Yinka Shonibare MBE, British Nigerian, hugged by German Katrin Lock.
The idea came from a group of Europeans living in London, who have launched a group called #PleaseDon’tGoUK. Their idea is simple: forget the debates and show the Brits some love – and then post the evidence online.
“It’s a little bit hippy, but a little bit of hippiness is needed. People are always arguing about cucumbers and shower caps. We wanted to do something positive instead of just talking about rules and regulations,” says Katrin Lock, a German who has lived in London for eleven years.
“It’s a love-bomb for the UK.”
The group has had contributions from French people, Italians, Germans, Spaniards and Swedes, both in the UK and on the continent, hugging their favourite Brits. Singer Jarvis Cocker, best known as frontman of nineties indie band Pulp, is one of the better-known Brits to have found himself on the receiving end of a Euro-hug.
“We just got a picture of someone hugging a statue of Virginia Woolf, too,” Lock says.
Jarvis Cocker gets a hug from Christine Ullmann, German.
The people in the photos are also asked to share their thoughts about their friendship and the referendum – or just why they like Britain. Italian Rosella Soravia, posing with her friend Saul, said: “I know Saul from going to boarding school in Malvern, where I spend the best two years of my life thanks to the great English humour and its great education.”
Berlin-based German Steffi Grimm, whose partner Simon lives in London, had more practical concerns: “Simon lives in London and I live in Berlin. We have been in a long distance relationship for 20 years. And now Brexit? Things would be even more complicated.”
Steffi and Simon
The reaction so far has been positive, even if the Brits are sometimes a bit reluctant.
“English people don’t like being hugged very much – they’re a bit reserved – but we try to be polite.”
As for what would happen if Britain voted to leave, Lock is apprehensive.
“I live here, this is my home, and so far I’ve been treated like everyone else. But I worry that there will be a distinction between UK and EU citizens in the future. Living somewhere else is a great thing and it would be a shame if that was taken away.”
The referendum will be held on June 23rd. Voting is open to all British citizens who live in the UK or have done so at some point in the last fifteen years.