29 March 2022

All aboard the Boat of Hope

By Clo Davey, Associate Director at Farrer Kane

We are extremely fortunate that in our line of work we get to rub shoulders with a range of inspirational figures, from industry innovators to creative trailblazers.

One such pioneer is our pro bono client Bernie Hollywood OBE, a man who has spent the last 40 years raising over £40 million for various charities through a range of physical challenges and intrepid adventures. When he saw the toll that pandemic was wreaking on the mental health of young people, 63-year-old Bernie decided to set up the Boat of Hope campaign, which will culminate in him rowing solo across the Atlantic in December to raise awareness and £1 million for charities Samaritans and Love Rowing.

Not content with this mammoth undertaking, Bernie is also embarking on a World Record Boat Pull Attempt, at MOD Lyneham next month. To set a world record for the longest distance a boat is pulled on land, Bernie will pull his Boat of Hope 10 miles a day for each of the 30 days in April, with every mile representing a young life lost to suicide each year.

We've been providing PR and social media support for Bernie on a pro bono basis for several months, on behalf of ParentPay, the campaign's principal corporate sponsor and our agency client. It's been an experience that has been hugely rewarding both personally and professionally.

Pro bono work is often collaborative and in the case of the Boat of Hope we have had the opportunity to work alongside some incredible people who might never have crossed our path otherwise. These include author Natalie Reeves Billing, who wrote the children's book 'Bernie and Boatie' which depicts Bernie's forthcoming Atlantic adventure, as well as writing the Boat of Hope sea shanty; musician Ben Hughes, who produced the sea shanty; renowned artist Justin Eagleton, who designed and created the Boat's unique mural; digital creative Vikki Stephenson; and filmmaker Karen Milligan of MillK Media - all giving of their time, energy and talent for free.

Such a diverse mix of expertise not only makes for thought-provoking (and fun!) meetings, but also provides a salutary reminder of the benefits of pooling multiple perspectives to uncover communications opportunities. Moreover, when budgets are non-existent, you have no choice but to dig deep creatively to find high-impact solutions.

When it all comes together, the feeling is pretty hard to beat. Despite raising awareness of the deeply worrying issue of youth mental health, previous Boat of Hope events have been overwhelmingly joyful, celebrating how positive change is possible when people collaborate. It's definitely good for the soul.

Bernie himself is passionate, determined and unassuming, and his tireless efforts are an inspiration to all of us who are lucky enough to work with him. We will be cheering him on during his Boat Pull. We might even roll up our sleeves up and get stuck in too. To donate please go to the Boat of Hope fundraising page.