I was gutted to hear yesterday of the passing of Dancing Ken, a truly original local from my home town who me and Freya Laing had the privilege of spending time with for a project last year. After crashing his country and western night for the elderly, visiting him at his home and eventually making a ken doll version of him in his honour, we sent him a letter thanking him for his time (and kinda just for being him). Here is the letter we sent, which seems relevant now more than ever:

Dear Ken,

In a world filled with so many straight lines, grey days and dead ends - it is a joy to have met someone as creative and original as you. In a time where everyone else so desperately wants to fit in, you take pride in standing out. To see Dancing Ken Hanks walking down the High Street - dressed head to toe in blue and white, wearing gold earrings and a home-made hat - is a pleasure to all who live in the town that you have made so your own.

Your style is a credit to both your magnetic personality and your artistic manner, but I am confident that if you swapped it all for a plain white t-shit and jeans you would still stand out above all the rest. You would still turn heads, evoke smiles from passers by, command the attention of every room you entered without having to say a word.

This is because, Ken, it is not simply how you look that captures the hearts of the people who know of you - but what you give. You take on streets with a megaphone and sandwich board to share messages of hope and courage. You orchestrate fundraisers and raffles like a composer writing a love song. You fill your home with treasures from the past to honour the lives of the people who have come before you. You dance 6 nights a week to music that inspires you. You speak up for animals. For the disabled. For people - all people. And you do it all in the finest goddam outfits this side of New Orleans.

You may remember two young, would-be artists visiting your home to talk about your collections last winter. Myself and my best friend Freya were those two artists - and we write, with pleasure, to show you the fruits of our labour since then. I only regret that we haven’t written sooner, for our gratitude for your time, company and warmth could not be more so.

I appreciate that you are a man who fills his days with many things, but if you would like to meet up for a drink and a chat, or if you have any dancing nights coming up, do let us know so we can once again jive like the rest of them. It was a very special thing to have met you.


Tenaya and Freya - formerly of LandS project.


You can read our interview with Ken and the wonderful stories he had to tell here...