While sweating over his forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe show, comedian Ben Van der Velde has undertaken to walk the entire London Underground network within a month, starting on June 8, 2016, to raise money for the Refugee Council.
“This will include all major lines (and the DLR, travel pedants), but not the Overground, at least not yet, as that way madness lies” says Ben, aged 33 (i.e. old enough to know better).
The last attempt to walk the network was by Danielle Shap in 2009, who did it in aid of The Railway Children charity. Her effort was spread over nine months, though it did include the Overground stations.
In total, Ben is likely to cover over 350 miles on foot to visit every single tube station on the network, like some sort of crazed orienteering experiment. “It’s equivalent of a half-marathon a day for a month: the London Underground Marathon if you will?”
Van der Velde, a Jewish Geordie comedian, now resident in Archway, London, was moved to attempt the walk because he wanted to do something tangible about the refugee crisis and raise money for the Refugee Council.
“Like so many people, I have watched the news open-mouthed and dumbfounded at the horrors so many people from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and beyond have had to escape from, as well as the pain, suffering and discomfort of their journey to Europe.”
“World War Two taught us that we could open our doors to refugees and help them build a new life, away from persecution. I feel this particularly strongly as both of my maternal grandparents had to get out of Berlin and Warsaw pretty sharpish in the late 1930s thanks to the actions of a very angry little Austrian. They were remarkably lucky that they could make a safe, quick passage and were able to make a new life for themselves here in Britain and I’d like to help those who are finding it much more difficult today.”
Refugee Council head of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Ben has decided to raise money for the Refugee Council by setting himself this incredible challenge and we wish him the best of luck. Every mile he walks will raise much needed funds for the work we do helping refugees and asylum seekers here in Britain on their own journey, as they work towards being able to begin rebuilding their lives in safety.”
Ben is no stranger to feats of endurance. Last year, as part of Mark Watson’s 27-hour marathon show for Red Nose Day, Ben and fellow comic Chris Purchase attempted to visit every London Embassy on foot.
“In traditional British spirit, we ended with glorious failure. This time round I’m determined to bag every single station, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, all the way down to Woolwich Arsenal. I’m so excited to be viewing my city in this unique way. It’s going to be fascinating and uplifting and probably going to hurt a lot.”
Here’s the plan:
Day 1: Northern Line (Morden – Kennington) 13.5 miles
Day 2: Northern Line (Kennington – Euston – Kennington) 13 miles
Day 3: Northern Line (Edgware – High Barnet, via Camden Town) 30 miles
Day 4: Hammersmith and City Line (Hammersmith – Paddington) 5 Miles
Day 5: Circle Line (Kings Cross- Kings Cross) 22 miles
Day 6: Bakerloo Line 21 miles
Day 7: Rest
Day 8: Victoria Line (Walthamstow – Brixton) 19 miles
Day 9: District Line (Richmond- West Kensington) 9 miles
Day 10: District Line (Upminster – Algate East) 21.5 miles
Day 11: District Line (Wimbledon – Earl’s Court) 8 miles
Day 12: Central Line (Wanstead – Rodding Valley) 7.4 Miles
Day 13: Central Line (West Ruislip – Liverpool Street) 29 Miles
Day 14: Central Line (Bethnal Green – Epping) 26 miles
Day 15: Rest
Day 16: Jubilee Line (Stanmore – Baker Street) 16 miles
Day 17: Jubilee Line (Southwark -North Greenwich) 17 Miles
Day 18: DLR (Poplar – Blackwell via Stratford High Street) 9 Miles
Day 19: Metropolitan Line (Harrow-on-the-Hill – Wembley Park) 5 Miles
Day 20: Metropolitan Line (Amersham – West Harrow) 20 Miles
Day 21: Piccadilly Line (Heathrow All Terminals – South Ealing) 20 Miles
Day 22: Rest
Day 23: Piccadilly Line (Uxbridge – Acton Town) 21 Miles
Day 24: DLR (Tower Gateway – Lewisham) 8 miles
Day 25: Waterloo and City Line (Waterloo and Bank) 2 Miles
Day 26: Piccadilly Line (Knightsbridge – Cockfosters) 23 Miles
Day 27: Sweet release of death
More about Ben:
Starting out in 2010, Ben was crowned 2011’s Comedy Café New Act of the Year and then went on to host Just the Tonic’s Big Value Comedy Showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012.
Ben has worked for the likes of The Stand, Komedia, Just the Tonic, The Backyard Comedy Club, Covent Garden Comedy Club, Frog & Bucket, Comedy Club 4 Kids, Off the Kerb and The Comedy Café, as well as hosting stages for Bestival, Festival No.6 and Sunday Papers Live.
Ben is currently helmsman of the Chortle Award-winning Good Ship Comedy Club in Kilburn.