YORK street performer Purpleman has vowed to press ahead with delivering cuddly toys to children in Syria - despite UK Government advice not to travel to the war-torn country.
Purpleman, who can normally be seen sitting immobile on his purple bike on Stonegate, plans to cycle across the border from Turkey into Syria next month, pulling a trailer filled with 1,000 toys.
He says he fully recognises the dangers and is aware of current advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office against travelling to Syria, but insists: "I cannot ignore the plight of the children in Syria. I believe in direct action and I believe that it is important to show love and compassion to the children of Syria, to show them that there is a world outside Syria that still cares about them."
He says he has local contacts who are advising him on the safest route and protocols, and claims he is not on a suicide mission. "I have been planning this for some time and have balanced the dangers against the benefits of the message of hope and love I will be able to bring to the children of Syria through the delivery of soft toys."
The FCO is advising against all travel to Syria, and says any British nationals in the country should leave now by any practical means. "The FCO is not able to provide consular services, and won’t be able to help your evacuation from the country," it says, adding that there is a high threat from terrorism and there have also been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals and other Westerners.
Purpleman, who lives in York and does not wish to give his real name, says that if, despite his best efforts, it is not possible for him to cross into Syria with a reasonable degree of safety, he has made arrangements for a plan B. "Half the cuddly toys will travel into Syria with an NGO, the other half Purpleman will distribute to children in Syrian refugee camps inside Turkey."
He revealed that it was an encounter with a Syrian refugee, now living in Harrogate, which brought the plight of the Syrian children home to him and set him on his course.
"I decided there and then that I needed to take the power of purple love directly to the children of Syria. I feel that the warmth of the people of Yorkshire can best be expressed to these children through the gift of soft toys. Everyone can relate to a cuddly toy.
"I don’t expect the Syrian border guards will have encountered anything like Purpleman before!"
The collection of toys for Purpleman's mission is being organised by the Pyramid Gallery in Stonegate.