Entertainment

Man cycles around London in heart shape for Refugee Week

Tom Hashemi, 35, mapped out his route in advance before embarking on the ‘hot, busy, trafficky’ three-hour ride.
Tom Hashemi, 35, mapped out his route in advance before embarking on the ‘hot, busy, trafficky’ three-hour ride. Tom Hashemi, 35, mapped out his route in advance before embarking on the ‘hot, busy, trafficky’ three-hour ride.

A cyclist has ridden his bike around London in the shape of a heart to raise awareness for Refugee Week and advocate for a “kinder” policy towards refugees.

Tom Hashemi, 35, mapped out his route in advance before embarking on the “hot, busy, trafficky” three-hour ride around the city.

Speaking to the PA news agency after his ride, Mr Hashemi said the challenge was “fun”, adding: “The hard bit with doing these rides is London’s roads.

“You have to try and find how you can actually make the shape because, obviously, there is no road around London drawn in the shape of a heart, so you have to piece together all these really small roads.”

The ride amounted to 42 miles and took him to Crystal Palace, Hampstead Heath, near the Olympic Park and on to the London cable car.

After his cycle, he tweeted: “Drew a heart around London with my bike this morning to mark the start of #RefugeeWeek23 with @FreefromTorture – because we can do more. #GPSArt.”

Mr Hashemi has previously ridden around London in the shape of Ukraine, inspired by American street artist Lenny Maughan, who uses his GPS tracker to draw images as he runs.

Before that, Mr Hashemi rode from London to Lviv in western Ukraine during April and May to raise money to help clear landmines in the country.

Tom Hashemi previously cycled from London to Lviv to raise money to help clear landmines in the country (PA)

Mr Hashemi is the chief executive of public relations firm Cast From Clay, which has offices in London and Lviv, meaning Mr Hashemi has friends and colleagues in the war-torn country.

He said of Refugee Week: “I think it’s important to bring that narrative back, of like, yes, Ukraine matters and I care deeply about Ukraine and Ukrainians, but there are other people in the world that could do with help and we’re fortunate to be in a place where we can offer it.

“We can have a policy towards refugees that can be kinder than what it is today and if we do that, there are benefits to the UK in the long run.”

Mr Hashemi said the idea to cycle for Refugee Week came about during a discussion with Sonya Sceats, chief executive of a British charity providing therapy and support to survivors of torture.

He said: “I was talking to Sonya, who is the CEO of Freedom From Torture, and she was like, ‘Why don’t you draw a heart round London? It’s Refugee Week. It’s a symbol of the week. It would be really cool and help you draw attention to what’s happening and to discussion’.

Mr Hashemi has strong links with Ukraine because of his offices in Lviv, but he is eager to advocate for a “kinder” policy for all refugees, not just Ukrainians.

“I think one of the things that Ukraine has shown us is that, as a country, when we want to do something when it comes to refugees, we can do it.

“I think people like Freedom From Torture do a really important role in that they try and convince us that we should do that more often.

“Every time I go to Ukraine, people speak very highly of the UK, not just because we send them lots of weapons, but also because of how we’ve dealt with humanitarian aid and humanitarian support.

“We are able to build that reputation in more places than just Ukraine by adopting a kind, sensible, pragmatic approach to refugees as opposed to the kind of less kind approach that we’ve seen over the last few years.”