brick Lane

By Jenny – First Time Guerrilla Hugger!

Brick Lane The Hugging Mile?

Not long ago… A good friend of mine – Amandeep, told me about this crazy idea of giving out free hugs on Carnaby Street, and that I should come along…. and I thought… naaaaah… your alright you crazy woman… i’ll join you afters for a beer though?

It had been one of those very long days at work… that was thankfully behind me, the walk to Carnaby Street cleared my head, and I was sure that a pint would go down a treat. But you know what? I got more than I bargained for when I turned up to find a group of folks surrounded in a buzz of laughter, happiness, and hugs.

For the rest of the evening (apart from when we decided to kill the karaoke machine in some unknown joint in Soho) I listened to the Guerrilla Navigator and her team talk about Guerilla Hugs, talk about why they did what they did, what the reactions were in people who may or may not have accepted a free hug, and having seen footage and photos I realised just how much impact a little human affection as simple as a hug could change a persons mood.

Sign me up.. I thought… I was sold on the idea.

So last night… I turned up on Brick Lane, with the intention of becoming one of the “huggers”. Problem was…. I had thought about it too much. Do I want to hug all those strangers? I was having the same thought as those people who walked by gracefully declining a free hug… with the thought in their minds…. urrrggghhh bodily contact with strangers??? No thanks. So I whispered quietly to Amandeep… “I was thinking of pulling out. I still want to support you guys. But I’m not sure about this.”

Well that was met with the coolest reaction from everyone in the team. “Thats totally fine Jen… you don’t have to do anything. Loads of people feel the same. It’s cool. Why don’t you take photos instead? Thats still supporting us!”.

Phew I thought, (well.. actually I thought “Jen… you are such a wimp” ) …so official photographer it is then.

It took about 10 minutes before I gave up role of official photographer to take up my place as official hugger. Ok we all know we love hugs… and yes people have friends and family to hug… but if you think about it… really think about it… I bet you will realise you don’t hug enough. For whatever reason.

It was really great to see people realise they were in for a free hug and then see the looks on their faces as they walked away with a little more spring in their step.

A hug has a seriously positive impact on people… and there is absolutely nothing wrong with creating more positivity in another persons life, albeit for a moment. They will appreciate it for sure… and the good thing about a hug is its a two way thing. Double the impact!!

Diary of a Reluctant Hugger or The Worm That Turned!

Free Friday hugs….

“I’ll take part” – I shouted enthusiastically, “count me in”.  It was a gloomy rainy day, and I spent most of the day looking out of the window hoping the event will be cancelled…it wasn’t.

So off I went, left work early telling my boss and colleagues that I was going to give free hugs to strangers – they all looked horrified and asked why?  I smiled and explained the ‘theory’ behind the concept , adding it will be fun, I’ll step out of my comfort zone…

The Banner… No turning back now!

As I approached the rendezvous café a sudden rush of panic and anxiety came over me, what am I doing? I approached the café and discovered that there were only 3 huggers?? Again my heart began pounding anxiously – Majella’s plan was to cover different corners of Carnaby Street – no I shouted (well in my head anyway) let’s stick together, safety in numbers and all that.  Is it too late to back out now – I wondered?


The group walk down Carnaby Street, found the perfect spot and out come the signs and up goes the banner.  AT this point 45 minutes of hugging seems like an eternity…

Tentatively  I hold up my ‘free hugs’ sign, first low down, so now one can see it.  Then, at some point feeling more confident I raised it above my head.  Holding it high and proud.

I’m not sure when the turning point was, perhaps after my first hug, but something changed and I was so happy and proud to be doing what we were doing.  I began shouting ‘free hugs..come and get a free hug…’ and ‘anyone need a hug?’ ‘It will make you feel better’.

Wow what had got into me – all the anxious and nervous feelings from 15/20 minutes ago had disappeared.  I was loving it.  I had the hugest smile on my face.   I was totally buzzing from the whole experience.  I really wasn’t expecting the reactions we got.  Most people willingly came up, arms wide open, for a hug, this totally blew me away.  And the kindness and gratitude was heart-warming “thank you, I really need that” or “that was great, I really feel better now – thanks”.

I always knew that hugging released a lot of serotonin and oxytocin – the feel good and bonding hormones, and last Friday’s event proved it.  Now, I’m not sure if it was the adrenalin, the random act of kindness or the benefits of hugging, but I sure did feel good.  And proved to me that people of all ages, cultures and ethnicities and from all over the world love to be hugged.

So the very next day, after dinner at my brothers, I made him and my male cousin give me a proper hug!

Bring on the hugs…Can’t wait for the next free hugging event.

Amandeep is  member of the Guerrilla Hugs Board, she is now an experienced oxytocin promoter and advocate of increasing well being for everyone!

Carnaby Street & Golden Square Hugging 18th March 2011

Friday 18th March 2011 the weather looked grim, the white clouds stubbornly determined to drizzle all day, what a better time than to go and hug some lovely people in Carnaby Street?

Our Guerrilla Hugs Board Members took seats at a coffee shop to plan their strategic placement, our aims were clear – to bring some happiness to a dull afternoon and raise the oxytocin levels in this small part of London.

Photographers – check

Video – check

Huggers – 1, 2, 3, 4 check

Banner & 2 huggers to hold it – check

Smiles – check

Stickers – check

Free Hugs Boards – check

Ready – not before a big group hug to get us started!

At 4.45pm we were in place, already people looking curious, first hug to the man who grabbed one of our banner holders, one very happy man!

Everyone got hugs including the photographers, passers by stopped for hugs, others asked questions we were happy to explain the science behind the hugs, hugging increases your oxytocin production, the feel good hormone, we all need hugs for our well being.

Plenty of hugs for all the family and a great way to cheer up a grey Friday afternoon. We progressed to the corner of Golden Square. The less busy environment enabled people to see us from a distance and head towards us for hugs! As we were hugging we noticed a police van going past us, and then it went past again…. the third time they pulled up and out jumped an officer who proceeded to hug us all one by one. The officers in the van also got a squeeze and off they went a little more happier from the hugs!