Photographing Stuart Kettell’s Charity Hamster Wheel Run for Macmillan Cancer Support

One of the pleasures in doing what I do is that I get to meet really fun people. Sometimes they are people who I work with. Stuart Kettell who runs Kettell Video Productions in Coventry is one of these people and he introduced me to his annual charity fund raising events for Macmillan Cancer Support. For several years Stuart has devised a ‘Mad Fool’ task that he does to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. His past challenges have included cycling on a replica Penny Farthing from Lands End to John O’Groats and Kayaking across the channel from France to Coventry and last year he suspended himself, David Blaine style, inside a Perspex box suspended above Broadgate in Coventry city centre for a week. In the last two years I’ve also started to support Macmillan Cancer Support with my photography and I now provide the official photography and some graphic design work for Stuart’s Challenges (free of charge, of course).

This year Stuart’s ‘Will the Mad Fool Make It?’ challenge was even more unusual ….. and I was there from the initial idea stage until the end. The idea needed to be explained to potential sponsors in fairly simple terms so Stuart asked me to knock up a graphic in Adobe Indesign and Photoshop. Here it is ……

Unusual Eh? So what was it all about? Well, the idea was for Stuart to run a marathon every day for a week inside a giant hamster wheel. If that wasn’t enough to spark some interest he wanted the hamster wheel to be balanced on one end of a giant See-Saw. On the other end there would be a donation pot for the people of Coventry to make donations towards Macmillan Cancer Support. As the donations increased the see-saw would start to tip and (hopefully!) on day 7 with around £7000 in the pot the wheel would be lifted up.

Stuart spent months training inside the wheel on his driveway and I helped with some of the promotional photographs in the weeks leading up to the actual event in Broadgate, Coventry. Finally, the day arrived for the challenge to begin on a sunny Sunday March 20th ……..

He may be a bit mad but he really doesn’t bite, you know!

Whenever I’m covering any event, whether it be for charity such as Macmillan Cancer Support or perhaps for a business corporate event, I’m always mindful of the need to capture not only the activities and emotions of the event but also the reasons behind it. After all, Stuart was doing a fantastic job raising money for Macmillan Cancer support and he was raising awareness of the important work they do too.

It was really nice that Stuart gets support from local celebrities. In this case Roisin and John Dalziel (above) from the JD show on local commercial radio station, Mercia FM. In fact, the local radio stations (Mercia FM, Touch FM and BBC Coventry and Warwickshire) all took a firm interest and were very encouraging with their live interviews and raising awareness all week.

Stuart excelled himself this year by raising enough awareness to be invited onto ITV’s Daybreak with Adrian Chiles & Christine Bleakley and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. Needless to say, running in a wheel in a giant hamster costume is unlikely to win over any talent scouts but it was great for publicity for the challenge and ultimately great for Macmillan Cancer Support. He asked me if I could help out with Photoshop again and I created this banner for Stuart to display near to the wheel.

So what does a 6 Foot, 46 year old marathon-running hamster look like? …. Well, what did you think he’d look like? …..

So here I am (above) proving that I was there! By the way, I designed the green sweatshirt just to make myself look a little more official. At least I wasn’t completely over shadowed by the main attraction!

And yes – hamsters do get hot when they’re running and they do need a drink! Hamster owners … never forget to check the bottle!

It’s also true to say that human hamsters get a little lonely unless they’ve got other hamsters to talk to. This little fella did his bit to keep Staurt company!

I’m told that running in the wheel is not quite the same as running on a flat surface, mostly due to the angle that your feet hit the wheel. Stuart went through real pain on some days and I spent one day calling every sports therapist that I could find to ask for their help. Luckily we managed to get some really good advice each evening and some really helpful (often painful) sports massages at the end of each day helped to keep him going.

So, Did the Mad fool make it? Did the mad fool manage to complete his 7 marathons in his hamster wheel?

Finally, the last day of the challenge arrived and Stuart had done it! Stuart had some fantastic support from the Coventry public all week and he collected thousands of pounds. The See-Saw tipped early afternoon on Sunday 27th March. Despite it being a breezy Sunday afternoon there was a great crowd there to cheer Stuart on with the help of Clive Skelhon, good friend of Stuart’s & former Mercia radio presenter, on the mic ……

And finally, the smiles said it all. I’m sure, for a brief moment, Stuart was glad it was all over! There’s no doubt he’ll be back with another mad challenge though ….. probably next year. Who knows what he’ll be doing next? ….. I DO!

The Result!

At the time of writing this, Stuart Kettell raised a massive £6400 for Macmillan Cancer Support with his Mad fool Hamster wheel challenge. Brillaint! If you missed seeing Stuart in Broadgate and you’d like to do your bit, it is still possible to donate online by visiting Stuart’s challenge website here

Well done Stuart – I’m really looking forward to doing more photography for you in the future and supporting Macmillan Cancer support even more!