Pictured: Purpleman’s mission to Syria – the story so far

Purpleman, in his birthday suit, and Terry pack up the toys in Stonegate
4 Jun 2014 @ 11.21 am
| Charity
Purpleman meets the head of the Syria response team at Save The Children
At his Turkish base, Purpleman meets the head of the Syria response team from Save The Children

Street artist Purpleman left York on Sunday (June 1), taking with him 1,000 soft toys donated by residents. He is now negotiating to get into a refugee camp in Syria so he can give them to the children there.

The man who normally sits motionless on his bike on Stonegate has travelled nearly 2,000 miles to Turkey.

His mission – to deliver toys to the children displaced by the Syrian civil war – was inspired when he met a man from the country who had lost 11 members of his family in the conflict.

Accompanying Purpleman is Terry Brett, owner of the Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate. Their first stop was visiting Terry’s daughter Suzy, who lives in Hatay, Turkey, close to the Syrian border.

A bike has been bought and painted purple. Purpleman hopes to cycle the 18 miles or so across the border to the Syrian refugee camp pulling the toys in a trailer.

Diary of the mission

Purpleman, in his birthday suit, and Terry pack up the toys in Stonegate
Purpleman, in his birthday suit, and Terry pack up the toys in Stonegate
Terry Brett turns the bike they purchased purple, watched by daughter Suzy
Terry Brett turns the bike they purchased purple, watched by daughter Suzy

Terry is sending regular despatches. Here’s the story thus far…

Monday, June 2
We’re in Hatay, after an eventful journey from York. The toys attracted an excess baggage charge.

PM has already found a second hand bike for 130 lira, with new rack and basket and is painting it purple in the courtyard as I type! Hatay is a wonderful place. Lively, unspoilt, organic. The bike shop is ace.

Tuesday, June 3
Purpleman now his purple bike. Tonight we have a meeting with someone who is able to get Purpleman into a refugee camp that is about ten miles from Antakya. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Thursday.

The meeting was with the head of the Syria response team at Save The Children. It was, Tweeted Purpleman, “very positive”

The mission

Mike Leigh Cooper of The Creative Condition made this excellent film as Purpleman prepared to depart

Before leaving York, Purpleman told YorkMix that the response to his toy appeal had been “phenomenal”.

“I’d like to express a heartfelt purple thanks to everyone in York and beyond – toys have even come from overseas, which is incredible.

“This mission is very easy to understand – giving love, joy, happiness, optimism to children, and their parents, who have not known any recently.”

The Government’s strong advice to British people is not to enter Syria. Purpleman said they were taking precautions and had been in touch with Save The Children and the Danish Refugee Council in Turkey, as well as the Turkish Red Crescent.

Terry said: “I know from Suzy, who’s in touch with people who go into Syria, that it is a very dangerous place.

“He’s not going to take any risks. If they don’t let him cross the border, then that’s as far as he’ll go.”

Terry is accompanying Purpleman “because I have been highly involved with it from the start. I just have to see it through as much as I can.

“I want to see the smiles on the kids’ faces.”

Who is Purpleman?

The street entertainer “has a genuine wish to make people smile, to improve people’s lives in a very basic, simple way – just to cheer them up,” said Terry.

“As people are walking up the street, they see Purpleman and they smile.

“I have seen letters from people who have bumped into him, and weeks and weeks later wrote to him to say how amazing he was.”

Purpleman’s persona is a response to his previous life, Terry added.

“In his previous career he was managing a big company and earning a lot of money. What he does now is the antithesis of that, a reaction against the corporate world.”

More donations wanted

Purpleman and Terry Brett at the Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, as they prepared to leave. Photograph: Alice Lavelle
Purpleman and Terry Brett at the Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, as they prepared to leave. Photograph: Alice Lavelle

Even before this mission, Purpleman was looking ahead.

“If people want to continue donating soft toys they will be welcome for the second trip, which I think is going to happen,” he told us.

“Whether it’s to Syria or somewhere else remains to be seen. But it’s something I feel I’d like to do again.

“Maybe next time we’ll hire a purple van and we can get more toys in.”