I’ve just cycled across East Africa – 2500km of the most amazing scenery, wonderful people, culture and wildlife – so inevitably I am going to write a blog about the perspective on work it has given me.


I know it is a bit of a cliché but most of us spend most of our time thinking about funding bids, influencing policy, trying to get others to support our view of the world and the good we are trying to do. We bemoan the cuts in services and inefficiencies of government but there is nothing like seeing a different, and far more disadvantaged, part of the world to put our trials and tribulations into perspective.


A cliché, which holds some truth, is that young people in the UK have no idea how lucky they are. Even those with the most tragic backgrounds have some protection from social services, an honest police force and a benefits system that gives the opportunity for education and, at least, a bare minimum of guaranteed income.


Many of the children we saw in Africa slept rough and their ability to eat on any given day was dictated by the amount of motorbikes they cleaned or chewing gum they sold (there were probably many others doing far worse things in the shadows). But sometimes this hardship leads to an entrepreneurship that puts all of us to shame. Anything can be bought and sold anywhere at any time from a crate of beer to a new tyre in the middle of the night. Kids would offer to clean our bikes to earn a little extra.


And then there is the dancing! Over the past 10 years Creative Youth Network has organised gigs, concerts, dance competitions and more. But I see three categories of young dancers in Britain. First, the serious dancers – those looking to make a profession out of it – ballet, hip-hop, breaking and more. These are people who practice their art with their friends but usually in a closed group. Secondly, the moshers – cynically they may have downed a small bottle of vodka before having a whale of a time enjoying their favourite band. Finally, there are those who don’t dance (probably a majority) – it’s just too embarrassing.




In Uganda, we camped on a school playground one night and the entire school – unprompted by teachers, came out to play and dance for us. A single drum and the voices of a hundred teenagers and children created and energy, excitement and passion unrivalled by anything young Brits could produce. You could see they held nothing back and just enjoyed themselves.
There’s not necessarily a deeper meaning behind this but as someone who loves dancing I couldn’t help but be enthralled by their passion for it.

Our ordered western world is safer, more efficient and more inclusive but I can’t help but miss some of that wild creative energy that burst from every pore of the countries we crossed. It felt a bit like the Wild West but that just made life more vivid for a month.